2011 NBA Playoffs: The Dallas Mavericks Emerge as Championship Contenders

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2011 NBA Playoffs: The Dallas Mavericks Emerge as Championship Contenders
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Jason Terry fueled the Dallas Mavericks Sunday with a record-tying nine 3-pointers in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

To the other 29 NBA teams, be careful what you wish for.

The Dallas Mavericks are halfway in their quest to win their first NBA title ever after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers en route to the Western Conference Finals.

What makes this Mavericks playoff run surprising to most people is that many NBA analysts, players and coaches said that Dallas is the team that other teams hoped to meet in the playoffs.

Before the playoffs began, Mavericks guard Jason Terry talked about hearing those comments and said, “A lot of teams want to play us and they are going to get their chance, one by one.”

And that is exactly what has happened so far.

Dallas earned the No. 3 seed in the West and drew the Trail Blazers in the first round.

This series was significant because while Dallas was the team everyone wanted to face, the Trail Blazers were the team no one wanted to face. This led to many people calling an upset in this series because Portland had many tough, underrated players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and Brandon Roy.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the series, the Mavericks led the Trail Blazers by 23 points early in the fourth quarter of Game 4 until Roy took the game over and Portland won, 84-82.

Memories of past playoff failures were still fresh in most minds, but Dallas turned a negative into a positive by winning the last two games and the series, 4-2.

Despite surviving Portland, few gave the Mavericks a chance against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. However, Dallas took the first two games in the Staples Center, including battling from 16 points down in Game 1 to a 96-94 victory.

Heading home with a 2-0 lead, the Mavericks withstood the Lakers’ best effort in Game 3, but won late 98-92 to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Dallas would complete the sweep with a 122-86 blowout in Game 4.

The Mavericks victory was so impressive that they actually had more assists (32) than the Lakers made field goals (31).

After these two rounds, it is safe to say that Dallas is indeed a contender to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this June, thanks to the construction of this team.

Center Tyson Chandler is proving to be the Mavericks’ best big man in recent history with his ability to score and rebound in the paint. The bench is also performing consistently with JJ Barea, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry all making big plays to help Dallas.

Last, but not least, Dirk Nowitzki stepped up in the clutch this postseason, averaging 26.5 points per game and making key fourth-quarter shots.

Amazingly, Dallas has done all of this without forward Caron Butler, who injured his right knee on Jan. 1 against Milwaukee. However, many have picked up the slack—especially Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion.

Brimming with confidence, the Mavericks will be well refreshed to take on the winner of the Thunder/Grizzlies series en route to their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2006.

Before Game 3 of the Lakers series, fans wore t-shirts saying, “The Time is Now.”

After the first two rounds, it is safe to say that that slogan stands true.

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