MAVS RETURN Home Trailing Again

Tuesday, May 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Despite a lack of playoff experience, the Dallas Mavericks know all about trailing a series 0-2, being stuck in a shooting slump and in jeopardy of getting swept on their home court.

The Mavericks bucked those odds in a first-round upset of Utah. Now they've made the same mistakes in a second-round series against San Antonio.

They'll try turning things around in Game 3 Wednesday night.

``If we think just because we came back from 0-2 in the last series that it's going to happen this series, we're dead wrong,'' team leader Michael Finley said Tuesday.

``We're going to have to go out and play if not as hard as the first series, then harder because the Spurs know that we came back, so they're going to pick up their intensity.''

Reunion Arena is much smaller than the Alamodome and can be among the loudest places in the league. Rowdy fans fired up the Mavericks in their comeback against the Jazz and are again being counted on for support.

``We have to play with more passion, more emotion and I have to rely on our home fans to help us there,'' Dallas coach Don Nelson said.

The Spurs know they won't be warmly received.

``I expect a war,'' San Antonio's Tim Duncan said.

The Spurs have taken control of the series by keeping the Mavericks from finding any rhythm on offense.

Finley, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are 26-of-81. Juwan Howard, the fourth scoring threat, went 2-for-14 in a 100-86 loss in Game 2 Monday night.

Dallas shot a franchise playoff-low 34.2 percent in that game. Rather than try to make up for it with tighter defense, the Mavs were distracted by their slump.

San Antonio capitalized by making 52 percent of its shots. The absence of Derek Anderson _ the Spurs' second-leading scorer, whose shoulder was separated on a hard foul by Howard in the opener _ wasn't a factor as fill-ins Antonio Daniels and Steve Kerr combined to score 20 points.

``Antonio and Steve off the bench do a great job,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ``I'm thrilled with what they did. I'm not surprised by what they did or will continue to do without Derek.''

Dallas' first-round comeback marked only the sixth time in NBA history a team has won a best-of-five series after losing the first two games.

Now the Mavs are trying to become the eighth team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 0-2. No team has climbed out of an 0-3 hole.

``It doesn't hurt to know that we've been there before,'' Nelson said. ``But this is also a better team. I think had we not gone on, Utah would've been in the same situation, would've lost two games. You have to understand how good that team is.

``This is the best team in basketball. We cannot expect to win three games in a row against this team. That's why it's so important we win the next game. We must win that game.''

Nowitzki could be the spark. He was awful in the first two games against the Jazz, then kick-started Dallas' offense with consecutive 33-point games at home. Having started this series 7-for-26, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers, he's due for another breakout game.

``I don't expect anything,'' he said. ``Hopefully I can be as aggressive like the Utah games.''