NBA Playoffs 2011: Dallas Mavericks Drain 20 Threes to Get Shot They Wanted Most

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Dallas Mavericks Drain 20 Threes to Get Shot They Wanted Most
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Mark Cuban kept his mouth shut for once and let his Dallas Mavericks do the talking.

Oh, a 122-86 whipping of the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers to complete an improbable sweep said plenty.

The ostentatious owner shrouded himself in a veil of silence throughout the second-round series, breaking it only to deliver the seven least offensive, no-controversy-required remarks of his career.

“We believe.”

And on the subject of Phil Jackson, who may have coached his final game Sunday afternoon: “I hope he doesn’t retire.”

It marked a stunning departure from his usual manner of exiting the court or a playoff series; there was no screaming at Bennett Salvatore, bemoaning errant whistles from other officials and blaming everyone and everything except his exorbitant, loser culture.

The “loser” and “choke artist” tags no longer applied to his Dallas squad after it vanquished the L.A. Lakers and years of pent-up frustration and humiliating playoff defeats.

If Jason Kidd does indeed follow Jackson out the door after this campaign, blasting and booting L.A. ensures he’ll leave with a bellow instead of a whimper. A work stoppage threatens to hasten the adieus of several sure-fire Hall of Famers. Kidd's 38-year-old body might not recover from a one-year layoff.

As much as analysts framed this season as the Zen Master’s curtain call, it meant much more to Dallas’ aging cast.

Jackson walks away with 11 titles, the most in league history. Kidd is still trying for his first. Ditto for Dirk Nowitzki and every other player on the Mavs’ roster.

Jackson did not deserve to finish atop the NBA any more than Tim Duncan or Antonio McDyess did. The eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies bounced the 61-win San Antonio Spurs a week ago.

A coach who thwarted unceremonious exits throughout his tenure can live with a rare embarrassment, and spoiled Lakers fans should do the same. A 36-point deluge will not stain the legacy of the man whose guidance helped Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant get over the hump. Michael and Kobe, without Jackson, own the same number of championship rings as Rick Carlisle in a lead role.

The notion that a conference semifinals sweep should change how history views his career on the sidelines amounts to lunacy and misplaced jealousy.

The count—even after a thorough demolition—remains the same. His closest active competitor, Gregg Popovich, has hoisted four trophies to his 11.

Kobe Bryant could have secured his sixth ring in June, but the mere suggestion he’d then pass Magic Johnson as the greatest Laker was preposterous and blasphemous. He also needed more than a number to catch Michael Jordan.

His Airness built his unstoppable, unshakeable brand while the Internet was in its infancy and sports gossip was minimal. Hosts did not fill talk shows in the 1990s with excessive gab about a golfer crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant.

Bryant competed in a much more intrusive era, where many Americans know more about Tiger Woods’ sex life than Al Qaeda. How many fans reading this article can name more of his mistresses than U.S. Supreme Court justices?

A biting, merciless populace fascinated and driven by Twitter and TMZ was never going to allow Bryant to taste Jordan’s rarefied air without 23 asterisks.

He’ll settle for second place on the all-time shooting guard depth chart. Is that such a miserable sentence?

The expectation of endless success contaminates a fanbase. Lakers supporters often resemble the Veruca Salt character in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

"But, daddy, I want it now!"

How many other woebegone NBA followers would accept a 36-point defeat if it followed a pair of championships?

If the Lakers seem to lose in unpropitious fashion, well, it happens. Just ask the Sacramento Kings or Washington Wizards.

The only thing shameful about L.A. is that anyone ever suggested a fourth three-peat was a divine right. Cuban’s Mavericks were delighted to prove to audiences everywhere that teams still play the games for a reason.

Those who discounted Dallas as a title contender must have missed what the team did December 20th and 21st. Then, the Mavericks swept a road back-to-back against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. You might have missed them end the Spurs’ 12-game winning streak Nov. 26 in San Antonio. They followed that by hammering the Heat in Dallas, so much so that Miami’s veterans convened a tense, desperate players-only meeting.

An undeserved rash of injuries slammed the Mavericks in December and January. Nowitzki missed nine games, and his squad responded with a tailspin that further revealed his greatness and the renewed possibility he would flame out sans a suitable second option.

Just when Caron Butler rounded into form as that elusive two-way piece, a ruptured right patellar tendon ended his season.

When French sparkplug Rodrigue Beaubois returned from a broken foot, his game was more of an eyesore than a benediction. He threw the ball all over the gym instead of to his teammates, causing more headaches for Carlisle than opponents.

Brendan Haywood began to resemble a $55 million mistake incapable of carrying out the tough task of defending the rim. He tossed airballs at the free-throw line and all but gift-wrapped more minutes for Tyson Chandler and foul-prone Ian Mahinmi.

