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The History of the Mavs - Part 3 - Almost to the Top

        In the last part, the team's first playoff runs were mentioned, including the 1983-84 one, in which the Mavs made it into the 2nd round and gave the heavily favored Lakers many problems. Now, moving on, we look at the 1985-86 and 1986-87 season. Also, check out Part 1 and Part 2!


Following the disappointment of the 1985 playoffs, the Mavs looked to take the next step in 1985-86. However, the offseason started very slowly as the Mavs took 3 players in the first round (Detlef Schrempf, Uwe Blab, and Bill Wennington), who had no lasting impact on the team. Particularly stinging from the draft was the fact that the Mavs passed on future star Karl Malone. Eventually, though, the Mavs' front office started to turn it around as they acquired center James Donaldson from the Clippers. Throughout their history, the Mavs have had a lot of hyped centers come through town, i.e. Shawn Bradley and Erick Dampier. However, of all the centers, Donaldson remains the best in Mavs’ history as he became an All-Star and eventually helped the team take the next step.

As the season began, the Mavs started out very slowly, only splitting their first 38 games. However, Dick Motta then made a key move – shifting Derek Harper into the starting line-up for Brad Davis – which helped the Mavs finish the season 44-38 and a playoff spot. Among the highlights of the year included a huge win over Boston in Reunion as the Mavs overcame a 50-point effort from Larry Bird to defeat the Celtics 116-115. As the playoffs started, Dallas took on the Utah Jazz. Winning the first two games at home, Dallas went to Salt Lake City to try and sweep the Jazz, however, rookie Karl Malone hit a game-winning shot to extend the series to 4 games. Not much damage was done after by the Jazz, though, as the Mavs handily won Game 4 and moved onto the Conference Semis. Standing in the Mavs way from a trip to the Conference Finals were the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the Lakers handily won Game 1 and squeaked by in Game 2 at the Forum, the Mavs responded yet again in Games 3 and 4 as Derek Harper and Mark Aguirre led a charge. However, the Lakers eventually went onto show their dominance and took care of the Mavs in Games 5 and 6 to win the series. Video highlights of the series are at the top of this page!

With the 7th pick in the 1986 draft, the Mavericks drafted an immediate impact player in Roy Tarpley. While he was healthy, Tarpley was one of the most dominant players in Mavs' history and became viewed at as the missing piece to a Championship, manning the boards night after night. However, he came with a lot of baggage, namely his drug problems, which would cause a lot of problems in his time in Dallas. For the time being, though, Dallas soared as the team, led by All-Stars Aguirre and Blackman captured their first division title and won 55 games. Furthermore, their first round series matchup against the SuperSonics seemed to be a major mismatch. This was immediately confirmed as the Mavs stormed out to 151 points in Game 1 as they blew out the Sonics. However, the tide soon turned, as the Sonics, led by former Mav Dale Ellis, took charge and won a close battle in Game 2 before returning to Seattle and defeating the Mavs in Games 3 and 4. As far as playoff failures go, this was probably the biggest Mavs’ one until the loss to GS in 2007: the 86-87 team was probably one of the most talented in team history, and to go down as a failure was a major motivation for the next season.


I know the video below is mostly Larry Bird highlights, but hey, there is some Mavs' stuff in there and it was a Mavs' win against the Celtic's Dynasty.