You would think that if you were to face a team with the NBA’s scoring champ the past two seasons, you’d recognize that they are a threat. You’d think that if you were facing a team with a diverse set of skill players with energy and youth, you’d understand that they have something going for them. You would think that if you’re playing a team in the Western Conference Finals, just one step from the NBA Finals and two from a championship, that maybe that team is a contender and should be treated with the utmost respect.
And apparently, if you’re the Dallas Mavericks, according to Tyson Chandler in talking with ESPN, you’d be wrong in all of those thoughts. From ESPN:
“When you’re afraid of a team or you feel like a team can beat you every single night, you go out there and you play with a certain type of edge,” Chandler said, explaining the Mavs’ approach while busting out the brooms against Kobe Bryant & Co. “I feel like we came out here and we took these boys lightly. There’s a reason why they’re in the Western Conference finals. They’re not a team to be taken lightly, so we’ve got to make our adjustments and come out and win Game 3.”
Really, when did it occur to you that maybe you shouldn’t take that team lightly, Chandler? Was it when they hung around in a game where Dirk Nowitzki dropped 48 and had one of the most efficient scoring performances of all time? Or was it when they beat the hottest team of the playoffs, the Grizzlies in a grueling seven game series? Maybe it was when they made it to the fourth seed, or took out Denver. Nope, for Chandler apparently it wasn’t until his Mavericks let the OKC offense, led mostly by their bench, run wild all over the Dallas defense in route to a 1-1 series tie headed back to the Sooner state.
The Mavericks under no circumstances should have taken this team lightly. No, there’s not a Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan on this team. But teams may have said the same thing about Duncan’s Spurs before he led them to a title. Kevin Durant is the league’s best scorer. Russell Westbrook, for all his ill temperance, is still one of the most explosive point guards in the game. And Kendrick Perkins and the rest of that frontcourt is about as talented, fundamental, and deep as they come.
The Thunder are good, in case Chandler missed that when the Thunder dropped 106 points on Dallas after scoring 112 in a loss. There was some concern that after sweeping the Lakers from the Playoff Earth, the Mavericks might start to think the rest of the road would be easy. It’s not. Not in this NBA. There are no easy roads to the title. Not anymore.