Glorious

The Dallas Mavericks are NBA Champions. That may never get old to say. It took me a while to try and find the words to describe the Mavericks title run this year, and I still don’t really know what to say about it. Some would call it improbable, others may call it lucky, but I’ll go ahead and go with glorious. Dictionary.com defines the word glorious as wonderful; completely enjoyable, as well as brilliantly beautiful or magnificent; splendid. The Dallas Mavericks were an underdog throughout the post-season, but went on to be crowned champions. The whole playoff run seems improbable just looking back on it all. Caron Butler, arguably the Mavericks’ second best player while he was healthy, was not part of this playoff run. The playoff road went through a scrappy Portland team, swept across Los Angeles, flew through Oklahoma City, and ended in Miami. As improbable as it seems, I know as a fan that the whole playoff experience was brilliantly beautiful, it was magnificent.

Portland
Before the glorious comeback began, there was a lot of doubt surrounding the Dallas Mavericks. Local radio personality and part of the Ben and Skin Show Ben Rogers, came up with the nick name “the one and done boys” for the Mavericks. The name refers to the Mavericks’ post-season luck the past few years of failing to get through the first round of the playoffs. The doubt was not only local upon these Dallas Mavericks though, on a popular ESPN show on in the late afternoon called Around the Horn, sports columnists from across the country said if there was one team they would want to play in the playoffs it would be the Dallas Mavericks. On top of that, very few people even picked Dallas to get out of the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland was a trendy upset pick and what seemed to be the equivalent of 12-5 match-up in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Seed-wise, Dallas was the favorite, but no one seemed to believe that the Mavericks were tough enough to defeat a scrappy Portland team. The Mavericks were too soft, and their defense was too poor to win in the playoffs. This sure seemed to be true after the Mavericks gave up a 23 lead to the Trail Blazers in game 4 in game that Brandon Roy seemed to rise from the dead and torture the Dallas Mavericks. Despite blowing this lead, the Mavericks stayed the course and went on to close out Portland in 6 games in the Rose Garden.

