The Dallas Mavericks walked into the American Airlines Center on April 25th, 2011 and kicked off what would become the most underrated playoff run of all-time. Sure, it was game 5 – but it was the true beginning of what would become the Mavs first and only championship. Dallas had taken a 2-0 series lead into Portland, and then given up the next two games in heartbreaking fashion. That uneasy feeling that Mavs fans know all too well, brought on by flashbacks of a blown 2-0 Finals lead to Miami in 2006 and the first ever first seed loss to an eight seed in a seven game series in 2007, were starting to surface.
But this Mavs team was different than years past. There were veterans there that could help Dirk out in those very few moments when he couldn’t do it by himself. Guys like Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and Jason Kidd. These guys knew what it was like to get punched in the mouth, get back up, and regain control. And that is exactly what they did on April 25th, 2011 – and why they set in motion one of the greatest “gauntlet-like” playoff runs in NBA history.
Dallas and Portland kept the game close throughout the first half, with no team leading by more than six points. The Blazers used a balanced scoring attack that featured no player scoring over double digits heading into halftime. Lamarcus Aldridge, future Maverick Wesley Matthews, and Gerald Wallace each had six points. Dirk led the Mavs in the first half with 12 points while shooting 50% from the field. Tyson Chandler nearly had a double-double at halftime with 7 points and 8 rebounds. Dallas took a 44-43 lead into halftime after two Shawn Marion free throws gave them the lead.
The third quarter is when this sleeping giant of a Mavs team woke up from the haymaker the Blazers hit them with the game before and then proceeded to go on their incredible run. With five minutes to go in the third the score was 56-55 in favor of Dallas. The Mavericks would then go on a 19-8 run to end the quarter that featured tough inside shots from Shawn Marion and Jason Terry as well as clutch free throws by Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. What was beautiful about this run is Dallas just played smart, paced, and sometimes bully basketball. They controlled the ball, got to their spots, and found ways to get inside for easy looks and forced opportunities to go to the free throw line. Not only did they get to the line, they only missed 2 of their 13 free throw shots in that stretch. All those easy points killed any momentum Portland was trying to build to get back into the game. It was a glimpse of what was to come in the following rounds for the Mavs that year.
Not only did Dallas finally seem to awaken, they proceeded to step on the throat of the Blazers. Portland never had a chance to get back into the game, trailing by an average of 15 points through much of the fourth quarter. Dallas proceeded to win 92-83 after the Blazers cut the score down in garbage time. After coming into game 5 with that all too familiar uneasy feeling, that confidence I had about the 2011 team during the regular season was strengthened even more. It finally seemed like Dirk and company and shaken those demons that prevented them from getting all the way there in years past – little did I know.
Notable Box Scores
- Dirk Nowitzki 25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals
- Jason Kidd 4 points, 14 assists, and 7 rebounds
- Tyson Chandler 14 points, 20 rebounds, 8 for 12 from the free throw line.
- Jason Terry 20 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist
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