This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable run to capture the organization’s only NBA championship. Our television partners at Fox Sports Southwest are re-airing the 16 victories that the Mavericks earned en route to the 2011 title. Having dispatched Portland in the first round, the Mavericks moved on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in Round Two. They stole the first two games in LA. Games 3 and 4 will air on FSSW on Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
We at Mavs.com will provide our own look-back at those games, giving readers a primer for the re-broadcasts with comments of players both from those games and recent conversations.
It’s one thing to get the best of a hated rival.
It’s quite another to fold, spindle, mutilate and usher said rival into the offseason and its coach into retirement.
This is what happens when a team makes the usually difficult trip from championship hopeful to champion in the making, and makes it look easy.
The Mavericks had taken a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals of 2011 by winning twice at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant and a great supporting staff. They had won two championships in a row.
And they had a hall of fame coach who had accumulated more championship rings than he has fingers on which to wear them.
Little did anybody know that the Mavericks’ fans in attendance for Games 3 and 4 of the playoff series against the Lakers would be seeing Phil Jackson’s final appearances on an NBA sideline.
“Regardless of what everybody thought,” Shawn Marion said recently, “we knew what we were capable of doing.”
And after these games, so did the rest of the basketball world.
Game 3: Mavericks 98, Lakers 92.
For three quarters, the Lakers played like you’d expect a defending champion to play when they are down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, knowing that a loss means an inevitable vacation will start soon.
They were ahead 72-66 at American Airlines Center and the Mavericks who worked so hard at both ends of the floor to win twice in LA were nowhere to be found.
“Home-court advantage sometimes can hurt you,” Marion remembered. “You think the crowd can carry you.”
The Mavericks appeared to be falling into that trap.
Then, Peja Stojakovic happened.
And happened. And happened some more.
The sharpshooter who had joined the team in January had proven late in the regular season that his dead-eye accuracy from 3-point range was a valuable weapon.
It manifested itself when he made three of four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks ran down the Lakers for a six-point victory. It helped that the Lakers didn’t have suspended defensive whiz Metta World Peace to work against Stojakovic.
The Lakers’ lead still was six points with under 4 minutes to play, but Stojakovic buried a 3-pointer to start a 17-5 run to finish the game. Peja scored 11 of his 15 points in the final 12 minutes.
Oh, and lest we forget, Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t bad, either. He had nine points in the fourth quarter and 32 for the game.
“Just about everything that happened down the stretch was a direct result of him either scoring or making a play to get somebody a shot,” Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki.
The game was played in front of a blue-clad crowd, mostly wearing giveaway T-shirts that read: The Time Is Now.
After this game, it was only a matter of time until the Mavericks dispatched the Lakers into the offseason, although they were taking nothing for granted.
“They have a lot of pride over in that locker room,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to take it. They’re not going to give it to us.”
Game 4: Mavericks 122, Lakers 86
So much for Laker pride. It went before the fall.
This wasn’t a walk in the park for the Mavericks. It was more like a day at the beach, which is what the Lakers had plenty of after the series sweep was complete.
Up 3-0, the Mavericks smelled blood and treated the Lakers like pawns instead of the NBA kings they had been for two seasons running. The final stab in the champ’s heart came the same way that the carnage had been inflicted throughout the series.
The Mavericks’ bench outscored the Lakers’ bench 86-37. Jason Terry, Stojakovic and J.J. Barea were on the floor virtually throughout the second quarter, when the Mavericks outscored the Lakers 36-16, took a 24-point halftime lead and turned the second half into a victory lap.
That doesn’t mean it was absent of drama. Early in the fourth quarter, LA center Andrew Bynum, listed at 7-0, 285 pounds, shoved 5-10, 185-pound J.J. Barea to the floor with a hard forearm on a drive to the basket. It was a play that the announcing crew on national television immediately called a “bush-league play.”
While Bynum would apologize profusely over the next few days, he eventually was suspended for the first five games of the following season without pay, which cost him about $700,000.
As for Barea, he did not hold a grudge.
“His apology, he means well, so I got no problem with it,” Barea said. “He’s a pro. He doesn’t want to hurt me. I think he just got frustrated in the moment. I think that was just a bad moment in his life where he just wasn’t thinking and he took it out on me.”
As Marion said recently: “Things happen in the heat of battle. The situation got the best of him. He wasn’t trying to hurt the guy. We always tend to embellish it. If it was a 2 or 3 (on a scale of 1 to 10), we turn it into a 15.”
Perhaps, but when Barea got off the deck after a couple of minutes to take inventory of his body parts, the AAC crowd turned its anger toward the ejected Bynum to unbridled support for the Mavericks.
It stayed that way until the buzzer and on into the rest of the playoffs.
The Lakers had been swept into the history books.
Phil Jackson would retire. Kobe Bryant would win just one more playoff series, the following season, and would retire in 2016 after the Lakers missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
It is difficult to watch the replays of Bryant against the Mavericks in 2011 after his tragic death in January. But his legacy had long since been secured.