Imagine if the Mavs had gotten past the Spurs in Round One of the NBA Playoffs. How would they have fared against the Phoenix Suns? The Suns just advanced to the Western Conference Finals by ousting the Spurs, but would the outcome have been different had the Suns played Dallas? Here's what the headline would have read:
Steve Nash finally gets his revenge on Big D
The Phoenix Suns have knocked off one of the heavy Western Conference favorites, the Dallas Mavericks, in six games in the West Semis, potentially removing the Texas-sized crown from Dirk Nowitzki’s moppy head.
The table was set for a legendary series with this one.
As we all know, Steve Nash jumped ship from Dallas to soon-to-be conference rival Phoenix after the 2003-04 season. In his first year there, he grabbed an MVP award and Phoenix locked up the first overall seed in the West, plowing through Dallas on their way to the Western Conference Finals.
But it was Dirk who would have the last laugh the following season, as Dallas reached the NBA Finals, a path that went through second-seeded Phoenix.
The two teams have not met in the playoffs since, but the heated rivalry was renewed in 2010.
The Mavs were unable to capitalize on a 2-1 series lead as Phoenix roared back in Game Four with a 112-88 win at the US Airways Center.
Tied at two games apiece, the series should have shifted back in Dallas’ favor as the Mavs returned home for a pivotal Game Five, but a quick-shooting Jason Richardson was outrageously hot, scoring 28 points while shooting 11-of-14 from the field.
His contributions, along with Nash’s and Amar’e Stoudemire’s nightly outputs of over 20 points each made sure that Dirk’s 44-point performance was squashed, along with the Mavs’ hopes of advancing.
The series wasn’t over yet, but the final chapter of the Dallas Mavericks’ 2010 season was being written.
Game Six saw an over-confident Phoenix team dismantle the Mavs piece by piece, forcing the ball to wind up in Brendan Haywood’s hands more than Dallas would have liked. In turn, they felt comfortable allowing him to shoot nine free throws, six of which he missed.
Of course, Nowitzki did his best to take the game into his own hands to avoid defeat, following up his stellar Game Five showing with another 37 points to show here, but a one man team is never the answer.
To be fair, late-season addition Caron Butler pitched in with 22 points of his own, but an Amber Alert should be sent out for the rest of the team, as they’ve gone missing.
After the 108-99 exit loss, the Mavs now find themselves with questions that they aren’t ready to answer just yet.
The deal that sent the mercurial Josh Howard and forward Drew Gooden to Washington in exchange for Butler and Haywood was supposed to be the icing on an already sweet cake.
Things didn’t go as planned, and the beginning of the Mavericks’ golf season came a few weeks too early for The German and his crew.
Most of this squad will be returning come October, but there may be one crucial ingredient missing from the cake recipe—a pinch of Dirk.
Nowitzki has a player option for 2010-11, but many expect him to opt-out and seek a more lucrative free-agent deal.
The option is good for approximately $21.5 million, nearly $2 million more than he pulled in this season.
Mark Cuban will be a busy man this summer as he tries to re-plan and rebuild a championship caliber team, but it will be much harder to get past the Phoenix’s of the NBA if he is without his MVP forward.