What happened to the tough Mavericks that earned this NBA Finals berth in the first place?

Before the end of their long, surprising run, it’d be nice if the Mavs who worked so hard to build it showed up.

Remember when the Mavs jammed and blocked shots and imposed their will and played the bully? Remember the Pose? Remember when they sucked so much air out of a foreign arena you couldn’t recognize the so-called face of the NBA because it was covered by an oxygen mask?

What happened to those Mavs?

Where did they go?


Last I saw them, they’d run Minnesota out of the playoffs by winning three times on the Wolves’ own floor. Made a mockery of the league’s best defense. Made a meme of Jaden McDaniels wincing while Rudy Gobert danced with Luka Doncic.


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Don’t know about you, but I miss those Mavs. Maybe not so much on deadline, come to think of it. Let me tell you, all those last-second wins that had defined their playoff run were exhilarating, but it takes a lot of the fun out of it when it means rewriting your column with the clock ticking, your heart pounding and your editor tapping her toe.


Tim Cowlishaw gets the first two games in Boston, and he could have filed his columns at halftime.

Could have called in the scores from Legal Seafoods between his surf and turf.

Remember when a skinny 7-footer who shot 3s — Chet Holmgren, a younger, healthier version of Kristaps Porzingis — was no big deal?


Remember when Dereck Lively II seemed like the Mavs’ third-most important player?

Remember when a certain sportswriter wrote the Mavs might not have only the best player still standing, they might have the top two?

Luka remains No. 1, but the Celtics might have the next five. And in no particular order, either. That’s the problem. The Mavs put all their eggs in the basket of guarding Jayson Tatum, and you could say it’s worked, at least to a point. On the other hand, focusing on Tatum is a little like holding your hand over a firehose. Just sprays the Celtics’ offense everywhere else. In Sunday’s 105-98 loss, the Mavs held Tatum to 18 points, which is nice, except Jrue Holiday, normally a lockdown defender, went off for 26 points, more than double his season average.

Speaking of Tatum, Jason Kidd raised a few eyebrows, if not hackles, when he said Boston’s best player was Jaylen Brown, who didn’t take it as a compliment. The prevailing sentiment is that the nefarious Kidd — who, in Brooklyn, spilled a drink on the floor to stop a game when he was out of timeouts and soon after out of a job — was attempting to drive a wedge between the Celtics’ stars. Or trying to rattle Tatum, who still hasn’t gotten the ‘22 Finals out of his head.

Or maybe Kidd was shooting us straight. Brown, MVP of the Eastern Conference finals, has his fingerprints all over the Finals, too.

Did you catch that sequence Sunday when Kyrie Irving, whose next 3-pointer will be his first of the Finals, went one-on-one against Brown? Made Kyrie look like someone beating on locked doors in a dark, dangerous alley.

Brown also figured prominently in the game’s most controversial play when he saddled up P.J. Washington over the last few feet of an attempted dunk that could have cut the Celtics’ lead to three with 50 seconds left. Even if it should have meant a whistle, forget the no-call. The way the Mavs shoot free throws, you’re better off betting the ponies.

Just the same, if not for Brown riding jockey, Washington might have had enough hops to rise above Derrick White’s block.


Then again, it provided a snapshot moment of the Mavs’ problem in the first two games: They’re the ones getting bullied instead. Boston has done pretty much whatever it wants on both sides of the ball. Because the Celtics have played Luka and Kyrie straight up, passing each off expertly from one defender to the next, the Mavs haven’t seen many open corner 3′s. Coming into the Finals, they’d shot more than anyone, and not by a little. The last two games, they’ve taken a total of eight.

Made just two.

Come Wednesday at American Airlines Center, the Mavs will need to make a few more 3′s, not to mention free throws. Maybe putting Boston behind him will help Kyrie. Worked before. Maybe someone from the bench rides to the rescue before it’s too late.


Maybe Porzingis returns for the first time in a playoff game since Rick Carlisle turned him into the world’s tallest decoy still feeling like he didn’t matter.

Chances are no matter what the Mavs do, it won’t be enough now. Not only are the odds prohibitive against a team down 0-2, the Celtics haven’t even hit their peak in this series. Those 64 regular-season wins were no fluke. No shame in losing to Boston, which looks historically good.

Before the end of their long, surprising run, though, it’d be nice if the Mavs who worked so hard to build it showed up. Even if they don’t alter the inevitable, at least they’d go out on their own terms. They can live with that.

Twitter/X: @KSherringtonDMN

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