The 2010-11 season for the Mavericks...there are so many words that can describe it. I'm not even going to bother making a list, or coming up with some analogy where the underdog wins, or recounting the greatest moments again, even though I'm sure any true Mavericks fan will never be tired of listening to them. Heck, after the march the Mavericks made to finally avenge their previous failure to Miami, how could anyone ever forget the games played, the comebacks witnessed, the daggers swished in, the heart, blood, sweat and tears poured out in those final few months?
Which brings us to the months before all that -- the regular season. After such an amazing postseason, it's easy to forget just how great the Mavericks were before it. Do you even remember that the Mavericks had a stretch where they won 17 out of 18 games on their way to a 24-5 record? And if you do recall that as being the Maverick's best stretch during the regular season, then clearly you forgot that they later won eighteen games in nineteen chances. A 57-25 record put them 3rd in the Western Conference, a record and seed that easily could have been higher if not for a 2-7 record while Dirk nursed a sprained knee, and another two losses in which Nowitzki did play but probably shouldn't have. Certainly I'm not complaining with the way everything shaped out, but a rough patch at the end of the year seemed to influence a lot of people into thinking that this was a regular season no different than the others. I beg to differ. Look close enough, and there were more than enough signs to prove this year, somehow, some way, was different.
Obviously, none of these games can match what the Mavericks ultimately did, but let's not throw aside the '10-'11 regular season. We'll always remember these play-offs; here's a look back on ten games which deserve to be remembered as well.
10. The Mavericks Blow Out Hornets In Season Finale
Don't underestimate this meaningless last game of the season blowout. One reason the great regular season failed to get the accolades it deserved was the rocky slide in the final games of the season. The state of the Mavericks, according to most fans, was desperate. A large contingent doubted whether they were even good enough to get out of the first round. But instead of staggering into the playoffs, the Mavericks were able to pick up a few wins. It all culminated against New Orleans, where a close game at halftime turned into a blowout spurred on by a dominant 28-13 third quarter.
It wasn't only the Mavericks heating up for the playoffs, though. Jason Kidd struggled with his shot all season, but his crucial three pointers (and scoring in general) that was provided in the Portland series might have been the reason the Mavericks were able to get past the first round. After getting a few days off to rest, Kidd was able to get going with four three pointers in six attempts. The Mavericks team which was seen here was the same one seen throughout the postseason, and after a stretch of poorer play, the confidence boost that can be provided when a team plays as well as they can should never be underestimated.
9. Mavericks Beat Denver by a Matter of Inches
You thought it was nerve-wracking to watch the Mavericks have to scrap and claw their way out of a deficit for late comeback wins? Well, I can guarantee you that this style of winning would be worse. In the first game of a quirky home-and-home series with Denver, the Mavericks were the ones with a late lead, and the Nuggets trying to scrap and claw their way to a win. They almost did, but Carmelo's potentially game winning jumper rattled in the rim before spinning out just seconds before the buzzer sounded.
Trust me, late game comebacks are much more exciting than watching another superstar take a high percentage look late in games, potentially for the win. Carmelo even said himself that he would hit that shot 90% of the time. Fortunately, he didn't, and Dirk's 35 point night and Caron Butler's huge three pointer to break the 99-99 tie with under two minutes did not go to waste.
8. The Mavericks hand New Orleans their first loss
Oh yeah, you just remembered that New Orleans started the year 8-0. Man, what a powerhouse they were this year. But back then, who even knew? It was safe to assume they were overachieving, but eight straight wins still wasn't anything to scoff at. The Mavericks, as is their custom, trailed by 10 in the final frame, but never gave up. Six fourth quarter three pointers later, the Mavericks had secured a 98-95 victory.
It'd be interesting to know how much Peja Stojakovic's 17 points for NOH, while missing just two shots, impacted the Mavericks later when they went out and brought him in. For the guys in the front office, there's got to be something different about reading a box score and actually watching a player show what he can do, especially when he's doing it to your own team. Fortunately, what's done was done, and for Peja and the Mavs, it turned out to work pretty well.
7. Minus Dirk, Dallas Tops Portland 84-81
Game five of Dirk's absence, and there weren't really any expectations for this game. Sure, the Mavericks had enough to beat Cleveland two days previous, but come on, it was the Cavaliers. A showdown against an actual playoff team without the Nowitzki was predictable. They were going to lose.
And yet, somehow, they didn't, thanks to Jason Terry. Everyone always knew that if the Mavericks were to win a championship, it would require the JET to be a second option more often than not. For years, he would struggled to provide that consistently, but he finally was able to provide that second punch for the Mavericks more often than not. Often, his performance looked just like this one; Terry scored 18 points on the game, but 12 of them came in the final quarter, where he hit five of his seven shots. Combine that with some hard-nosed defense and one of DeShawn Stevenson's best games of the season, and the Mavericks managed to pick up a win they didn't deserve.
6. The Mavericks beat Boston early, end their 5 game win streak.
After "meh"-ing their way to an unconvincing 3-2 start, the Mavericks reminded everyone watching that another year gone by did NOT in fact cause them all to get grey hair and move to assisted living homes, although it might have been a factor in the male pattern baldness epidemic that seems to have struck this team. Seriously, though, the Mavericks made it very clear that even though their players might have been old, they had plenty of juice left to be a force in the West. A convincing win against a team the caliber of Boston, who were rolling with five straight wins, no less, showed that the Mavericks once against were going to be a top team and a force to be reckoned with.
This game also features one of the most under the radar Dirk game winners ever, as he hit the go ahead jumper with 17 seconds left to break the 87-87 tie, capping off the seven unanswered points the Mavericks scored in the final two minutes to secure a hard-earned and well-deserved victory.
Author's Note: Look for Part 2 to drop later this week, probably Wednesday. Thanks for reading, and feel free to chime in on any games you think I missed, or which games you hope to see in Part 2.