Five long years later, the Dallas Mavericks are headed back to the NBA Finals.
The Mavericks' 100-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday allowed them to be glad of winning the Western Conference finals for the second time in team history. However, the team is not satisfied and knows the ultimate goal is just four wins away.
“There’s all the guys in this organization and on the court who believed in us and in coach [Rick Carlisle] and fought every game, every minute of the way,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “And all I can tell everybody is, we ain’t done yet!”
Cuban has been in this situation before.
Five years ago, he owned the 2006 Dallas team that lost in that year’s NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.
The Mavericks were just six minutes away from a 3-0 lead until Dallas blew a 13-point lead to lose Game 3. They never recovered from this loss and ultimately lost the series 4-2.
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry played key roles on that team and unfortunately endured a lot of heartbreak in the years to come.
A 67-win Dallas team the following season was upset by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference quarterfinals. Since then, the Mavericks would only win only one postseason series before this year and it added to the notion that Nowitzki and the Mavericks could not win when it mattered most.
This year’s team has many other veterans that share the same heartbreaks.
Peja Stojakovic played a big role for the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings that had the best record in the NBA, but lost in Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Jason Kidd guided the New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, but the Nets fell to the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs in consecutive years.
Shawn Marion was closest to a title for three consecutive seasons with the Phoenix Suns from 2005 to 2007, but their fast-paced offense never led to any postseason success as they failed to reach the Finals.
Carlisle even experienced heartbreak as a coach during stints with the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. He guided Detroit to two straight 50-win seasons and a trip to the 2003 Eastern Conference finals, but he was fired in favor for Larry Brown. Hired by Indiana, he nearly got revenge over the Pistons in 2004 and 2005, but the Pacers lost both years.
The Mavericks have nine players in their postseason roster that are 30 or older, and they all know that they may never get this opportunity ever again.
As a collective whole, Dallas knows that the only way to ease the pain and rewrite the past is to win now before it is too late.