Saturday, April 26, 2008

Aggressive and physical pays off

The distractions of the last few days didn’t carry over to the court in Game 3. Instead of focusing on the circus around them, the Mavericks zeroed in on what happens between the lines.

This first-round clash with New Orleans is about basketball and the Mavs got back to playing some with their season on the brink. Avery Johnson’s team isn’t out of the woods yet, but following up Friday’s 97-87 victory with another aggressive effort would give the Mavs a fighting chance Sunday.

“We’ll just keep teaching and challenging, encouraging, prodding, hugging, whatever it takes,” Johnson said Saturday after practice. “They had a chance to see the difference between Game 2 and this game, and they liked more of what they saw in this game. Now it’s just a matter of coming out and trying to get better. We still think we can get better.”

If they do get better in Game 4 at American Airlines Center, the series could be knotted up. Getting back to even would turn the best-of-7 into a best-of-3, with two of the three potential games on the Hornets’ floor. But the only concern for the Mavs at the moment is protecting their hardwood once again.

“Everyone has written us off and said the series is over,” Jason Kidd said. “We feel that there is a lot of basketball to be played. And we can take a page from New Orleans and understand that they protected their home court, and we have to do the same and try to tie this series at 2-2.”

Protection has become a key as the series begins to get a little chippy. Dirk Nowitzki was involved in incidents with Tyson Chandler and David West in New Orleans. Game 3 featured Chris Paul shoving Nowitzki in the first quarter – a foul wasn’t called – and Erick Dampier’s flagrant-inducing half-tackle of Paul in the fourth.

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