Okay, so today is January 2nd and we’re just now getting to a cliche “best of 2016” list? Give us a break! It’s been busy! The Mavs haven’t even played a game in 2017! Just enjoy the list, MFFL’s.
2016 wasn’t the best year for the Dallas Mavericks. They finished last season with a 42-40 record, got eliminated in five games during the first round of the playoffs, had a strange offseason and we can all silently acknowledge how poorly this season has gone so far. The beauty in sports, however, is that the long regular season allows for plenty of positives throughout all those games. 2016 had several of exciting, great moments for the Dallas Mavericks.
5. Harrison Barnes’ First Game-Winner as a Maverick
Very few Mavs fans can honestly say they didn’t roll their eyes when the news broke that Dallas had offered former Golden State Warriors role player Harrison Barnes a max-contract of close to $100 million in early July. It seemed like a panic move. The Mavericks had all this cap space to use and no one to give it to after their pursuits of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, Jr. and Heat Center Hassan Whiteside fell short in the first few days of free agency. They had to spend it somewhere, and one of the few bigger names left was the guy who seemed to just be lucky to be on the same team as the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Barnes has positively surprised everyone around the league with his start this season. He’s averaging over 20 points and minutes per game, he hasn’t missed a game so far and he’s one of the most likable guys to don a Mavs uniform in recent memory. So whenever he was put in a position to sink a game-winner on the road against the Clippers late last month, it would be hard to find anyone who didn’t feel just as great for Barnes as they did the entire team for picking up the W. Hopefully this is the first of many late game heroics from the 24 year old Iowa native.
4. Two Legends Show Each Other Respect
Way back in January, also in the Staples Center, the Mavericks won a game vs. the lowly Lakers who were playing without soon-to-retire Kobe Bryant. It was a relatively low-scoring game with both teams struggling to break the 90 point mark, but the finish more than made up for it.
Even though he hadn’t had the best game, scoring just 11 points on 4-13 shooting heading into the final possession, Dirk Nowitzki knew he was the only man in the huddle who was going to take the last shot. Dirk drained a tough jumper from the corner to put the Mavs up by 2 with a couple seconds left, but it was the moments after the made shot that gets this on the list.
Instead of doing his trademarked celebratory fist up in the air or sticking his tongue out, Dirk stumbled towards the Lakers bench where he gave his contemporary Kobe Bryant a couple pats on the chest while Kobe obliged and gave Dirk a couple love taps on the behind. A mutually respectful way of acknowledging the accomplishment. Since the two would never be on the court together again, it was a fitting ending to what had been a long series of intense showdowns with each other.
3. Deron Williams Buzzer Beater Sinks Rondo & Kings
We all remember this one. Way back on January 5th, the Mavs were hosting the always entertaining Sacramento Kings. Even though he wasn’t on the court, it was the first time back at the American Airlines Center for maligned former Mavs point guard Rajon Rondo.
It definitely wasn’t looking pretty for the veteran Mavericks. They had multiple chances to win it in regulation and the first overtime period, but a three point shot by Rudy Gay put the Kings up by 7 with just 1:20 left in the second overtime. Game over, right?
Wrong. The biggest key to the comeback was Deron Williams driving and making a layup to get it back down to a 5 point game with just five seconds coming off the clock out of the timeout. Dirk made another big three and then Dallas forced a shot clock violation on the Kings. Leaving them just under two seconds to attempt to tie the game with a two or win it with a three.
Similar to Vince Carter in the playoffs back in 2014, D-Will did a great job getting his defender up in the air to create an open shot for himself at the buzzer. Williams drained it and the ensuing mob of celebrating Mavs on the floor is one of the best moments in recent franchise history. Tough to beat games like that.
2. Mavs Shock Thunder in OKC With Game 2 Win
It sure as hell wasn’t a pretty first round series for the Mavs last spring. They lost in five games to the vastly more talented Oklahoma City Thunder. Multiple games were deflating blowout losses where the outcome was decided within the first few minutes. However, any Mavs playoff win as of late sure is exciting.
Dallas was coming off an embarrassing loss in game one to the Thunder. They were going to be without Chandler Parsons, David Lee and J.J. Barea. They might as well have packed their bags so they could get back to Dallas as quickly as possible. That wasn’t the plan for Rick Carlisle and company.
Dallas led at halftime and multiple points throughout the second half, but were still trailing 78-71 halfway through the 4th quarter. The Thunder seemed poised to make a run to pull away for good in front of the raucous OKC fans. The Mavs responded with 8 straight points to put them up 79-78 and it was on from there. The biggest play for Dallas came on a hustle play from Wesley Matthews when he grabbed a long rebound following a missed Kevin Durant shot and floored it down the court to make a tough lay-up in transition to put the Mavs up by 4 with just 14 seconds left. A made three by Durant and a couple missed free throws by Raymond Felton led to the furious final sequence where BOTH Durant and Russell Westbrook missed shots in the paint to win it for the Thunder before Steven Adams put-back seemingly won it at the buzzer.
It was insanely deflating but a fitting punch for what had been a tough season for the Mavericks. They got a brief glimmer of light when reviews revealed the ball was still in the giant hands of Adams as the amber lights on the backboard indicated time had expired. The shot was no good and the Mavs escaped with a one point win. It was a brief moment of hope, but it felt good to get big road playoff wins like in the good ole days.
1. Dirk Drops 40 on the Trail Blazers
Speaking of the good ole days, this was one for the record books.
The Mavs entered this Sunday matinee against the Blazers one game under .500 at 34-35 and out of a playoff spot. They desperately needed a win and just as much needed a “turn back the clock” type of performance from Dirk Nowitzki. They got both.
Dirk showed everything he has in his tool-box. The fadeaway jumper. The trail shot in transition. The straightaway three. Of course, the clutch gene. At one point in overtime, Nowitzki scored 8 straight points for Dallas. It was a highlight for not only the season, but also of the entire Hall of Fame career of the Big German.
With the 40 point effort, Nowitzki became just the fourth player to have a 40 point game at the age of 37 or older. The other three were Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan.
It’s safe to say that’s pretty good company.
It wasn’t the easiest years for Mavs fans to handle. If you look back on it,though, it’s fair to say there were definitely some great moments to enjoy. With the team’s play in December, there’s reason for optimism for 2017. Hopefully when this article is written in one year, there’s some more moments from Dirk and maybe even a star rookie from this year’s draft.
Cheers to a great 2017, MFFL’s!