The 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks should have gone down as one of the best teams in NBA history. After winning a franchise-record 67 games in the regular season and having the MVP in Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs were primed to win it all in 2007 after blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Miami Heat in the 2006 Finals.
However, bad luck caught up with the Mavs again. Dallas ran into a hot Golden State Warriors team in the first round of the 2007 playoffs and lost in six games. Nowitzki was embarrassed in back-to-back playoffs and his regular-season MVP award didn’t really mean much since the Mavs were bounced in the first round by an eighth seed.
Losing the 2006 Finals and getting eliminated by the Warriors in the 2007 playoffs would have haunted Dirk for life if he and the Mavs didn’t do something special during the 2010-11 season. What happened during the 2011 playoffs will forever be talked about in Dallas sports history no matter how many times people have heard it.
Coached by Rick Carlisle, the 2010-11 Mavs began the season 16-4. They didn’t lose their fifth game of the season until December, so there were signs early on that this Dallas team had the potential to be elite, but fans were going to be patient since they had been fooled before.
This Mavs team was a defensive-juggernaut, led by Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson. Dallas gave up only 96.0 points per game. That was good for 10th in the NBA.
Dallas, though, was an elite offensive group, too. They averaged 100.2 points a night, putting them in 11th place in the league. Nowitzki averaged 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds, while Jason Terry was the Mavs’ second-leading scorer at 15.8.
The Mavs finished the regular season with a mark of 57-25. They were set to be the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs and face the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace.
Dallas needed six games, but they were able to get past the Blazers. Nowitzki was a monster, averaging 27.3 points in the six-game series. Terry put up 17.3 points and Jason Kidd registered a solid stat line of 11.7 points, 4.8 boards and 6.5 assists.
The Los Angeles Lakers were the defending NBA champions. The Mavs, though, made very quick work of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Dallas won in four games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Nowitzki averaged 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the sweep. He also shot an efficient 57.4 percent from the floor.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs went up against a young Oklahoma City Thunder team which had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. The Thunder had zero answers for Nowitzki, who put up 32.2 points and 5.8 rebounds to lead the Mavs to a 4-1 series win. Nowitzki and the Mavs were going back to the Finals and a familiar opponent was waiting for them.
To win his first ring and make up for all of his past playoff blunders, Nowitzki was going to have to lead the Mavs over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. Miami was favored to win the series since they had three All-Stars and the Mavs only had one.
The Heat won Game 1 of the Finals by eight points. Nowitzki led all scorers with 27 points, but Miami had a more balanced attack.
However, the Mavs felt good about where they were. Despite losing the first game, Dallas felt like it had a good plan of attack heading into Game 2.
The Mavs held the Heat to just 18 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and wound up evening up the series at 1-1. Wade had 37 points, but Dallas got key stops and buckets at the right time, including a game-winning layup by Nowitzki 3.6 seconds left in regulation.
LeBron wasn’t his usual self in this series. He averaged just 17.8 points, with the credit going to Dallas for making things difficult on The King and pestering him at every turn.
So even though the Heat won Game 3 in Dallas, the fact that all these games were close was comforting to the Mavs.
Dallas not only won Game 4, but they wound up winning Games 5 and 6 to finish their dream season. Nowitzki had finally done it: He delivered Dallas its first NBA championship and redeemed himself for what happened in previous playoff runs.
Nowitzki won Finals MVP. He averaged 26.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 97.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Nowitzki, who retired from the NBA after last season, will be a first-ballot of Hall of Famer one day. He finished his Mavs career with averages of 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Dirk and that 2010-11 Mavs squad is the greatest in franchise history, but one must wonder if Luka Doncic will lead a team to even greater heights.