I miss Mavericks basketball! It’s been almost seven weeks since we last saw Luka Doncic connect with Kristaps Porzingis on an alley-oop or seen the infectious smile of Boban Marjanovic. In the meantime, we’re looking back on the Mavs 2011 run to their first and only NBA title to pass the time until they return to the court.
Back on April 28, 2011, the Mavericks had to go back to the Rose Garden to face the demons they created with their epic collapse in game four of their first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. Just five days earlier, Dallas blew a 23-point lead and a chance for a 3-1 lead. In between, Dallas took a key game five at the American Airlines Center to edge ahead in the series three game to two. Heading into game six in Portland, the Mavericks had lost 18 out of their last 20 road playoff games. Ultimately, Dirk Nowitzki and company were able to eek out a 103-96 victory to move on to the second round of the playoffs.
Here are a few of my biggest takeaways:
What was Chris Johnson thinking and where is he now?
At the 9:00 mark of the second quarter, Jason Terry connected with Dirk on a beautiful bounce pass as Nowitzki streaked to the basket for a finish in traffic. The basket was scored, but not without some drama as then-25-year-old rookie Chris Johnson violently swatted his arm in what is not clearly an attempt at blocking Dirk’s shot.
Dirk took exception, but nothing too serious came of it. Nowitzki sank his free throw and then play continued. Well, on the literal NEXT POSSESSION, Dirk came down with a defensive rebound and Johnson came through and took a swipe at Dirk’s face with absolutely no chance of making a legitimate play at taking the ball away. Here’s a look at the play:
As Derek Huff’s son said in Step Brothers: “What’s this guy’s deal?”
Before going back to this game, I had no recollection of Chris Johnson and his shenanigans in this game. Upon further review, Johnson ended up playing just 71 regular season games in the NBA and had played in his last meaningful game in the NBA by the spring of 2013. His Wikipedia page states that he currently plays for the Seahorses Mikawa in the Japanese Professional Basketball League, but I’m not totally confident that it’s accurate.
Gerald Wallace showed up big time
Dirk Nowitzki comfortably led the Mavericks in scoring with 33 points on the night, but the Blazers’ last stand was fueled by a playoff career-high 32 points from veteran big man Gerald Wallace. The then-28-year-old came out swinging and later helped Portland make one last stand late in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks were up by as many as 17 points late in the third quarter, but Portland would eventually get to within one point by the middle of the fourth quarter. Of course, just five days removed from blowing a major lead on the same floor, everyone had an uneasy feeling. Luckily, Dallas was able to score the next five points and was able to get the stops and made free throws down the stretch that were needed to bring things home.
Wallace had arrived in Portland just two months earlier at the trade deadline in a deal between the Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats. He would be dealt at the next trade deadline in the now infamous deal that sent Wallace to the Brooklyn Nets and the Nets sent Portland the first round pick they’d eventually use to select Damian Lillard. Then the next year Brooklyn sent Wallace and a million other pieces to the Celtics in the crazy trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets.
It had just been two years since the Mavericks had won a playoff series after they pulled an upset over the Spurs in the 2009 first round, but after so much overall playoff disappointment in the five years since their 2006 Finals collapse, this felt like a monumental mountain for the team to overcome.
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers had closed out the New Orleans Hornets in a series earlier this same night and now Dallas and L.A. were set for their first playoff meeting since the epic seven game battle in the 1988 Western Conference Finals.
Dirk Nowtizki and Kobe Bryant for the first time in the NBA Playoffs. Should be a long, drawn-out series, right?
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