Calling it a miracle would imply that the Golden State Warriors' first-round victory over the Dallas Mavericks defied natural law—that it was a fluke, an anomaly. Calling it a miracle would be a slap in the face to every Warriors player, each of whom fought his heart out in taking down the best team in the NBA.
No, it's not a miracle.
In fact, if you watched the two teams during the regular season, you knew the smart money was on Golden State.
The signs started early in the year, on November 6th, when the Warriors edged out a struggling Mavericks squad 107-104. The Warriors went toe-to-toe with Dirk Nowitzki and Co. the entire way—they played hard, they played smart, and no, the win was no fluke.
Round Two didn't come until March 12th, when the Mavericks were no longer struggling. Actually, they were 42 games over .500. The Warriors were six games under. And still, the Warriors won again, in a high-scoring affair that proved Don Nelson's team still had the Mavs' number.
Their last encounter, just before the playoffs, was pretty much a write-off. Instead of letting his star players get a feel for the Warriors' tempo, Avery Johnson sat them all. The Warriors went on to a 29-point rout of the Dallas B-team.
When the playoffs began, most NBA fans were already waiting for the "real" matchup in the Conference Finals between Dallas and either the Suns or the Spurs.
I went out on a limb and called the first round for the Warriors.
People said I was mad—and to be fair, my hopes for the Warriors weren't exactly high. Still, I didn't write them off. Six games later, Dirk and Mark Cuban are going golfing, while Baron Davis' crew is gearing up for the second round.
How'd it happen? There are a number of reasons why the Warriors deserved the win—and, for the record, none of them include divine intervention.
Shutting Down Nowitzki
Apart from brief flashes of his regular-season brilliance, Nowitzki was a ghost in this series. Under the watchful eye of Don Nelson, the Warriors effectively neutralized the big German, reducing him to a shadow of his MVP-self. Now, Dirk didn't play poorly, per se—but when his team needed him to be the man, to give them that extra little lift...he was nowhere to be found.
Nellie Had Avery's Number
Don't forget that Johnson was Nelson's protege—and that much of the Dallas system is at least influenced by Nelson's style. Whatever your opinion of the man himself, there's no more qualified —Maverick killer— than Don Nelson.
And look at the way the series played out: The Warriors were there on every Dallas pick-and-roll. They had an answer for every Dallas set play. Nelson adjusted his game plan to offset the more skilled Mavericks squad...while Avery stayed rigid and slack-jawed as the Warriors cruised to one easy win after another.
It's the cheesiest explanation for a win, but Golden State oozed determination in this series. The Warriors played like they had nothing to lose; the Mavericks played like they were saving their energy for the next round. And you'd better believe Baron Davis and his boys fed off the fans in Oakland. Just look at that golden sea of rowdies at Oracle Arena—you won't find a more rabid atmosphere in the 2007 playoffs.
Many "experts" will say the Warriors pulled off the greatest upset in NBA history—but the only people upset are those who sold the Warriors short. Whether Golden State has a chance in the upcoming rounds is another story entirely. For right now, though, this basketball fan isn't surprised in the least.