The Dallas Mavericks are set to take on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The winner moves on to the Western Conference Finals to take on the Golden State Warriors. The loser gets to start their summer vacation early.
The Mavericks haven’t played in very many Game 7’s over the course of their franchise history. They’ve only participated in seven winner take all matches, partly because they were established in the 1980s. The Boston Celtics, for instance, have played in 33 Game 7’s.
So before the Mavericks take on the Suns, here’s a breakdown of every Game 7 the Mavericks have played:
1988 Western Conference Finals
The 1987-88 Mavericks featured a deep squad determined to avenge a stunning playoff upset the previous year. The 1986-87 Mavericks won 55 games and entered the postseason as the No. 2-seed in the Western Conference, but lost in the first round in four games to the No. 7-seed Seattle SuperSonics.
That squad returned in 1987-88 with one goal—win a championship or bust. The team featured Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, Sam Perkins, and James Donaldson. They finished the season as the No. 3-seed and cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Unfortunately, they ran into the Los Angeles Lakers, who were on the back end of the one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.
The home team won every game of the series (sound familiar?), with the Mavericks forcing a Game 7 after tight 105-103 Game 6 win in Dallas. The Mavericks hoped to carry momentum back to Los Angeles with them, and for a while, they did. Dallas trailed 54-53 at halftime, and 87-79 after the third quarter. But Magic Johnson took over in the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks had no answer. They ended up losing their first Game 7 in franchise history 117-102.
2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals
The 2002-03 Mavericks almost made the worst kind of history. After taking a 3-0 series lead against the Portland Trail Blazers, the No. 3-seed Dallas proceeded to lose three games in a row to the No. 6-seed Portland. They even entered the fourth quarter of Game 7 down by two.
But the Mavericks were rescued by a 31 point effort by Dirk Nowitzki. Nick Van Exel chipped in 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting. “This was a physically and mentally draining series,’’ said Michael Finley after the game. “Nothing Sacramento can do will be tougher than what we faced here.’’ The Mavericks would soon find out true that was.
2003 Western Conference Semifinals
The Mavericks caught a break in the second round of the 2003 playoffs against the Sacramento Kings when the Kings’ best player, Chris Webber, went down with a knee injury in Game 2. Still, the teams traded games back and forth all series, until they reached Game 7 in Dallas.
They were buoyed yet again by Nowitzki, who scored 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. The rest of the roster stepped up as well, with another great performance by Van Exel, who scored 23 points. Steve Nash and Finley scored 18 points each, with Nash dishing out 13 assists. Raja Bell scored 12 as well.
2005 Western Conference Quarterfinals
The Mavericks faced off against the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2005 playoffs. Dallas entered the playoffs as the No. 4-seed amid a odd season where head coach Don Nelson re-signed in March. Assistant coach Avery Johnson took over, and all seemed well until the Mavericks lost the first two games of the series against the Rockets.
They rebounded, though, and won three of the next four games to force a Game 7. This time, though, it wasn’t Nowitzki who saved them. Jason Terry scored 31 points and Josh Howard hassled Rockets’ Tracy McGrady into 10-of-26 shooting from the floor. Nowitzki scored 14 points, but it didn’t matter. The Mavericks won the game in a route, 116-76, and won the series. They’d go on to lose in the next round to the Phoenix Suns.
2006 Western Conference Semifinals
In what is probably the defining series against their in-state rivals the Spurs, the Mavericks blew a 3-1 lead in the series and a 20 point lead in Game 7, but still somehow won. Dallas had lost its previous two series against San Antonio.
But 2006 would be different. You know all the moments. The Nowitzki drive to the basket. The Manu Ginobli foul on that drive. Nowitzki making a key block on the other end. An overtime wracked with tension. The Mavericks would go on to win 119-111, sending them to the Western Conference Finals. There, they’d defeat another rival, the Suns, and go on to the NBA Finals. No need to go into what happened next.
2014 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Eight years later, the Mavericks found themselves in another Game 7 against the Spurs. The circumstances were a bit different this time, though. The Spurs were the No. 1-seed bent on winning a title after a crushing defeat in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat in 2013. The Mavericks were a plucky No. 8-seed just happy to be there.
What followed was a back and forth series that looked like a matchup between two of the best teams in the NBA. It featured an iconic shot and stellar performances by some of the greatest players in both teams’ histories. But Game 7 didn’t go the Mavericks’ way at all, and the Spurs cruised to a victory 119-96. They would go on to win the NBA Finals in five games.
2021 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Seven years would pass before the Mavericks’ next Game 7. It would come in their second consecutive matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavericks actually held a 3-2 lead in the series with Game 6 in Dallas. But the Clippers stole Game 6 behind a 45 point performance by Kawhi Leonard, and forced Game 7 in Los Angeles.
In Game 7, it was Luka Doncic who put on a stellar performance, scoring 46 points and dishing out 14 assists. It wasn’t enough, though, to defeat the Clippers’ balanced attack. Leonard scored 28 points, and Paul George scored 22. Marcus Morris chipped in 23 points. No other Maverick outside of Doncic scored more than 18 points. The Clippers won the game 126-111.