Mark Cuban confident in Mavs
DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said watching his team melt down in the fourth quarter of Game 4 in Portland wasn't as painful afterward as he figured it would be, and he invited fans skeptical of the franchise's playoff history to feel free to jump off the bandwagon.
"Anybody who wants to quit on us, quit on us," Cuban said while working out on the step machine prior to Monday's Game 5 at the American Airlines Center. "We're going to keep busting our ass. We're not going to beg them. They can do what they want to do. That's why they call them fans and that's why they call everybody else talk-radio junkies."
The Mavs are one of three teams in NBA history to compile 11 consecutive seasons of 50 or more wins, but are the only one not to win multiple championships. The franchise is seeking its first title.
However, Cuban scoffed at the notion that the Mavs carry substantial "emotional baggage" from playoff failures since the 2006 NBA Finals.
Dallas had a chance to seize a 3-1 lead in its first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, but collapsed after leading by 23 points with 1:16 to go in the third quarter and lost 84-82 to tie the series.
It was an ominous defeat for a franchise that has suffered its share, including the infamous Game 3 debacle in the 2006 Finals to the Miami Heat. Less than seven minutes away from taking a 3-0 lead, Dallas coughed up a 13-point cushion and lost four consecutive games.
Back then, Dwyane Wade did the damage. Saturday night it was Portland guard Brandon Roy, who scored 18 points in the remarkable fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 39.2 seconds to play. Cuban left his seat behind the bench soon after, but he said he didn't leave out of disgust, but rather a full bladder after drinking several Diet Cokes.
"Trust me, emotions didn't have anything to do with it," Cuban said. "You can ask the lady who was feeding me Cokes."
Cuban said Saturday's flame out was just one game and that his team can rebound.
"Obviously, we hate losing any game," Cuban said. "Last I checked it was just one game. They're a good team. We're a good team. It's a seven-game series. That's why we play all the games."
Cuban referenced Game 5 last season against the San Antonio Spurs, a game the Mavs won 103-81 to close the series to 3-2 and talk focused on the Mavs taking momentum in Game 6 at San Antonio. Instead, the Spurs broke out a big lead and eventually won by 10 to eliminate the Mavs.
He then referenced Game 7 of the 2006 semifinals against the Spurs when the Mavs blew a double-digit lead and even fell behind. But, a Manu Ginobili foul on Dirk Nowitzki for a three-point play forced overtime and Dallas won the series. They would then beat Phoenix in the Western Conference finals and advance to the franchise's only NBA Finals.
"You go back to Game 7 in San Antonio, we blew a 20-point lead and they took the lead," Cuban said. "If not for a call going our way, we wouldn't have made it to the Finals. The other night, that call on Dirk, if it goes the other way it's a different game.
"That's just the way the game goes. We'll come back and we'll play hard."
Cuban was referring to a play with 2:16 remaining and the Mavs leading by six points. Nowitzki drove the lane and made a layup, but the officials ruled that Portland forward Gerald Wallace drew a charge. Wallace's feet were clearly outside the restricted area, but Cuban contends that Wallace's feet were not set.
"Once you go up, the guy can't step in front of you," Cuban said. "It's a tough call, though, so it's not a shock that somebody missed it because it's a very tough call."
Cuban said he has submitted the play to the league office to be reviewed. He joked that the typical response from the NBA in such instances was, "Neh-neh-neh-neh-neh."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.