Forget about them.
Van Exel thinks his teammates are paying too much attention to the Kings and not focusing enough on themselves. Starting in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal Thursday night, Van Exel wants the Mavs to concentrate strictly on playing their best and having the confidence that it’ll be good enough to win.
“It’s about believing and not having any type of doubts,” he said. “Sacramento is definitely a good team, but when it comes down to it, you’ve got to have that attitude of ‘(forget) them.”’
The Kings certainly have that singular focus, especially after Game 1.
Sacramento spent the five days before the opener fine-tuning its game. The starters practiced against the reserves—and, as Vlade Divac joked Wednesday, that’s better than working out against some other NBA teams.
By the time the Kings took the court in Dallas, they didn’t care what the Mavericks tried. They were going to do things their way.
And within six minutes they were well on their way to winning for the eighth time in 10 meetings, starting with a five-game series win in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
“Our guys were really focused, really confident,” coach Rick Adelman said. “You don’t worry about the other team. Once you start worrying about what they are going to do, you’re in trouble.
“That’s how the Lakers play; that’s why they’re the world champions. San Antonio does that. That’s what we try to do.”
Sacramento wasn’t always that way.
Back in 1999 and 2000, the Kings lacked that ability when they lost in the first round. They made it to the second round in 2001 but got swept. Things changed last season, when they took the Lakers to seven games in the conference finals, and the mind-set continues this postseason.
“We really don’t care who we’re playing,” Divac said. “We know if we play our game, we’ll be in great shape.”
When a team of Dallas’ caliber gets routinely whipped by the same club, it’s often said that the other team “is in their head.” The Mavericks, though, say their problem is Sacramento’s tremendous confidence.
“It’s in their head that they can beat us,” Dallas point guard Steve Nash said, “and that’s a powerful tool.”
Mavs coach Don Nelson said his team recognizes the feeling because they’ve had it against other teams, such as Houston this season. Dallas went 4-0 against the Rockets, winning by 13 when Yao Ming scored a season-best 30 points and taking the others by 21, 23 and 15.
“The only way to take that confidence away from a team is to beat them, probably in a playoff series,” Nelson said.
Until Dallas does that, their “King Thing” will just keep growing. And it’s already a pretty big deal.
Michael Finley called it “a black cloud over us” and a “mental stranglehold,” using both phrases in the same breath.
Van Exel said Avery Johnson is so frustrated that the pious point guard/assistant coach is starting to cuss.
“I don’t like that,” Van Exel said. “We’ve got to do something about that.”