This is member-exclusive content
icon/ui/info filled


Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Can Mavericks sustain yearlong resilience after Game 4 meltdown?

With a 2-2 series tie against Thunder, Dallas faces same scenario as its first-round victory over the Clippers.

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was 12:41 a.m. by the time Kyrie Irving finished his postgame body regimen, showered, re-donned his black suit and addressed a handful of reporters.

The utterly silent Mavericks locker room inside American Airlines Center had otherwise long since emptied, but the air remained thick with somber lament.

For seven months the Mavericks doggedly have risen from numerous knockdowns, including a pair of nine-counts, but how can they overcome Monday night’s Game 4 thunderbolt to the gut by Oklahoma City?


“This is the telltale sign of whether or not we’re going to be that group that gets over the hump,” Irving said. “Or we’re going to be one of those groups that looks back and sees OKC [advance] and kind of living with some of the woulda, coulda, shoulda.”


Be the smartest Mavericks fan. Get the latest news.

Or with:

Woulda: Instead of a 2-2 series deadlock, Dallas would have carried a 3-1 series lead into Wednesday night’s Game 5 in Paycom Center had it not in Game 4 scored a mere 15 third-quarter points and allowed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder to explode for 35 points in the fourth.

Coulda: The Mavericks still could have avoided the 100-96 loss had they not shot a woeful 12-of-23 from the freethrow line, compared to OKC’s 23-of-24.


Shoulda: When you stifle the Thunder’s shooting efficiency to 38% from the field and 26% on 3-point attempts, you should win, regardless.

Understandably, it was a subdued Mavericks team that practiced Tuesday in Dallas before flying to Oklahoma City. It was a mere 35-minute flight, but no telling how much extra weight the Mavericks’ plane was carrying in emotional baggage.


Forward Derrick Jones Jr. admitted it was hard for him to sleep after Game 4′s meltdown from a 54-43 halftime lead.

“I don’t like losing,” he said. “I think about things that I could have done better, things I could have to help the team a little more.”

Mind you, that’s coming from a guy who contributed 17 points, four blocks, three rebounds and 7 of 12 shooting.

Imagine being Irving and Luka Doncic, making, respectively, $37M and $40M, after combining in Game 4 for just 27 points on 10-of-31 shooting.

Their combined scoring average of 37.0 in this series is a shadow compared to their regular-season output of 59.5.

“I’m seeing three [defenders] in front of the ball every time I come off the screen,” Irving said. “Pretty much blitzing me. Pretty much telling me, ‘Get off the ball.’ With Luka, they’re telling Lu Dort to stay attached to his body; stay aggressive; stay physical.

“For us it’s just about picking the right spots and continuing to stay aggressive and making sure we play off each other very well.”

Although he has excelled as a facilitator, averaging 7.5 assists during the series, Irving is only averaging 15 points and 12.5 field goal attempts. He indicated that he would like to see more two-man actions between himself and Doncic.


“I think sometimes I can help Luka and he can help me,” Irving said. “We create easy opportunities for ourselves when we’re doing that and the team pretty much comes along with us.”

Strategic adjustments are one thing, but can the Mavericks overcome the hangover of Monday’s blown opportunity?

They’ve shown resilience throughout the season, including their first-round series against the Clippers, when they led 2-1 and lost Game 4 at home, 116-111. Having lost homecourt advantage, they subsequently blew out the Clippers on the road in Game 5, 123-93, and clinched the series in AAC in Game 6.

Albeit now with a hobbled Doncic, this is a Dallas team that lost five out of six games after the All-Star break, but won 16 of its next 18.


Other than when they rested starters for two meaningless games to end the season, the Mavericks have not lost consecutive games since losing three straight from March 1-5. That was more than two months ago.

More often than not, their bounce-back wins have occurred on the road, where they went 25-16 during the regular season and are 3-2 during the playoffs.

“There’s no pressure,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said after Tuesday’s practice. “This is a great challenge for us, to go on the road and find a way to win.”


As he faced a small group of reporters and cameras, Kidd’s eyes occasionally fixed on a TV screen on a wall behind the reporters.

On the screen was a re-airing of Game 4. As a matter of fact, as Kidd spoke it was 86-80 Dallas, with five minutes left in the game.

As if facing a young, No. 1 seed Oklahoma City team that has been infused with new life after Game 4, the Mavericks will have another obstacle on Wednesday night and Saturday’s Game 6 in Dallas and perhaps Game 7 in OKC.

It’s the ongoing reminders of woulda, coulda, shouda. Irving said that in Game 4′s aftermath he reminded teammates to stay poised.


“It’s not time,” he said, “to have irrational emotions.”

Related Stories
View More

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.