Through two brief games, this series has been a living nightmare for the Lakers. Their defense has been exploited by Dallas’ quick guard play and deadly long-range bombers. Dirk Nowitzki has picked them apart with surgeon-like precision. The Mavericks have been the bigger, better, tougher team.
But make no mistake: Dallas can still blow this series.
It doesn’t look like they will, but it didn’t look like they would lose to the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals either. And it didn’t look like they would get run out of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors in 2007 either.
Although it appears as though the Mavs have gained a huge advantage, the pressure that comes with such an advantage has proven to be too great for Dallas time and time again. It would be stupid to discount it from repeating another time.
That said, this Mavs team seems different. The hallmark of Dallas teams past has been the fear in their eyes in big moments. Dirk has always been a player capable of taking over and winning by himself, but he has found himself on an island far too many times before.
But not this year. The fear in Dallas’ eyes has been replaced with a fire, a swagger that suggests they are no longer frightened by the big moment—they are relishing it.
Maybe I am overstating how good the Mavs have been in this series. Maybe the Lakers are simply exhausted from years of Kobe-level intensity. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and the Lakers have worn it for a long, long time.
However, this seems unlikely. This Mavs team is for real. It seems that their past failures are fueling their present successes. They are aware of their reputation as chokers, and are using this series as an opportunity to put that rap to bed.
For the Dallas Mavericks, this series could be the culmination of a decade—plus of blown potential and missed opportunities.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if they ride their current wave of momentum all the way to a title.