Mavs' season on the line again tonight

By: KXII Staff & From Wire Reports
By: KXII Staff & From Wire Reports

DALLAS (AP) -- Stay calm, get healthy, hope the league has mercy. Forget the last few minutes of the previous game, ignore the talk about how tough it is to close out a series and look forward to the loud love of the home crowd.

Do all that and the Golden State Warriors will be just fine in Game 6 against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

Fail in any area and the previously happy-go-lucky Warriors might have trouble finishing the massive upset they very nearly pulled off Tuesday night.

"We'll see," Golden State coach Don Nelson said. "We're going to play Game 6. We're going to show up."

Nelson opted to keep his Warriors overnight in Dallas instead of flying home following a tough 118-112 loss in Game 5. They returned to the Mavericks' arena Wednesday morning for a light workout about 10 hours after they'd left the building.

Nelson led a slow-moving parade to the court clutching a cup of coffee and a bag from a local tobacco store. His voice was hoarse and his spirits weren't much better. After all, had things gone a little differently Tuesday night he already would've fired up some of the new victory cigars likely in his plastic sack.

Golden State turned an early 21-point deficit into a nine-point lead with 3:20 to go. The Warriors were that close to getting into the second round and into the history books with one of the most stunning upsets in NBA history, one that would've been even sweeter for Nelson because of his running feud with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Instead, Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki brought his team back, in the game and possibly the series. He scored 12 points in a 15-0, game-ending run. Golden State make things worse on itself by missing eight straight shots and seeing players lose their composure.

First, Jason Richardson got tangled with a fan after missing a shot and falling out of bounds in the final minute. Then, with 8.9 seconds left, Stephen Jackson was ejected for the second time this series, albeit for the mere offense of clapping.

"We had our opportunities to close out the series and we didn't," Warriors star Baron Davis said. "Some unfortunate circumstances took away from the game itself, but overall we feel good going home. ... It was difficult last night and it's going to be difficult Thursday, but we feel like we can do it."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Wednesday that Jackson would not be punished by the league beyond the "substantial" fine already levied by Nelson. Frank also said an investigation into Richardson's incident was ongoing.

The Warriors can't afford to lose any player -- Richardson or do-it-all reserve Matt Barnes, who hurt a hamstring in the first quarter of the last game. Nelson uses only eight players and said he'd ask others to play more rather than relying on someone at the end of the bench, which would make fatigue an issue, especially if there's a Game 7 in Dallas on Saturday night.

"It's just real, real tight," Barnes said Wednesday, watching from the sideline while teammates were shooting. "I'm going to be in the treatment room once we get back to Oakland all day and all night. I'll be ready to go."

The Mavs also spent the night in Dallas, but decided to work out at the Warriors' arena, where they are 0-4 this season and sure to be greeted Thursday night by 20,000 fans wearing yellow "We Believe" T-shirts.

"We just wanted to get here and shoot a little bit," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson (pictured) said following practice. "This is the place tomorrow we're having our biggest game of the season."

Johnson praised his team for showing their mental toughness in Game 5. Now he wants to see them play a dominant game from start to finish.

"We're a hungry team," All-Star forward Josh Howard said. "We know what we want to do, where we want to get to."

The next game or two will show whether Golden State simply picked a bad time to go cold in Game 5 or whether the pressure became too much for the Warriors -- as the Mavs tried telling them the day before, when they talked up the difficulty of closing out a series.

Devin Harris kept up the mind games Thursday.

"We still have a big job to do," Harris said. "All the pressure is on them. They've got us against the wall 3-2."

Said Barnes: "We're not even supposed to be here, so we don't have no pressure."


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