The story of the 2011 NBA playoffs is not LeBron James or Dewayne Wade. Let’s make that clear. And no, don’t tell me it is, because you’re missing the point. The most important point.
It’s also not about Miami, the hatred towards them, or even Cleveland. Sorry Cleveland fans, but Dallas doesn’t want you gravy-training their parade. They have waited 31 years for this night to happen, and no group of jilted lovers are going to crash this party.
The real story of these playoffs is the Dallas Mavericks and what they did to beat Miami, 105-95, to win the NBA Finals 4-2.
The knock on the Mavs were that they were soft and didn’t play defense. That was true. Their owner Mark Cuban was always a distraction. That’s also true.
If you cut through all of the drama and the big stuff, the little things helped the Mavs win their first NBA title in team history.
1. Rick Carlisle. He brought a blue-collar aggressive defensive mindset to this team. Yeah, sometimes they want to outscore teams, but Dallas bought into his program with the help of…
2. Tyson Chandler, Brian Cardinal, and DeShawn Stevenson. Chandler and Stevenson were essentially busts in the league. They got a second chance in Dallas. Chandler played in the Eastern Conference, where the only way to survive is to play physical. Cardinal was always the “heavy” even during his days at Purdue. Stevenson has remade himself into a dependable bench player.
3. Jason Terry. If Dirk was going to have a bad game or struggle, Terry had to be the guy to pick up the slack and make the important plays. Nowitzki said it as much early in the Finals. Boy, did Terry ever, in a huge way. Dirk may have won MVP, but Terry played like a MVP when they needed him to.
4. Bench. The all-too important, and forgotten piece, to a good team. Can your bench give you the minutes and do their job. From Ian Mahinmi to Shawn Marion to Rodrigue Beaubois, the Mavs bench outplayed the Miami bench. Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas should have asked Karl Malone and Gary Payton what it’s like to be dead weight on a playoff team in the Finals (see the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004).
5. Mark Cuban: He may not say it, but I think he figured out that less is more when it comes to being the face of the Mavericks. Cuban is a fan and is never afraid to defend his players and paying fines. Keeping a low profile may have helped keep the distractions away.
6. Dirk Nowitzki. He was LeBron James for a long time. Talented, one of the best in the league, a superstar…and a guy without a killer instinct and unable to win “the big game.” It wasn’t a matter of if he would win, but when and how he was going to win a title. The choke label has been taken off the big guy’s neck. There was something a little different about him as the playoffs started. He was hungrier, aggressive, and despite struggling early in Game 6, he kept playing his game. When his game came back in the second half, Game 6 was over in the 4th quarter.
I went Billy Packer and posted this on Twitter early in the 4th quarter (at 9:21 pm CDT):
@RHS76 Romelle Slaughter III will take a page from Billy Packer. This is over.10 hours ago via web
The Heat ran out of gas. Dallas had the composure and the heart to win it. They didn’t have that in the past.
The team that had championship potential but could never show it, finally did by tweaking a few things. It took some painful losses and heavy criticism over the years, but they figured it out.
This will eventually serve as a lesson for Miami down the road. If they choose to accept it. Like the Mavs did.
That is the real story of the 2011 NBA Finals. Only if most of America would stop and understand the Mavericks’ journey from running joke to humbled champions. If they choose to do so themselves.