“You just gotta believe.”
It’s one of the most common cliches in the world, and it’s used in a variety of ways, including in sports. Maybe you’re down one goal with mere minutes remaining. Maybe you’re down a field goal in overtime. Maybe you’re down 2-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals to the best team in the NBA. Regardless, you just gotta believe, and that’s exactly what the Dallas Mavericks did.
After losing both of the first two games in Phoenix, things were looking grim for the Mavs, but if you ask Luka, they were never out of it.
“We believe, man,” Luka said after Game 2. “They gotta win four, so it’s not over yet. We gotta go back home. Our crowd is amazing. So, we’re gonna believe till the end.”
You know what the Mavericks did next? They freaking won back-to-back games at home in dominant fashion and tied the series back up at two wins apiece.
How’d they do it? In Game 3, they rode their defense and Jalen Brunson’s nice offensive night. In Game 4, they rode their defense again, got hot-shooting performances from a number of role players, and got Chris Paul fouled out. But guess what? None of that happens if the team doesn’t believe in themselves.
The Mavs got absolutely bullied in Game 1 and Game 2. It looked like the JV going against the Varsity or the little brother going against the big brother. It didn’t feel as simple as “The Mavs just need to make shots and they’ll win.” It looked like a legitimate talent deficiency, which their regular-season records would suggest is true.
But the Mavs channeled their inner Ted Lasso. They believed.
After the Game 4 win, I asked Davis Bertans about the level of belief in the locker room after tying the series up 2-2.
“To be honest, the belief is the same level as it was after Game 2,” Bertans told me. “You know, Coach asked us if we believe we can win. There’s no question about it. Everybody believes.”
Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a second.
Their level of belief after tying the series up at two is the same as it was after going down two games to zero? They never wavered? If that doesn’t take you inside the mindset of this team and show you a bit of their mental resolve, I’m not sure what will. That’s awesome stuff to hear.
Luka echoed those same thoughts, saying “If we have one percent chance, we’re gonna believe.”
The Suns may have been a better team in the regular season and may seem like too tough a hill to climb, but with Luka Doncic on your team and a supporting cast of grinders, anything is possible, right? If Luka believes, and the Mavericks believe, then there’s no reason for me not to believe.
(Please picture me walking away from this article slapping a ‘BELIEVE’ sign like Ted Lasso.)
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast