The Mavericks finally won a game in the National Basketball Association Western Conference finals. Never mind that they had to first stare elimination in the face before doing so. Perhaps it was just as well. Considering first-team All-NBA selection Luka Dončić’s penchant for performing under pressure, perhaps it was just as well. Not for nothing does he possess the league’s all-time-highest scoring average in do-or-die matches, and his relative calm provided those around him with the confidence they needed to exceed themselves.

To be sure, Dončić stayed measured in the aftermath; he was cognizant of the gravity of the task at hand. No team in hoops annals has ever come back from a zero-three deficit to claim a best-of-seven affairs; in all 146 previous instances, the leads turned into series victories. And the Mavericks aren’t just aiming to buck history; they need to go through the formidable Warriors in the process.

Dončić is right, though; as he told TNT’s Allie LaForce in his post-mortem, “Swept or not swept, in the end, if you lose, you lose. Don’t matter how many we win. We have to go game by game. We’re going to believe until the end.” And, yes, that self-assurance is the first step in undertaking a near-Sisyphean endeavor. Which was why Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd displayed extreme confidence — cockiness, even — as he went about assessing how they managed to get over the hump.

Today, the Mavericks will find the going much tougher, what with the Warriors still undefeated at the Chase Center. If there’s any consolation, it’s that they know how to compete from behind; they were down two to zero and three to two against the top-seed Suns in the conference semifinals. And should they bow out in Game Five, it won’t be because they didn’t try.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, oprerations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.