This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable run to capture the organization’s only NBA title. Our television partners at Fox Sports Southwest announced Monday that they will re-air the 16 victories that the Mavericks earned en route to the 2011 title, starting Wednesday with Games 1 and 2 in the first-round series against Portland. We at Mavs.com will provide our own look-back at those games, coinciding with each day that FSSW re-broadcasts the Mavericks’ games.
We start with memories of those first two games against Portland.
Though the Mavericks had a lot to prove about their championship chops when they began their glorious 2011 playoff run, there were clues from the start that magic was in the making.
For instance, it had been five years – back to their 2006 run to the NBA Finals that ended in Miami when Dwyane Wade (and others) broke the Mavericks’ hearts – since they began a playoff series with a 2-0 lead.
But that’s where they were after the opening two games at American Airlines Center in the first round against Portland, nights that will be featured on Wednesday as Fox Sports Southwest begins replaying the Mavericks’ 16 victories on their way to the title.
Those first two games weren’t easy. Nor were they easy on the eyes. The Mavericks couldn’t budge past 90 points in Game 1, winning 89-81. Their point total was 11 below what they had averaged in the regular season. Neither team could muster a lot of consistent offensive production.
But that’s the way the playoffs often go. So the Mavericks put a hammer down defensively that stifled the Blazers in the first two games.
Plus, they had a couple of unstoppable forces in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, who combined to score 103 points in those first two games. Here’s a recap of the games that put the Mavericks up 2-0 in the first round, giving them loads of momentum, although it would prove difficult to maintain later in the series.
GAME 1: Mavericks 89, Blazers 81.
Going into any playoff series, no matter how much a team might be favored on paper, there is always a level of trepidation. Sometimes it’s contrived, like during their dominant seasons when the Golden State Warriors would destroy whoever the No. 8 seed happened to be in any given year.
Some years, it’s legitimate, like when the Mavericks faced Golden State in 2007, clearly an unfavorable matchup that ended badly for Dirk Nowitzki and company.
When it’s a No. 3 seed against a No. 6 seed, the concern is always absolutely real because the teams are invariably evenly matched and in many cases were fighting for playoff positioning up until the final game of the regular season.
So there was an unknown quality for the Mavericks, who had amassed 57 regular-season victories but did not win the Southwest Division, finishing four games behind San Antonio. Portland was a 48-34 team that had a young star in LaMarcus Aldridge and numerous accomplished supporting players, including a young sharpshooter by the name of Wesley Matthews.
So the Mavericks were prepared for a fight, which they eventually got.
Game 1 certainly was a defensive fight if nothing else. Neither team cracked 90 points and the Blazers could scratch out only 37 points in the first half. That would qualify as a pretty fair first quarter for the Mavericks of 2020. But it was a different game a decade ago.
What the Mavericks rode to a 1-0 lead was a hot hand from Jason Kidd, who the Blazers clearly were daring to score, rather than have him be the distributor. The veteran point guard had 24 points. It would be Kidd’s high point total for the season – playoffs or regular season.
“We’ve been doing that second-scorer-by-committee all season,” Nowitzki said of the offensive outburst by Kidd. He would reiterate that later in the series when Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry and others stepped up in solid scoring roles.
As coach Rick Carlisle said: “We’re never sure which two or three guys we’re going to get hot, but we need contributions from a lot of different guys to be successful.”
That much was true. But it was Nowitzki who kicked into gear in the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks trailed by six points with six minutes to go. The had gone roughly 11 minutes without a basket, relying on a parade to the free-throw line. But when they were down 72-66, they made a stand.
Nowitzki would score 14 of his 18 fourth-quarter points during the final six minutes and the Mavericks ran down the Blazers to take the series opener.
The fact that Nowitzki shot 13 free throws – the same number as the Blazers as a team – and that the Mavericks overall had 29 trips to the stripe did not set well with Portland coach Nate McMillan, who incurred a $35,000 fine from the NBA for criticism of the referees in his postgame news conference.
But it certainly set up some intrigue for Game 2.
Game 2: Mavericks 101, Blazers 89.
This night should have been the tipoff that something big was about to come the Mavericks’ way.
They won a playoff game, even when Dan Crawford was part of the officiating crew.
Considering that had happened just twice in their previous 20 playoff games when Crawford was in the building, it was big news. It was a major morale boost that they were able to persevere through a gut-check Game 2 to go ahead 2-0 and head to Portland for Game 3 with all the momentum.
And they did in a fashion that geezers loved.
Jason Kidd, who had turned 38 late in the season, and Peja Stojakovic, who would turn 34 before the playoffs ended but who was closer to 54 in basketball-wear-and-tear years and would retire after winning the championship, had monster games.
Kidd had poured in a season-best 24 points in Game 1. He came back with 18 points and eight assists in Game 2. Stojakovic fired in five 3-pointers (matching his playoff career high) on his way to 21 points.
Combined, Kidd and Stojakovic would hit all eight of the Mavericks’ 3-point shots, on just 16 attempts.
They gave more than enough support for Nowitzki, who chewed up Portland for 33 points and again made an impressive living at the free-throw line, where he made 13 of his points.
What was interesting about the Mavericks’ 12-point win was that they were only up by a point going into the fourth quarter.
“You knew they weren’t going to roll over,” said Shawn Marion. “We had to earn it.”
And so they did. They never fell behind in that fourth quarter, showing the kind of tenacity that would serve them well, particularly when things got sticky later in the series and throughout the playoffs.
In addition, the officiating became less of a focus as the series went along. The Mavericks got great shooting from Stojakovic and Kidd and the usual work from Nowitzki to take a 2-0 lead heading to Portland.
At this point, the Mavericks knew they had the hammer. But they also knew that Portland was (and remains) one of the toughest places to play in the NBA.