After sweep the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavs were able to take care of the young Thunder in five games to earn the trip. The Mavs played with passion and purpose in the series, living up to their “The Time Is Now” motto. The Thunder played out of control at times, with even guys on the court wondering what was going on. The Mavs were the veteran team, having been in this situation before, and showed how to respond.
Nobody had a better series than Dirk Nowitzki. Criticized for years for disappearing in the playoffs, Dirk stepped up and did what superstars do, found ways to win. Nothing was more evident of this than Game 4 in OKC, where he scored 40 points as the Mavs came back from 15 down with five minutes left in the game to win in OT. While the Thunder were losing their composure, Dirk gained his and simply took care of business.
The Mavs recent history in the playoffs was not that great. Numerous first round losses plagued the organization. So what was the difference this year? Mindset and defense. Shawn Marion was one of those who stepped up his defense in the playoffs, and Tyson Chandler added the toughness the Mavs were lacking. Add Jason Kidd’s leadership on the court and the outside shooting of Jason Terry and you have the mixture of success. Dirk no longer had to do it anymore by himself.
The Thunder are a young team that got a taste of what winning is all about. The Mavs gave them the blueprint to success, so even though they lost the series, they gained knowledge on how to take the next step. There is still work to be done in order to reach the next level. I think if you move Russell Westbrook to the two guard and have James Harden running the point, the Thunder will win titles. This move will allow Kevin Durant to basically be like Dirk now, teams won’t be able to simply lock down on him without paying the price. I also think it will help cut down on the mental mistakes that really hurt the Thunder in this series.
The Mavs now find themselves just 4 wins away from finally winning a championship, while the Thunder saw first hand what needs to be done to get there. The Mavs went through that learning experience themselves and are benefitting from it now. What makes it interesting is a possible rematch with the Miami Heat in the finals, should the Heat get past the Chicago Bulls. It was the Heat that came back down 2-0 and won four straight against the Mavs in 2006 to take the title.
If this series was any indication, the pieces seem to be falling in place for the Mavs this time around.
Written by C. James