Still grumpy about how Game 3 finished, and groggy from the practically sleepless night that followed, the Dallas Mavericks got together Sunday to watch some film.
Guess what clip coach Rick Carlisle didn't show?
Hint: It's one the league isn't proud of, either.
As much as they don't want to see the play, it's one they'll all remember: Antoine Wright bumping Carmelo Anthony in an obvious attempt to draw a foul, then bumping him again, yet failing to get rung up either time at the end of a game during which the officials had no trouble blowing their whistles. Anthony wound up swishing a 3-pointer with 1 second left, taking the Denver Nuggets from two points down to one point ahead and a commanding 3-0 lead in this second-round series.
"We're not going to get that last play back, so just by watching it doesn't do us any good," Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said.
Nowitzki and his teammates admittedly had trouble letting go of what happened. The difference in being down 2-1 and 3-0 is a big part of it, but so is the fact that two hours after the game ended NBA president Joel Litvin essentially said, "Oops," acknowledging that a foul should've been called.
"If I was the league, I wouldn't say that," Nowitzki said. "I don't think it makes anybody feel better. We don't get the last seven seconds back to kind of play it over again. More than anything, I think it made it worse."
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Sunday that the league was still reviewing the postgame scene on the court, when Dallas' Josh Howard and team owner Mark Cuban were among those visibly upset.
The Mavericks are in enough trouble already. No NBA team has overcome a 3-0 deficit and they're unlikely to be the first considering they're also 0-7 against the Nuggets this season. Denver also is the only team to win in Dallas since mid-February and the Nuggets have done it twice.
So perhaps the question going into Game 4 on Monday night isn't whether Denver will be headed to the conference finals for the first time since 1985, but "When?"
Although the Nuggets have seen their margin of victory dip from 14 points to 12 to one, the key, of course, is that they're still winning.
In fact, knowing that Dallas has gotten closer each game should help keep Denver players from taking anything for granted.
"We're going to be aggressive and we're going to fight extremely hard," said Chauncey Billups, the veteran point guard who is likely doing all he can to remind his younger teammates that this series isn't over. "They're facing elimination. That's always the toughest game to win, especially in a sweep situation. They're going to fight really hard and do everything they can possibly do to keep their season alive."
With the non-call still a hot topic, Billups brought up a point that could get overlooked: "People fail to realize that you still have to make a tough shot. It was an unbelievable shot that Melo hit. So no matter what happens, that was an unbelievable shot."
Denver coach George Karl said he would not have gone for a foul in that situation.
"It's a very difficult play for the defender to make," he said. "You don't know how hard to hit him. You don't know if the shooter is going to go up and take a 3. If we are going to take the foul, we definitely tell the referees. We try to tell all three of the referees. And then usually the defense is front of us at the end of the game, we yell "foul, foul, foul."
The Mavericks spent Sunday still crying foul, all right. But Nowitzki vowed that by a shootaround Monday morning "everybody's spirits are going to be up."
It's worth noting that Dallas has never been swept in a four-game series. And, this season, the Mavs have bounced back every time they've been counted out.
"These guys have met adversity with unity, with a collective will," Carlisle said. "It happened in November; we got off to a 2-7 start. It happened in January; we lost four games in a row and everybody said we wouldn't be a playoff team. It happened after we lost to Oklahoma City ... and it's obviously going to happen now. But, hey, that's what this is about. When it gets tough, you've got to stick together and keep fighting."
(Copyright Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)
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