NBA Finals 2011: Dallas Mavericks Complete One of Most Amazing Playoff Runs

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NBA Finals 2011: Dallas Mavericks Complete One of Most Amazing Playoff Runs
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
The Mavs playoff run this year resembles that of the Pistons in 2004.

There is no question that the Dallas Mavericks overachieved this year in winning their first NBA title in their 31-year franchise history. The really eye-opening part is by how much.

The amazing part went beyond few so-called experts—outside of TNT guru Sir Charles Barkley —picking the Mavs to beat Portland, much less the defending champs Lakers, up-and-coming Thunder and entitled Kings of Heat.

It went beyond Dallas losing its second best player, Caron Butler, midway through the season, and its backup center, Brendan Haywood, for most of the Miami series. It went beyond not being able to use sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic much against OKC and Miami due to his defensive liabilities.

This team was written off so many times they resembled a Wall Street bank. The Mavs were done after letting Portland come back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

They were done after getting behind by seven points in the fourth quarter in Game One against the mighty Lakers. They were finished after the newcomers from OKC took Game 2 of that series.

They were especially done after getting behind by 15 points to Miami—that team that was handed the NBA title before this season began—with a little more than seven minutes left in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

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But Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Co. kept battling through all that.

Even after the Mavs had orchestrated six remarkable fourth-quarter comebacks in these playoffs, most of the so-called experts still thought Miami would win the last two games of the Finals.

Others who picked against the Mavs were more gracious. But their praise sounded hollow, as if they were still in shock that Dallas could beat teams they proclaimed to be unbeatable like the Heat.

The Miami Herald went so far in its denial that the newspaper ran an ad on Monday—the day after the Mavs just won the NBA title—congratulating the Heat on its championship.

Maybe it was an ongoing ad that the newspaper has been running ever since “The Celebration,” when LeBron James said he planned to win seven or more titles in Miami.

Dallas entered this year’s playoffs as the third seed in the Western Conference and was the first team seeded that low to win the title since the San Antonio Spurs beat LeBron’s Cleveland team in four straight in 2007.

But a key difference was that the Spurs had a much better record than the Cavs that year and thus had homecourt advantage, not to mention were a big favorite in the series.

Dallas’ “upset” of Miami this year was the most surprising Finals outcome to the experts since 2004, when the third-seeded Detroit Pistons knocked off the Lakers’ dream team of Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton in just five games.

That year, Detroit barely got by New Jersey, losing three times to the Nets, who were led by Kidd. No team—not the almighty Heat, champion Lakers or faster Thunder and Trailblazers— won three games against the Mavs this year.

As Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN afterwards, the Mavs are an “old school bunch. We don't run fast or jump high. These guys had each others’ backs.”

The team concept was emphasized by the stellar play of former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson, who was demoted to the bench after Game 3 in favor of Barea.

Stevenson could have sulked, but he played even better defense on LeBron when called upon and hit some big three-pointers.

Every player contributed, from backup big man Brian Cardinal taking charges and hitting threes, to Peja helping to sweep the Lakers with some big threes.

Finally, the Mavs got that monkey off their back placed on them when they lost to an underdog Heat team in 2006 after leading by 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 following victories in the first two games.

It’s a story that’s bigger than LeBron’s ineffectiveness in the fourth quarters or the arrogance of “The Celebration.” Finally, the classier team, the one that worked their butts off and remained committed to the concept of team play, won.

That’s a message that needs to resonate with the masses during these times of instant gratification.

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