When an entire nation, save for one lonely state (Florida), rallies around the plight of your favorite team as it ascends the highest plateau in the NBA, you’ve certainly witnessed one special season. This is evident by the governor of Ohio extending “honorary Ohioans” status to the entire Dallas Mavericks team.
Almost as if by destiny, in was only fitting that the Dallas Mavericks would earn their inaugural NBA crown by defeating the heavily favored Miami Heat. After all, the Heat were the team that squelched the Mavericks’ first attempt at NBA supremacy back in 2006.
Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, of the Heat, mirrored Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, of the Mavericks, in that they were the sole representatives from their playoff meeting five years prior. All four players would play crucial roles for their respective teams, as the 2011 NBA Finals set the stage for the ultimate in basketball atonement.
Regardless, neither the Mavs nor the Heat could have faced off had they not proven victorious in three playoff rounds, prior to the NBA Finals. Here's a look at the two teams' respective first rounds matchups:
Miami Heat vs. 76ers">Philadelphia 76ers: First Round, 2011 Playoffs
The Miami Heat (58-24), and champions of the NBA’s Southeast Division, were a second-seeded team from the Eastern Conference. In their first-round matchup, they were slated to meet with the 41-41 Philadelphia 76ers, the third-placed team in the Atlantic Division and a seventh seed.
As would prove to be the Heat’s modus operandi throughout their postseason romp, up until the Finals, they would dispatch of the 76ers in just five games.
The Heat rolled behind the strength of back-to-back Chris Bosh double-doubles in the first two games in Miami. This being the equivalent to having the Philadelphia Phillies' third ace, Roy Oswalt, beat you twice in the World Series.
Up 2-0, the Heat headed to Philadelphia and Dwyane Wade emerged to the tune of 32 points, while LeBron dropped in a double-double and the Heat were up 3-0. In Game 4, the truculent troika hit a road bump. The 76ers pulled off the 86-82 victory, even though they couldn't contain the “Big Three”. Bosh, LeBron and Wade scored a combined 65 points in their first loss of the postseason.
For Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs, it was back to business as usual for the Heat. All three of the triplets recorded a double-double, led by Wade’s 26-point, 11-rebound effort. It was time for the 76ers to get 86'd and for Miami to get ready for the third-seeded Boston Celtics, last year’s runner up for the 2010 NBA Championship.
After it was all said and done, the Heat dismissed the 76ers by averaging 94 PPG while allowing 86.6, good for a 7.4 average margin of victory. The Heat’s largest margin for victory in a single game was in their second contest, when they beat Philly by 21 points, 94-73.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers: First Round, 2011 Playoffs
For the Dallas Mavericks, (57-25, second place in the Southwest Division) the first round of the playoffs wasn’t quite as easy as it was for the Heat. In retrospect, it would prove to be their toughest postseason challenge until the Finals.
Similar to the Heat’s quick two-game advantage over the 76ers, the Mavs steamrolled the Trail Blazers, (48-34, third place in the Northwest Division) in the first two games, as they averaged 95 points per game. The Mavericks hit the 100-point mark for the first time of the postseason in Game 2, as they put up 101 in the winning effort.
But away from the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, the Mavericks would find that beating the Blazers wasn’t nearly as straightforward as it seemed.
Despite 29 points from super sub Jason Terry and 25 from Dirk, the Mavs fell in Portland 97-92. Game 4 was even worse for the Mavs, as they lost once again in Portland, 84-82. The 82 points would prove to be their lowest offensive output all postseason long.
But a much-needed return to Dallas, coupled with an unbelievable double-double by center Tyson Chandler, would prove enough to put the Mavericks back in the driver's seat, up 3-2.
Chandler had 14 points and 20 rebounds for the Mavs and Terry contributed a 20-spot as well. Game 6 was back in Portland, where the Mavs had lost their first two games after taking a 2-0 series lead, just a few days before.
Alas, Dirk’s double-double (33 points, 11 rebounds), coupled with Terry’s 22, would prove too much for the Blazers as the Mavericks won the game 103-96 and won the series 4-2.
The Mavericks were able to oust the Trail Blazers, whom many considered a bad matchup for the Mavs, by putting up 100 points twice, averaging 93.3 PPG, while allowing just 88.1 PPG. Their largest margin of victory was a game two 12-point advantage, 101-89.
The Mavericks were elated about their advancement, but knew that the Western Conference Semifinals would be no easy task as they had to face two-time defending NBA Champs, the second-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (57-25, first place in the Pacific Division).
For the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat to advance to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, they’d have to get past the two teams who battled for the NBA title in 2010: The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.