With the sports calendar at a halt right now thanks to the global pandemic, we’re all watching a lot of old classic games. If you’re a Mavericks fan, then you’ve certainly caught a few of the replays from the 2011 title run on NBA TV or at least been inspired to go watch some highlights on YouTube just to recapture that magical feeling we all felt that spring.
Of course this isn’t any sort of unique idea, but we’re going to go through each game of that run this spring here at Dallas Sports Fanatic. We’ll share our memories of the game, what moments stood out, things we forgot about and whatever else comes to mind when we look back on this epic run that is now nine years old.
Today we start with the first game of that run: Game one of the first round series with the Portland Trail Blazers that took place on Saturday, April 16th, 2011.
Dallas (3rd seed) defeats Portland (6th seed) 89-81, leads series 1-0
What are my memories of watching this game?
Funny thing is that I actually didn’t watch this game live. This was the night of my senior prom. It was pretty awesome to have this title run take place during the final six or so weeks of my senior year because everything was pretty laid back by that point and I was able to watch a ton of games with friends and make a lot of memories compared to if it happened when I was five years younger at age (13) and forced to stay home with my parents every school night or five years older (23) when at that time of my life I was already married with a pregnant wife who probably wouldn’t be too pumped about me going out to watch games with “the boys.” Who am I kidding, there were no “boys” once I got married. Ah, that’s a topic for another day.
Anyway, on this night back in April 2011, I remember constantly just checking my phone to get score updates on this game. I’m pretty sure this was before I had any sort of “smart” phone, so I think I was using some sort of service where I’d text a number and it would provide me a score of a certain game. I don’t recall the specifics of the service, but it sure seems prehistoric now. I was also less than a mile away from the American Airlines Center as our prom venue was somewhere around the House of Blues, but again I don’t remember specifics.
I’d recorded the game so I eventually watched when I got home super late that night. It’s always weird watching a game recorded when you already know the outcome, but jumbo Mavs fan Dylan was going to watch this game all the way through even though it was 3 AM.
Who wins the highlights package vs. Who wins my memory?
When I watch the highlight package above, it’s definitely made out to be a Dirk Nowitzki vs. Lamarcus Aldridge show. Ultimately, that’s fair because they both led their teams in scoring as Dirk had 28 and Alridge had 27. However, I will always remember this as “The Jason Kidd Game.”
It’s often easy to forget how huge of a role Kidd played for this 2010-2011 team, but he was enormous all year along and especially in this game. The then-38-year-old Kidd scored a season-high 24 points fueled by six three point shots, including a dagger pull-up over Andre Miller with 25 seconds left in this game (can be seen at the 3:14 mark of this video). Dirk dominated in the fourth quarter by going 13-13 from the free throw line in the final frame. That’s quite notable, but somehow Kidd’s three point shots have lasted longer in my memory of this game.
fBy the looks of the early parts of the highlights, it seemed like 25-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge was jut going to be too much for Tyson Chandler and the Mavericks to handle in a series. Aldridge scored 13 points in the first 7:21 of the first quarter with plenty of the buckets coming on nice finishes at the rim. The Mavericks adjusted as the game went on despite his final point total for the night being a gaudy 27. 13 points in the first 7:21, 14 points over the next 40:39. Good coaching by Rick Carlisle.
Box Score Standouts
This was a really talented Blazers team. Of course they had Aldridge leading the way, but they had six players average scoring double-figures throughout the regular season while the Mavs only had four (five if you include Caron Butler who didn’t play past early January). Gerald Wallace, eventual Maverick Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum and Brandon Roy all provide scoring pop and then the strong veteran presences of Marcus Camby and Andre Miller definitely made this a formidable opponent that many thought was capable of beating Dallas in this series. It’s also funny to look at the box score and see a 22-year-old Patty Mills getting a DNP-CD in a playoff game when just three years later he’d be a key role player for the champion 2014 Spurs.
Even though he would go on to help the Blazers make their epic comeback in game 4, Brandon Roy is a non-factor in this game with just 2 points on 1-7 shooting in 26 minutes.
Andre Miller was the Blazers’ second leading scorer in this game with 18 points. The 35-year-old veteran guard would go on to average 14.8 points and 5.5 assists in the series, but it wasn’t long before this that Miller absolutely went off on the Mavs for a career night. Back in January 2010, Miller scored 52 points for the Blazers in a 114-112 Blazers win at the American Airlines Center. He tallied his 52 points with the aid of just 8 free throw attempts and only took one three point shot.
Speaking of three point shots, the two teams in this game combined for just 35 attempts from deep (2-16 for Portland, 10-19 for Dallas). Fast forward to the 2020 version of NBA basketball and you see that the Mavericks and Nuggets combined for 74 attempts back when the 2019-2020 NBA season was still a thing on March 11th. The game has changed quite a bit in 9 years.
In what would become a trend for really the entirety of the Mavs’ title run, Dirk Nowitzki got to the free throw line in this game. He went an incredible 13-13 at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter of game one. The Mavericks as a team had a 29-13 free throw attempt advantage in this game. Andre Miller led the Blazers with only five attempts at the line. If I’m reading the fourth quarter play-by-play log right, the entire Blazers team had just TWO free throws the entire fourth quarter while Dirk alone had 13? Blazers’ coach Nate McMillan said the following after the game:
“The free throws, I just don’t get that. It’s hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it’s called a little different… And I felt like we were attacking and guys really didn’t know how to play with the fouls that we’re being called. A lot of touch fouls and I thought that gave them momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter. This game was pretty much decided at the line in the fourth quarter.”
He might have had a point.
Nowitzki would go on to have another 17 free throws in game two of this series, but the Blazers had the overall free throw edge in that game 27-26.
It’s often easy to forget the earlier parts of the Mavs’ playoff run when they would go on to face the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade throughout the rest of the playoffs, but this Blazers series was far from easy. That challenge definitely started in game one.
We’ll continue our recap of the Mavs run to the 2011 title in the coming weeks with the next game always published on the actual date on the calendar when the game took place. Next up will be game two on Sunday, April 19th.
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