Author’s note:This is the second installment of a five-part series that chronicles the Dallas Mavericks’ ascension to NBA Champions.
It took six hard-fought games for the Dallas Mavericks to conquer their first-round demons and escape the Portland Trail Blazers.
In Game 4 of the first round, the Mavericks had taken a 23-point lead and looked to have the Trail Blazers beaten for an impressive 3-1 series lead. But then, the Blazers defied odds and ended up evening the series 2-2 after pulling off the come-from-behind win, 84-82.
As time would tell, that loss would prove to be an impetus for the Mavericks for the rest of their playoff run.
Even before the celebratory champagne went flat, the Mavericks knew that in order to advance to the Western Conference finals, they’d have to get past the two-time reigning NBA Champs: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat had it much easier in their first round. Miami swatted away the 76ers in five games with all three of their stars hitting double-doubles in their clinching Game 5 win. For the Heat, it was the Boston Celtics that lay ahead.
MIAMI HEAT VS. BOSTON CELTICS—EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
The last time the Boston Celtics had faced the Miami Heat they’d lost in South Beach, 100-77. For a Celtics squad that had averaged 96.5 PPG during the regular season—and had only been held to less-than-eighty points just seven times—it was a stifling defeat.
Nevertheless, the postseason is a different beast—or is it?
The Celtics had averaged nearly 100 points per game against the Knicks (99.25), and the Heat had mustered 94 points per game against the 76ers. Unlike cell phone minutes, you don’t get “rollover” points in the world of sports.
That would be too bad for the Celtics, as they’d be held to just 91 points per game versus the Heat, who’d manage 95.4 PPG.
In Game 1, Dwyane Wade would have his largest scoring output of the playoffs up to that point, netting 38. Game 2 would have Rajon Rondo and Bosh each reach the double-double plateau, with LeBron James dropping in 35. The Heat continued their home court dominance and lead the series 2-0.
The Celtics would win Game 3 at home, 97-81, as Kevin Garnett turned-back-the-clock ten years and put together a dominating double-double, with 28 points and 18 rebounds.
In Game 4 the Heat's dominance resurfaced. It took overtime to pull out the win 98-90, but anytime the triumvirate of Bosh, LeBron and Wade score 83 points combined, it’s going to be a long night for the opposition.
Despite another double-double from KG, the Celtics were eliminated in Game 5, 97-87 as the truculent trio put in 81 points, and all three had a double-double—led by LeBron’s 33 points.
The Miami Heat had improved their postseason record to a sparkling 8-2 as they were able to put a playoff-low scoring output of 81 in their Game 3 loss well behind them to keep their spirits high as they readied for the number-one seeded Chicago Bulls.
The Dallas Mavericks were off to Staples Center to do battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Mavericks had not faired well in the regular season against Kobe Bryant's Lakers—losing two of three and being outscored by an average of eight points, 102-94.
THE DALLAS MAVERICKS VS. THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS—WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
As it turned out, the Mavericks’ Game 4 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round worked as a stimulant that enabled them to real-off seven-straight playoff wins.
That tidbit is a product of hindsight, and as they entered the Western Conference semifinals for just the sixth time in franchise history, they were set to face the formidable LA Lakers.
The Dallas Mavericks would be more than up for the challenge.
Late fourth-quarter heroics would become present in Game 1, as the Mavericks found themselves down by one, 93-94 with just nineteen seconds left to play.
But a foul on Dirk Nowtizki would put him on the charity stripe where he’d make good on both attempts and give his Mavericks the lead, 95-94.
Jason Kidd was sent to the line with three seconds remaining and hit the second of his two free-throws. Kobe Bryant would attempt the game-winner from 26-feet with a jump shot—to no avail.
The Mavericks had Game 1.
Game 2 was a lopsided affair as the Lakers’ will had seemingly weakened. Despite just 24 points from Dirk and a double-double from LA's Andrew Bynum, the Mavericks were headed home with a 2-0 advantage thanks to the 93-81 win.
Game 3 saw the Lakers’ Bynum once again notch a double-double, but Dirk Nowitzki’s 32 points combined with Jason Terry’s 23 from the bench, set the pace for the Mavericks' fifth-straight playoff win, 98-92.
The stage was set for an almost unthinkable sweep—inside the friendly confines of the Mavericks’ American Airlines Center.
Despite a mere 36 points from the Mavericks’ starters, they would earn the win and record the sweep with an emphatic 122-86 victory.
Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and Jose Juan Barea would combine to score 75 points as the triumphant trio shot 80 percent from three-point land—fueling an 86-point outburst from the Mavericks’ bench.
In their Western Conference semifinals sweep of the two-time defending NBA Champion Lakers, the Mavericks averaged 102.25 points per game (despite only scoring more than 100 once).
More importantly, the under-appreciated Mavericks defense held Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to just 88.25 points per game.
The Dallas Mavericks now had not only a six-game playoff winning streak going, but the confidence required headed into the Western Conference Finals to face the nuclear Oklahoma City Thunder offense.