Los Angeles
Before the playoffs started it was discussed whether or not Dallas would purposefully lose a game or two so that they would be able to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers as deep in the playoffs as they possibly could and have the only possible match-up with L.A. to be in the Western Conference Finals. Coach Rick Carlisle calmly disregarded these comments by saying something along the lines of that if there were games to be played; he was going to try to win them. The Mavericks weren’t going to avoid anybody, because they weren’t scared of anybody. This was put to the test when they had to travel to Los Angeles for a Conference Semi-Final matchup with the Lakers. The Mavericks went into this series as an after-thought. If you thought that no one gave the Mavericks a chance in the Portland series, the odds people were giving Dallas to defeat the Lakers in this series were like the odds to predict a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket. (I’m sure they weren’t that bad, but it sure felt like it) The Mavericks came out strong in game 1 at the Staples Center against the Lakers. They were able to hold on to a very close game in which Kobe Bryant missed a potential game-winning shot that went in and out. Dallas was up 1-0 on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and they had achieved a split in Los Angeles without even playing game 2 yet. So most figured Dallas would put out a decent effort, but the Lakers would take control of game 2, because the Mavericks were complacent with a split in L.A. Well, the Mavericks certainly were not complacent. They rallied to win game 2 and went back to Dallas with a 2-0 lead on the Lakers. At this point, one would believe that the Mavericks would have to have some more people believing in them, but really not even the Lakers seem fazed by it because, well, they are the Los Angeles Lakers. What made me mad, personally, is when Dallas went on to take game 3 in Dallas and take a commanding 3 games to none lead over the Lakers and there were still a large number of people not giving the Mavericks a chance to win the series. I guess the reality of everything that was going on hadn’t hit them yet, because there was no way a team like the Mavericks could beat a team like the Lakers. People thought that the Lakers would come out firing and take game 4, and that automatically meant the Lakers would go on to win game 5 at home and then Dallas would have a must-win game 6 at home. I guess the whole winning two games out of two in L.A. went unnoticed and the Mavericks wouldn’t be able to do it again. What didn’t go unnoticed is the phenomenal outside shooting of the Dallas Mavericks in game 4 to humiliate and sweep the defending champion Lakers and send Phil Jackson out on an embarrassing note by being a part of worst playoff loss ever. Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic were seemingly unconscious from the three-point line and J.J. Barea was dicing up the Lakers defense. The Lakers retaliated when Lamar Odom shoulder-checked Dirk Nowitzki on a high pick and roll, which was resulted in an ejection. That was followed by Andrew Bynum delivering a vicious forearm check into Barea’s ribs that sent him sprawling to the floor. Bynum was also ejected from the game. The Dallas Mavericks had shocked the world, they had done the impossible; they had swept the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Oklahoma City
The Western Conference Finals match-up consisted of two teams separated by a drive up Interstate 35 as the Mavericks were to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed un-guardable defensively, and James Harden was a threat coming off the bench from a very young and inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder team. It was unknown how Dallas would respond after sweeping the Lakers, but they remained determined and focused on their ultimate goal to win the NBA title. By this time, people were starting to, very slowly, come aboard the Mavericks’ bandwagon. The Mavericks proved their determination by taking game 1 in the series. It was game 2 though, that Dallas almost seemed to lose focus and the effort didn’t seem to be there, this responded in Dallas dropping its first game in the playoffs since their 23 point meltdown in game 4 of the Portland series. The Mavericks had just rattled off 7 straight post-season victories, but had just lost their first game at home and people were starting to jump ship again. Kobe Bryant was quoted this post-season in saying that the team that loses has the momentum going into the next game, because they are hungry and often times the team that wins becomes too over-confident. The Mavericks were very determined going into a very hostile environment in Oklahoma City. Dallas went on to take game 3 against the young Thunder team. Dirk Nowitzki was having a magnificent series against the Thunder already having had 48 points in a previous game in the series, but it was game 5 that defined the Mavericks season. Throughout the playoffs, Dallas had seemed to trademark the 4th quarter comeback. In game5 of the Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Mavericks fell behind by 15 points with less than 5 minutes to play. The Thunder already seemed to be celebrating that they would come back to Dallas with the series tied at 2. The Mavericks, on the other hand, had other ideas in mounting arguably one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NBA playoffs history. The Mavericks took game 4 and shocked Oklahoma City then went back to Dallas to take game 5 and end the Thunder’s season. This set up the Mavericks to go to the finals for the first time since 2006 to face the team that knocked Dallas out of the finals that year, the Miami Heat.

