Here Come the NBA Playoffs
SCOTT SIMON, host:
The NBA regular season ends next week. There's a crowded dream - teams trying to squeeze into playoffs, but the Dallas Mavericks won their spot weeks ago. In fact, they've been on a tier all season long, winning 65 games and losing just 14 so far.
Our own Ron Rapoport joins us. Good morning, Ron.
RON RAPOPORT: Hi, Scott. How are you doing?
SIMON: Fine, thank you. And the Mavs lost last night. They don't do a lot of that. They lost to the Utah Jazz 104-89. What's been the secret of their success so far?
RAPOPORT: Well, they have just had a really good offense. One of the top offenses is in the league, one of the top defenses - Dirk Nowitzki is going to be the league's MVP if Steve Nash of the Suns doesn't win it for the third time in a row.
Scott, they've got five more wins than any other team in the league. They want three quarters of the game on the road, which is really unheard of. But all the talk was that one 15-point loss to Utah, which had lost 5 games in a row.
And there's a little bit of nervousness from Avery Johnson. Utah hadn't won a game in Dell more than four years. Avery Johnson wasn't happy about the lack of focus, that kind of thing.
SIMON: There can be a difference between a great regular season team and a playoff team.
RAPOPORT: Yeah, and the Mavericks are here to tell you about it.
SIMON: Yeah, as they learned last year.
RAPOPORT: Well, I think they wish we hadn't brought this up, Scott. Losing the Miami last year in the finals was one thing, but it was the way that they lost...
RAPOPORT: ...that reminds them of how easy it is. To fall really fast from the top and that they're regular season great performance may not mean much, they won the first two games against the Heat.
Scott, by double digits, they were leading games three by 13 points. But then it all came apart in a hurry. It was one of the greatest flames outs in NBA Championship history. So if they don't initiate that wonderful regular season record isn't going to mean much.
SIMON: I mean, I heard coaches say, I've heard Phil Jackson say that to keep up an extraordinary winning streak in the winning season just creates so much extra special pressure. It may make you more tired by the time they have to win games that really count in the playoffs.
RAPOPORT: Well, I think - I think what fans and players - what players understand that fans sometimes don't is that they're - the playoffs are in new season. It starts over.
RAPOPORT: And all that great record doesn't necessarily mean much and if you got a great record like that, people are gunning for you there.
RAPOPORT: They are really, really going after you. And it's very hard to keep up that focus especially after 80 games.
SIMON: I have to read some of the names on the team roster because they have some of the greatest collection of names I've ever encountered on the sports team. Dirk Nowitzi, of course you mentioned, but Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, DeSagana Diop.
RAPOPORT: I love it. And don't forget, Scott, 44-year-old center Kevin Willis...
SIMON: Oh yeah.
RAPOPORT: ...out of the league for two years and just signed for the rest of the season. I love the Mavericks. I just think they're an awful lot of fun.
SIMON: This will be a fun playoffs, I think.
RAPOPORT: I think I'm really looking forward to it.
SIMON: Okay. Ron Rapoport, always taking it to the hoop for us, our sports commentator here in WEEKEND EDITION. Speaking with us this morning from Los Angeles. I assume, L.A., you're at home, right? Have another cup of coffee on us.
RAPOPORT: Attaboy. Thank you.
SIMON: This is NPR News.