Peja Stojakovic arrived as the NBA’s king of gagging in the clutch. His matador defense, too, figured to become a bugaboo.

Give the presumptuous Jason Terry this: He promised the Mavericks, despite those well-chronicled issues, would “figure it out,” and Sunday, they did.

Anyone surprised the Lakers yielded 32 mostly open three-point looks needs a better basketball lens. L.A. ranked as a defensive juggernaut, top three, in that department. Yet, that statistic was a difficult-to-explain fluke.

If teams missed a lot of triples against the fallen champs, it wasn’t because the Lakers ran shooters off the line. The frontline’s determination to seal off the paint meant foes could feast on wide-open perimeter looks.

Foot speed, if anyone failed to notice, is not L.A.’s strength. Jackson’s squad was primed for exposure. The idea that these Lakers ever forced contested long-distance shots was a farce. This writer said so several times throughout the campaign and was dismissed as an envious nut job.

If the Lakers struggled to contain the Mavericks’ simple kick outs, how would they have stopped Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili’s rim forays?

The Mavericks recuperated just in time for that venturesome, last-shot run this writer predicted.

Dallas will not dispatch Memphis or Oklahoma City as easily. One thing that should provoke shudders in "Big D:" The Grizzlies toppled the No. 1 seeded Spurs by stifling both penetration and the open three-point looks created as a result. The Mavericks do not employ rim finishers as deadly as Parker or Ginobili.

That potential pratfall cannot eclipse the team’s remarkable ouster of the Lakers.

The following needs to be said more than once: Stop talking about L.A. and give Dallas some freaking credit.

You don’t properly respect Kidd or Nowitzki if you didn’t give them a chance before the series opener.

A Springfield-bound pair played as if this spring represents a final shot at redemption, one last dash for the jewelry that completes legacies and resumes. Nowitzki can compete at an All-Star, MVP-caliber level a few more years, but he will he get another, better shot than this to win it all?

The Grizzlies’ front office, if it manages a budding, explosive roster the right way, can expect improvement and multiple, legitimate cracks at a Larry O’Brien trophy.

The Thunder’s core is built around two stars in their early 20s.

Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls are just getting started.

Just like the overthrown Lakers, the Mavericks face a future filled with guaranteed, albatross contracts and an aging nucleus. Cuban will need to devote most of his resources to re-signing Tyson Chandler. His menacing defense and imposing attitude are worth whatever he demands when he becomes a free agent.

The 28-year-old center, though, represents one of the few still youthful players on an otherwise elderly roll call.

JJ Barea is 26. He more than compensated for the production the 23-year-old Beaubois was expected to provide. Corey Brewer is 25. Ian Mahinmi is 24 and Dominique Jones a spry 22.

The rest of the troupe? They are all on the wrong side of 30. Jason Terry, the sharpshooting hero in Game 4, is 34. Assuming Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson bring him back to allow him to retire in Dallas, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement might afford the Mavericks even less cap flexibility.

The league’s oldest group, then, has a reason to play like this is it.

Nowitzki’s glittering postseason averages of 26 points, 10 rebounds and a block put him in Duncan’s exclusive company. Yet, he doesn’t have Duncan’s rings or his dependable reputation.

Sunday’s stunning result should shatter that disgraceful misconception.

Kidd, too, does not want to leave as John Stockton pt. 2, another Hall of Fame floor general that could not grab one championship.

Soon enough, many of this inspired team’s cogs will be referenced in past tense. This is an end more than a jumpstart, and Nowitzki seems to know it.

Terry buried nine triples, setting the NBA’s record for made threes in a playoff game by a reserve. Stojakovic, long berated as the basketball equivalent of a folding chair, splashed six more.

Nowitzki filled in the gaps with an efficient 17 points.

Kidd orchestrated the attack with his usual poise and brilliance.

The Mavericks bench scored 86 points. The Lakers, as a unit, scored 86 points. Chandler flushed alley-oop lobs and helped dismantled a frontline analysts thought was indestructible and indefensible.

Dallas found the seams and yanked the yarn until L.A. unraveled.

A franchise beleaguered by the horror film it produced in 2006 took one more step toward erasing the despondency of that collapse.

Only Terry and Nowitzki remain from that roster.

Also credit Cuban: He saw something in this bunch few others did. He wasn’t blowing smoke when he declared last summer that Dallas’ depth trumped L.A.’s.

“It’s not close,” he said then.

Maybe that explains his decision to turn off the stove when he could have wielded a ladle and stirred the pot.

“We believe,” he managed.

Oh, 122-86 said plenty.

No further explanation required.

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