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. Having dispatched Portland in the first round, the Los Angeles Lakers in round two and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, they moved on to the NBA Finals.
FSSW will show the Mavericks’ first two wins in the Finals on Sunday 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.
Cough, cough. Wheeze, wheeze.
Sometimes a championship series pivots on a moment that may have been intended as a joke, but turns into something that a team can rally around.
The Mavericks’ first two victories in the NBA finals against the Miami Heat were hard-earned, particularly because Game 4 was played when Dirk Nowitzki was running a fever of over 100 degrees and the Mavericks were staring at a 2-1 deficit.
It was after the Game 4 win that leveled the series that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James pulled their shenanigans in the bowels of American Airlines Center.
With cameras rolling, chronicling their every move, the two Heat stars began coughing in mockery of Nowitzki’s flu-like illness that he had to deal with in Game 4. They clearly knew what they were doing and knew that their antics would instantly become a hot issue.
It did not sit well with Nowitzki. And it was something that came to define the way media, fans and the Mavericks looked at the Heat.
Arrogance? Maybe. The coughing scene could have meant that the Heat felt they were in control.
But of course, they weren’t.
Before that moment, the Mavericks had exchanged jabs with the Heat as neither team could string together victories. They treated momentum like a hot potato.
But it was the way this dramatic series was meant to go – at least through the first four games.
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93.
Going down 2-0 in a playoff series isn’t a death sentence.
But it certainly stacks the odds heavily against you.
So the Mavericks went into Game 2 in Miami having lost Game 1 by eight points when they could only muster 84 points. Scoring would be a problem for the Mavericks until they made some tactical (and lineup) changes later in the series.
In Game 2, they played like their championship life depended on it, although it was hard to tell when they were behind 88-73 with 6:30 to play.
But this was a Mavericks’ team that had learned to never say die. Their next 13 points would come over a 3-minute, 30-second span and none of them would be scored by Dirk Nowitzki.
Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion did all the damage and all Miami could come up with was two James free throws.
When the Mavericks got it within 90-86, they handed things over to their superstar.
Nowitzki responded with the Mavericks’ final nine points, including a lefthanded layup with 3.6 seconds to play that provided the winning points.
It was poetic in that Nowitzki had torn a tendon near the tip of the middle finger on his left hand late in the Game 1 loss.
“I have to wear a splint probably for the rest of the playoffs,” Nowitzki said at the time. “But it will be all right.”
Clearly, it was. When Wade missed a desperation 30-footer at the buzzer, the Mavericks had crawled even and were heading home for three games.
Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83.
The Mavericks had been monsters on the road in the playoffs, but they suddenly were looking vulnerable at American Airlines Center after they dropped Game 3 in heartbreaking style.
Chris Bosh had won that game with a jumper with 39 seconds to go. The Mavericks couldn’t score on two late possessions and they were down 2-1.
And we all know what going down 3-1 means in a playoff series. It’s a really tough position to be in. Not impossible. But something the Mavericks wanted to avoid.
Coach Rick Carlisle made a strategic decision going into Game 4 to start J.J. Barea at shooting guard in favor of DeShawn Stevenson, who would continue to play a big role off the bench defensively and with his outside shooting.
The move did not pay immediate dividends. The Mavericks still had trouble scoring.
But they would come around later in the series.
But in Game 4, it was a grind – for everybody. And when you hold LeBron James to eight points, you probably should expect to win.
And eventually, the Mavericks did, 86-83, when Jason Terry hit a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds left and Mike Miller missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
While Barea was only 3-of-9 from the field, Stevenson flourished in the second quarter off the bench, when he scored all 11 of his points and kept the Mavericks in the game.
“He (Carlisle) did some phenomenal adjustments to start J.J.,” Nowitzki said. “And then he decided to let Peja really sit for the series (and) bring in (Brian) Cardinal, who has been phenomenal for us.”
Owner Mark Cuban was more succinct.
“Rick coached his ass off,” he said after the series was over and the self-imposed gag order was taken off.
The Mavericks got 13 points and 16 rebounds out of Tyson Chandler, who was having a strong series. They got 21 points and 11 rebounds from Dirk. And even without Barea, they got a 28-15 advantage from their bench over the Heat’s backups.
It added up to what probably was a series-saving victory. That it came with Nowitzki fighting off an illness just served to give the Mavericks more focus.
And when James and Wade decided to offer up faux flu-like symptoms before Game 5, it would only serve to motivate the Mavericks more.
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