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13 Jun 2011

Dallas Mavericks win 2011 NBA Championship

Today is Dallas' day in the sun.

I could write page after page on why the Heat lost or why they did not deserve this title, but that is a story for another day.

With one final swish, the Dallas Mavericks did what everyone wanted them to do. They scored those final two points to seal a 105-95 Game 6 victory over the Miami Heat that gave them their first-ever NBA Championship, winning the deciding best-of-seven series 4 games to 2.

There hardly was a team that deserved this Title more than the Mavericks. Written off time and time again at every stage of the Playoffs and for every reason imaginable, they came up with the minor upset and finally collected the one missing piece of jewelry from 11 consecutive Playoff appearances.

The Heat came into this game on the back of a tidal wave of question marks. Could their best player, Lebron James, ind his 4th-quarter form? (averaging just 2 points per 4th Q), Did Dwyane Wade have enough in the tank to get his team two more wins. Dallas came in on the back of 2 moral boosting victories in Games 4 & 5. To say Dallas were the better team by far would be a lie. This series had 4 games decided by 4 points or less. The other two, both won by Dallas by 9 and 12 points respectively, were close for 46 minutes before being blown open late.

The Mavericks proved that Miami's strategy of getting 3 superstars is not the only way to build a title-winning outfit. Built around perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs assembled a supporting cast that complemented the playing style of the German giant. With Jason Kidd at 38 years old running Point Guard dishing out the toughest off passes, Shawn Marion bringing down several key rebounds in every single game of the series. Jason Terry was my difference maker in these Finals, he had 27 points off the bench in Game 6 to lead all scorers in the final duel. Tyson Chandler played one of his best games as a Maverick at Center, fighting for every single rebound and lost cause, he had back-to-back offensive rebounds late in the final period that effectively sent the title to the Texan team.

But special mention must go to the winner of the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. Dirk Nowitzki. The Dallas forward, constantly belittled due to his lack of a championship ring, can see his critics silenced forever. Several times in this series he pulled off the impossible, sparking and finishing several Maverick comebacks in each series of the Playoffs. On Sunday night, with a 1-10 first quarter and a 1-13 first half for a measly 3 points, it looked like the game could head for a decisive seventh game as the Mavs' main closer was not firing on all cylinders. 11 points in three quarters were all he managed.

Then the 4th quarter began and the switch was flipped. Nowitzki scored 10 in the final period as James and Wade combined for just 11. Two of the best players in the league, failing to deliver on their promise of a title.

In those final few minutes when it became clear that Miami were on the ropes, they transformed back into the team that started 9-8 and lost 5 straight. The players looked lost, out of sync on both ends of the court and all trying to do their own thing. When they should have been driving to the basket to get either a lay-up or at least 2 free-throws (the Mavericks were over the 4-foul per quarter limit), they shot contested, unbalanced three-pointers with 20 seconds left on the shot-clock.

The presentation of the famous Larry O'Brien trophy to the winning team was made more sentimental than celebratory this year as current Mavs owner Mark Cuban invited the original owner Don Carter and his wife to lift the trophy, ending the chase that for Carter, started with a $10 million dream in 1980. Dallas has had to endure the best and worst of times as a sports city. The Mavs posted a franchise-worst 11-71 record in 1993, followed up with a 13-69 the following season. When Mark Cuban rolled up and began pumping money in, many objected. But the nature of the players on this team - hard-working, honest and easy to like - made it easy to root for them to get the championship their investment and owner deserved.

Here's to Dallas.


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