Miami
The Miami Heat had been the favorites to win the NBA title since the beginning of July when LeBron James decided that he would take his talents to South Beach. Along with James, Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Raptors, also joined the Miami Heat and along with Dwyane Wade created a trio of superstars that, on paper, seemed far more dominant than any other team in the league. James and Wade were thought of as the two best closers in the league, and Bosh has multiple all-star appearances while being the main guy in Toronto. The team went through some hardships in the earlier part of the season going through tough losing streaks and seemingly having the pressure of the entire world on their back as each member of the black and red Miami Heat took on the villainous role against other teams in the league. They sure fit the mold of an evil empire, and slowly the team progressed as the powerhouse everyone sought them to be when the season first started. The heat went on an unprecedented double-digit winning streak until they ran into the Dallas Mavericks who snapped the streak. After this loss, the Heat went on another superb winning streak only to once again be snapped by the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat rolled through the post-season defeating every team in only 5 games and most people picked the Heat to do the same to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. It was a battle the national media hyped up as good vs. evil. It was a few powerful superstars vs. a team that played as a unit that had their own weapon in Dirk Nowitzki. Instead of turning to the dark side, Nowitzki chose to stay with the team that had drafted him 13 years earlier other than go to another team to form a superpower. The Heat came out strong in game 1 defeating the Mavericks and it seemed as if Dallas would go down to the Heat in 4 or 5 games as predicted. In fact, in game 2, the Heat went up 15 points with 7:13 left in the game. A computerized odds maker by the name of Acuscore gave Dallas a 0.5% chance of winning the game at this point. In a glorious comeback in a flurry of shots from Nowitzki, Kidd, and Terry, the Mavericks stormed back against an over-confident Heat who with 7:13 left in the game were seen celebrating and dancing in front of the Dallas bench, now they were dazed and confused at how Dallas was able to fight back and achieve a split in the series going back to Dallas. It was a tough game 3 where Chris Bosh was able to hit a clutch baseline jumper and Nowitzki’s attempt at a game-winning turn-around fade-away bounced out. 11 times previous has a series been tied at 1 going into game 3 in the NBA Finals 2-3-2 format, and 11 times has the winner of game 3 gone on to win the series. It seemed like after this game, every game was treated as game 7 for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks refused to give up, they were going to go out and have a certain swagger about them going into the next few games. In games 1 and 3 Jason Terry seemed to have gotten the Han Solo treatment from LeBron James and was playing like he was frozen in carbonate, but responded greatly the rest of the series to torch the Heat. He hit a dagger over LeBron James to seal the deal in game 4 and before you knew it the Mavericks had tied the series at 2 games apiece going into a pivotal game 5. Now, when the series has been tied at 2, in the NBA Finals 2-3-2 format the winner of game 5 has gone on to win 73% of the time. The Dallas Mavericks exploded in game 5 with brilliant performances by Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, and of course, Dirk Nowitzki. Going into game 6 the Mavericks had a chance to close out the Miami heat on their home floor, a feat that taste oh so great after Miami had celebrated in Dallas just 5 years ago. With 2006 fresh on their minds, the Dallas players dressed in all black, a ritual for closeout games, and treated game 6 as their game 7. A crafty J.J. Barea seemingly had every tool to slice up the Miami defense and then follow it up with his outside shooting to keep the Mavericks up most of the game. With all of his weapons and craftiness he seemed to be the R2D2 of the Mavericks’ team in always being in the right place at the right time. Also crafty, was the play of Jason Kidd who, while aged a bit, was still very strong in every Maverick victory. His wisdom made him the Obi Wan Kenobi of the team. Tyson Chandler was a beast in the middle for the final 4 games in the series for the Dallas Mavericks giving him the honorary role of Chewbacca. Together, alongside Dirk Nowitzki (Luke Skywalker), and as a team, the Dallas Mavericks were able to take down the evil empire of the Dallas Mavericks and owner (emperor) Pat Riley was disappointed that the Heat could not pull out the victory. The good guys in blue and white were able to take out down the bad guys in the red and black to become world champions. Although Dirk Nowitzki did not play great in the final game, he was still able to lead his team and manage 21 points to close out the Miami Heat to cap a glorious run to make the Dallas Mavericks champions of the basketball world.

Champions
During the post-game celebrations even Mark Cuban was choked up and seemingly couldn’t find the words to address the season ticket holders in a post-parade rally the Mavericks held the Thursday following their world championship victory. National media was still focusing on the collapse of the Heat, more so than the triumph of the Dallas Mavericks, but even they could not take away what the Mavericks had done this year. Ben Rogers, from the Ben and Skin show, had another nick name for the Mavs as the post season drew on as he called them “the glorious miracle comeback boys.” You could never count the Mavericks out of any game, and their resiliency was a calling card for this team the entire year. They were able to rebound from the injury of Caron Butler, fight through all those who doubted them, and shed the demons that have tortured them ever since the 2006 season. Ben Rogers couldn’t have been more right in calling this team glorious. Some might say the Mavericks were lucky this year, but it takes so much more than luck to beat a team 4 times after you have already played 80+ times during the regular season. It may seem that the journey that the Mavericks took was improbable, but it gives a new hope to teams across the NBA that you do not need a team full of superstars to go out and win an NBA championship, but a team with all the right pieces who can play together and needs everyone to be successful. Everyone on the Dallas Mavericks roster contributed this post-season at some point throughout their glorious run. Looking back on it all, this was a brilliantly beautiful run for the Dallas Mavericks, and throughout the whole ride it was completely enjoyable, it truly was glorious.

-Colby

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