This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable run to capture the franchise’s only NBA championship. Our television partners at Fox Sports Southwest are re-airing the 16 victories that the Mavericks earned on their way to the 2011 title.
It all came down to this: Games 5 and 6 against the Miami Heat. The teams were deadlocked at two wins apiece and the series had turned dramatic.
FSSW will show the Mavericks’ championship-clinching wins Wednesday at 6 p.m. We at Mavs.com will provide our own look-back at those games, taking readers back in time to relive that glorious stretch.
The Mavericks rang up their championship on June 11, 2011, and it was the culmination of years of works putting together a championship roster, months of work building chemistry and two weeks of work to figure out how to beat the three-headed monster that the Miami Heat had built.
Remember, everybody outside of South Florida was rooting for the Mavericks in this series. The Heat were heavily favored – nearly a 2-to-1 favorite before Game 1. But the country didn’t like the fact that LeBron James had orchestrated the building of the Heat in drive-through fashion. He and Chris Bosh landed on South Beach to join Dwyane Wade and they were supposed to start counting their championships from Year One.
The Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and a surprisingly gritty display by J.J. Barea, had other ideas.
Each team had won once on the other’s home floor during the first four games of the best-of-seven Finals.
Now, it was down to a best-of-three.
GAME 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103.
Flu-gate was behind them. The Mavericks had watched James and Wade do their fake-cough thing in the corridors of AAC and the Mavericks had taken note.
Nowitzki was feeling better for Game 5, having shaken the grips of a 100-degree-plus fever. He had called the antics of James and Wade “childish” and was ready to move on.
He and all the Mavericks did so with a massive effort in the final five minutes of a game that Nowitzki said was absolutely vital if the Mavericks were going to win the title.
“We didn’t want to go back to Miami and give them basically two shots to close us out,” Nowitzki said. “So we kept plugging in the fourth – definitely a big win for us.”
The Mavericks, as they had in Games 2 and 4, had to make a heartfelt comeback to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
They were down 99-95 with 4:30 to play and the crowd was getting antsy.
But Nowitzki scored four points around a Terry 3-pointer and the Mavericks were up 102-100. The Heat could not solve the Mavericks’ defense and when Terry and Kidd both nailed 3-pointers, the lead was 108-101 with under a minute to go and the Mavericks were headed to Miami needing only one win to seal the title.
“We have to go down there and basically approach it as Game 7,” Nowitzki said.
The Mavericks survived Game 5 by leaning hard on each other. Yes, Nowitzki piled up 29 points, but Terry had 21 off the bench and Barea gave them a different weapon in the starting lineup. His penetration helped open up the 3-point game for everybody and diminutive Barea finished with 17 points.
After neither team had topped 95 points in the first four games, the Mavericks finally had found some keys to putting offensive pressure on the Heat.
GAME 6: Mavericks 105, Heat 95.
There’s something about winning it all on somebody else’s home court. Send that team off their own floor and straight out the door to vacation.
Silence their fans. Make them watch your celebration on the court that is supposed to be their team’s hallowed ground.
Dance with the small contingent that is with you in foreign territory.
That’s what the Mavericks did after they beat the Heat in Game 6. And they did with some degree of authority.
Unlike their first three wins in the series, the Mavericks didn’t have to overcome a significant deficit. They led throughout the final 20 minutes of the game.
They even survived 1-of-12 shooting by Nowitzki in the first half. He would rally with 8-of-15 shooting after halftime and finished as the NBA Finals MVP.
Terry bagged 27 points and Barea had 17 as he continued to get the best of whoever tried to muscle him.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Terry said. “He knows his team. He knows when we need a spark and he’s willing to make the adjustments. It’s just very gutsy.”
And, in the end, all the buttons Carlisle pushed were the right ones.
And then . . .
After drama, after the 1-of-12 start by Dirk in Game 6, after the play of Barea, Terry and Kidd and after the trophy presentation on the Heat’s floor, the Mavericks walked out into the moist Miami night.
They all had an article of black clothing on. And the Mavericks forever were believed to be the creators of “funeral games,” when a team is on the verge of closing out a playoff series and wears black in honor of burying their foe.
Rick Carlisle had already uttered that famous line: “Our owner now is available for interviews.” That was after Mark Cuban had imposed a self-gag-order starting back during the second-round sweep of the Lakers.
What wasn’t available was Cuban’s new American Express card. The story now has been told enough that it’s accepted as truth. The $90,000 bottle of champagne that Cuban bought at Liv Nightclub at first could not be purchased because his credit card was declined.
After a phone call to American Express folks, he found out he had not yet registered the card. Soon, the problem was rectified, the bubbly flowed and the club got paid – with a $20,000 tip.
Those are the kind of things exuberant people do when they win a championship and can afford the ultimate sort of celebration.
But there were other, perhaps more priceless parties to come. Anybody who saw or heard Nowitzki belting out his, ahem, rendition of the Queen classic “We Are The Champions” knows it’s something they will never forget.
No matter how hard they try.
And while the celebration was going on at LIV, just hours after the Mavericks had exited American Airlines Arena with trophy in hand, Rick Carlisle was in his hotel suite, enjoying a cold beverage.
I was lucky enough to join him for a beer or three.
Never will I forget that Carlisle didn’t seem like he wanted to party. It was more like a huge sense of relief, the end of a journey that took a toll on everybody, but was worth every exhausting step along the way.
“Hey,” Carlisle said with a line that he’s used many, many times, “if it was easy, everybody would do it.”
Share and comment