2011 NBA Playoffs: What the Game 4 Comeback Tells Us About the Dallas Mavericks
As the Western Conference Finals stands now, the Dallas Mavericks look to have control of this series at 3-1 over the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the opportunity to close out at home in Game 5 and move on to the NBA Finals.
Game 4 saw an improbable comeback from this Mavericks team that was down by 15 points with just a little over four minutes left. Dirk Nowitzki was simply on fire, helping his team crawl back and tie the game at the end of regulation. In overtime, Dallas ran away with all the momentum on their side to win 112-105.
The most astonishing part of this comeback is that it was from the same team known for postseason collapses and meltdowns. Ever since their disastrous end to their 2006 season, the Mavs have always been labeled "soft" and were known for "choking" in the playoffs. However, this team has consistently been proving skeptics wrong throughout the 2011 NBA Playoffs and now ought to get some credit.
This Mavs team has taken their game up to whole new level. This experienced group of veterans are poised to win the championship by showing how they are a team together and have the willpower to win even when the situations are tough. The comeback that we all witnessed from the Mavericks on the road in OKC tells a lot about the heart and firepower of this team.
Dirk Nowitzki Is More Determined Than Ever
Dirk Nowitzki has had a marvelous 13-year career in Dallas, helping the Mavs consistently get 50+ win seasons and getting them into the playoffs. The NBA Finals was the farthest Dirk has gotten to in his whole career, losing to the Miami Heat in 2006 in a heartbreaking fashion. Ever since then, Nowitzki has had many miserable playoff moments which he would like to forget.
Dirk Nowitzki right now is still chasing his ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship to add to his hall of fame career. The constant playoff failures from the past have haunted him for so long that he is desperate to make a run with the window for Dallas closing up. With a group of aging veterans as his supporting cast, this year may be his last chance to win a championship.
With that said, Nowitzki has been having an outstanding 2011 NBA Playoffs, averaging 28.6 ppg. He continues to light it up in the fourth quarter and has arguably been the MVP of this whole playoffs. With the way Nowitzki has been playing, it is clear that he wants to win now.
The opportunity for Dirk to win it all may never come back, and this is his chance to prove to skeptics that he has what it takes to become a champion.
Jason Kidd Is Playing Like It's 10 Years Ago.
Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards to play the game with his great basketball IQ and vision. Kidd is a master with the fundamentals of basketball and continues to show that although he isn't as good as he once was, he still has what it takes to lead the Dallas Mavericks to the championship. Jason Kidd has overachieved in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, averaging 10.5 ppg, 7.5 apg and 4.4 rpg, which are well above his regular season averages.
His ability to hit the 3-point shot has also been a huge weapon for the Mavs as he is shooting about 37 percent from behind the arc.
Kidd's ability to make the smart passes and put his teammates in position to score has been a big factor in Dallas' postseason success.
More than his offensive contribution, Jason Kidd has been phenomenal on defense this entire playoffs. He helped shut down Kobe Bryant against the Los Angeles Lakers in round two and has helped gaurd the Thunder superstar Kevin Durant at times.
Kidd has not let age become a factor against some of the athletic, quick players as he still plays strong on defense and forces his man to take a contested shot. His ability to strip the ball and come away with the steal has been shown time and time again. Jason Kidd has averaged 2.3 steals per game in the playoffs, making a huge defensive presence for this hungry Dallas team.
"The Matrix" Still Has Game
Shawn Marion, otherwise known as the "The Matrix," has had some good and bad moments in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Marion isn't too much of a scoring threat as the strength of his game is defense. He can play multiple positions, but mainly plays at the small and power forward positions. Marion had some rough times during the first round of the playoffs against Portland, getting constantly beat by Brandon Roy in Game 4 during the fourth quarter meltdown.
Ever since then, Shawn Marion has turned his game up a notch by helping guard Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, two dangerous scoring threats. Kevin Durant started Game 4 on fire, scoring 10 points in just five minutes. However, Durant only made four more field goals the entire game as he couldn't get much going during the Mavs' 17-2 run at the end of the fourth quarter. A lot of this has to do with Marion's defense. His presence caused havoc for the Thunder offense at times, grabbing four steals.
Defense is known to be the key factor in winning championships. Shawn Marion brings just that to the table with the ability to lock down some of the great scorers in the NBA. If it weren't for Marion's defensive performance in Game 4, Dallas is most likely looking at a tied series rather than a 3-1 advantage. Dallas has been a great defensive team in the playoffs for the most part, and Shawn Marion contributes to that a lot. He will be key in the Mavs' run at the championship.
The Mavs Can Win on the Road
Part of Dallas' past playoff failures has been their inability to win on the road. The 2006 NBA Finals meltdown saw the Mavs blow all their games in Miami after a 2-0 series lead. The next year got even worse as the No. 1 seed Mavericks lost to the No. 8 seed Warriors, being unable to win at Golden State. These types of failures on the road would continue for the next three seasons as the Mavs never got past the second round.
The difference for Dallas in the 2011 NBA Playoffs has been their ability to win road games. The Mavericks currently hold a five-game winning streak on the road, winning at Portland, Los Angeles twice and Oklahoma City twice.
Each of those three road opponents had great home court advantage with rowdy fans, but that didn't bother the Mavs. By winning games on the road, Dallas was able to gain confidence and take control of their series' throughout the playoffs.
They continue to play great basketball even in the tough environments, which has gotten them to the verge of a trip to the NBA Finals.
Dallas Is Currently the Best Playoff Team
With all due respect to the other three teams that are still alive in the 2011 NBA playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks' high level of play and consistency has made them the best squad right now. Oklahoma City is a very talented team with a bright future, but the Mavs' veterans have the experience edge, which has helped them to a 3-1 series advantage. With the Bulls-Heat series going on, neither of those two teams have been playing at the same level of intensity as Dallas.
The Bulls are a great team as a whole with a strong defense like Dallas, but don't possess any scoring threats outside of their superstar Derrick Rose.
Miami has a lot of firepower with their three superstars, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. However, their bench and overall supporting cast don't match up well against the Mavs' deep bench.
The Dallas Mavericks have been doing a great job executing on offense and scoring a lot of points. With Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas bench leading the way, the Mavs have the ability to score over a 100 points on any given night.
They have also been one of the better defensive teams in the playoffs. The Mavs' comeback in Game 4 showed how they are talented enough to make a run in clutch situations and close out games. With this type of composure and aggressiveness, Dallas has what it takes to beat anyone and achieve their ultimate goal.
The Mavs know what got them this far, and by continuing to play their style of basketball, they can be the last team standing.