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. Games 1 and 2 will air on FSSW on Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m. If you can’t catch those telecasts, an encore will take place Wednesday afternoon.
We at Mavs.com will provide our own look-back at those games, giving readers a primer for the re-broadcasts of the games with comments of players both from those games and recent conversations.
A funny thing happened to the Los Angeles Lakers on the way to their threepeat as NBA champions, although it wasn’t the least bit humorous to Kobe Bryant and company.
They ran into the Mavericks.
The Lakers were big, bad bullies. They had won the previous two titles with largely the same key players that they had in 2011. They had arguably the best player in the game at the time in Bryant and they had key veteran pieces around him.
And they never got hurt. Four of their five starters were in the lineup at the jump ball for all 82 regular season games. The center spot was manned by either Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom.
No other Laker started a single game in the regular season. And the only reason they didn’t have the same starting lineup in all 10 of their playoff games is because Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest) was suspended by the NBA for Game 3 against the Mavericks.
But all dynasties end. And the Mavericks were thrilled to have the opportunity to do just that in the Western Conference semifinals. It was a challenge that began in Los Angeles after the No. 2-seeded Lakers had dispatched New Orleans in six games in the first round – just as the Mavericks had knocked out Portland in six games.
The Mavericks had finished the regular season with the same 57 wins that the Lakers had, but were seeded lower because LA won the Pacific Division. They also won two of three meetings against the Mavericks in the regular season. They smashed the Mavericks by 28 points in the only meeting at Staples Center.
So the Mavericks had some mental demons to overcome.
GAME 1: Mavericks 96, Lakers 94.
No matter what anybody says, facing the Lakers in a playoff series is different than facing any other team.
Whether it’s real or perceived, a mystique hovers over them.
Every generation of Lakers seemed to have the best basketball player at the time on their team. Or at least one of the best. And NBA generations only last about 10 years, perhaps. If it wasn’t George Mikan or Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it was Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant or LeBron James.
For the 2011 Lakers, it was Bryant flanked by Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and World Peace.
So the Mavericks showed up at Staples Center for Game 1 knowing they were the decisive underdog in this series.
That quickly changed when they played a remarkable fourth quarter to overcome a seven-point deficit (five in the final 3:30) to steal Game 1 96-94 before a stunned Staples Center sellout.
“They were the (two-time reigning) champs, and they were waiting on us,” Shawn Marion said recently when asked about the Lakers. “All our mindset was to go get the first game. We kind of didn’t play in the first round like the level we thought we should be playing. We wanted to lay it all out there.”
That was evident in a fourth quarter when the Lakers shot just 7-for-22 from the field and were outscored 25-16 by the Mavericks.
And, of course, they had to survive a would-be dagger from Kobe.
Buckets by Marion and Dirk Nowitzki had left the Mavericks down 94-93 with under a minute to play. Jason Terry stole a pass from Bryant with 20 seconds to go. Nowitzki would make two free throws to put the Mavericks in the lead.
Jason Kidd made one of two with 3.1 seconds left for a 96-94 advantage.
After a timeout, Bryant got the inbounds pass and fired a 26-foot shot that had the Mavericks holding their breath for what seemed like forever. He’d gotten free when Andrew Bynum put a questionable screen on Jason Kidd. Perhaps karma intervened because the shot clanged off the back iron and the Mavericks had stolen the home court.
As coach Rick Carlisle said: “You got to make some plays, and you’ve got to dodge some bullets. We did both.”
GAME 2: Mavericks 93, Lakers 81
Ask any player and he’ll tell you the goal when you start a playoff series on the road is to go there and steal one game to flip the home-court advantage.
But while greed in life might not be a great character trait, it’s a wonderful thing when it comes to basketball.
“We got that one, so it was like shoot, why not get the next one,” Marion said. “Going into the series, we were like: get one, OK?
“Then when we go up 1-0, we’re saying: no, you don’t go in to get one. Let’s get two.”
Teams that grind out a road win in Game 1 of a playoff series typically have a letdown. That definitely was not the case for the Mavericks after they won the opener on the Lakers’ home floor.
They came back in Game 2 and took the series by the throat.
A game that was never easy turned decidedly in the Mavericks’ direction in the third quarter, when their defense tightened and the Lakers shot just 6-for-19 from the field and scored just 13 points in the period.
The Mavericks went ahead by 15 points in the fourth quarter and the Lakers were officially on the ropes.
“When we won that second game, it’s like our heads, our motors, our eyes were all going 110 miles an hour,” Marion said. “We went home knowing we could sweep these guys. It ain’t easy to say you swept Kobe in the playoffs. Everybody was on a string.”
Especially the Mavericks’ reserves, who outscored the Lakers’ bench 70-37 in the first two games of the series. Brendan Haywood, Peja Stojakovic, J.J. Barea and Jason Terry totally overmatched the Lakers’ backups, who were getting virtually nothing from anybody except Lamar Odom.
And as a result, the Mavericks were in commanding position going home for Games 3 and 4.