Mavericks confidently talking about NBA title

Thursday, May 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ The Dallas Mavericks are talking confidently about winning the NBA title.

``Why shouldn't we say we can go all of the way?'' All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki asked Wednesday. ``We've been confident with our team all year.

``That's how we approached the first round. We got better from game to game.''

The Mavericks are through only one round of the NBA playoffs, but they beat Minnesota in three games for the first sweep in team history.

Dallas begins a best-of-seven series Saturday at Sacramento. The Kings are the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, but the Mavs took the season series 3-1, winning both times they played in Sacramento.

``We think we can win, but we know they are the best team in basketball,'' coach Don Nelson said. ``We're really going to have to play at a high level, and I think we will.''

This confident group is the same team that last season got into the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and was excited just to get out of the first round. But after coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win three straight against Utah, the Mavs were eliminated by San Antonio in Game 5 of a best-of-seven series.

``Last year, we didn't really know what to expect. We just went out and played hard,'' said guard Steve Nash, the team's other All-Star this season. ``This year, we have a much bigger goal in mind. This team is definitely planning on winning a championship. There is a very tangible goal.''

After winning 53 games last season and going to the playoffs for the first time since 1990, Dallas set a franchise record with 57 wins in 2001-02. The Mavs were the NBA's best road team, winning 26 games away from American Airlines Center.

``Our expectations are high. You can't lower your expectations because of the opponent or the situation,'' Michael Finley said. ``We came into the season with one goal in hand, and as the season went on we saw what kind of team we had.

``We're not looking to win one or two series. We want to win the ultimate thing, and that's the championship. We know we have go series to series to do that.''

The Mavericks watched film and worked out for about an hour Wednesday, before Nelson took several of his players on a golf outing. They have taken it easy since wrapping up their first-round series with a 115-102 victory at Minnesota on Sunday.

They were off Monday and had only a shootaround after watching film Tuesday.

``I didn't want to do too much today. I wanted their bodies to rest one more day,'' Nelson said Wednesday. ``We will have a serious practice Thursday.''

The Mavericks will travel to Sacramento for the first two games, Saturday and Monday. Games 3 and 4 will be in Dallas later next week, but that schedule won't be set until after the first-round series between San Antonio and Seattle is settled.