Jun 13

Mavericks Win Title, Proving “Underdog” Label Wrong

By sarahhecht Posted in: Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks taught many of us a lesson last night as they won the title World Champions: Don’t underestimate anyone.

As one who vocally wanted to face the Mavs in the first round of the playoffs this year, I’ll be the first to say congratulations. Wow, was I wrong. I’ll also say that I’ve been rooting for them since they beat the Trail Blazers, so I think that’s a bit of a redeeming factor.

As the end of the regular season wrapped up and final playoff positioning was determined, all my intuition and rational thoughts had Dallas as the best opponent.

The Mavs struggled closing the season—though struggled is a relative term when you still end up with the 3rd seed in the Western Conference—and looked as if they’d peaked at the wrong time.

Then came the first round and Portland lost the first two games of the series in Dallas. I clearly recall fans reacting with surprise as Rip City faithfuls were positive we would steal one of those away games.

What followed were two amazing games in the Rose Garden. The Game 3 win to put the Trail Blazers back in the series and the mind-blowing, heart-stopping, go-down-in-Rip-City-history comeback led by Brandon Roy in Game 4. I felt unstoppable after that game, there was no way we were losing this series.

Dallas came fighting back with a solid win back on their home floor to take a 3-2 series lead. And the infamous winner of Game 5 statistic prevailed as the Mavs advanced to the second round following a Game 6 defeat in Portland.

Now I’m not taking us down this painful memory lane for nothing so stick with me. We’re looking back at the first round series with Portland to make some comparisons and learn some lessons.

First, the Trail Blazers put up the BEST fight against the eventual World Champions. Yes, I know the Miami Heat succumbed 4-2 as well, but in watching the series the Trail Blazers played better ball through four quarters. The entire Dallas/Miami series didn’t feel exciting until the 4th quarter. I find games more entertaining when I feel the ebbs and flows before the end. Kind of like watching an exciting movie, the plot builds and builds and builds until you get the exciting payoff.

Second, the Trail Blazers defense should be named the Dirk-stopper. The bulletproof combination of LaMarcus, Nicolas and Gerald was the only defensive coalition in the post-season to give Dirk a run for his money. Nowitzki didn’t break the 40-point mark in any game during the first round.

I remember someone on press row leaning over before a game and asking me “Do you think Dirk will show up tonight?” The correct answer to that is yes and no. Yes, Dirk gave the Trail Blazers some trouble and no because that trouble wasn’t enough for him to take control of Portland. Nowitzki following up his grueling first-round series with a sweep of the L.A. Lakers, TWO 40+ point games against Oklahoma City and a World Championship over the Heat.

A little stats nugget for you, Dirk averaged 27.3 ppg in the series with Portland and that was his second lowest average in the post-season. The lowest coming from the finals series at 26.0. I’m thinking our Trail Blazers deserve one more giant pat on the back for that feat.

Lastly, the lesson learned: Never count out the underdog. They have nothing to lose and a World Championship to gain.

Looking back on the Trail Blazers post-season, I find my disappointment lessened by Dallas’ success. A first-round exit to the eventual champion, and a six-game effort at that, leaves me with hope. A few tweaks, like stronger perimeter defense and getting to the free-throw line, could have changed the outcome.

As a final congratulations it’s important to recognize the entire cast of “underdogs” whose team-oriented style of play paid dividends. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Peja Stoikavic for their timely buckets from behind the arc, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion for holding down paint, J.J. Barea for putting it all on the line and Dirk for... being Dirk.

When I look at the Mavs and their team-style of play I smile. I can’t help but think about the Trail Blazers and their similarities. We’re set-up for team-style play too, not the domination of one or two players. If the aging Mavs can battle to the top then the Trail Blazers have nothing to worry about but staying the course.


  1. you have that right. another player we held back on the dallas team and he since played the daylights out on teams. that person was jj barea we have rudy to thank for stopping him. he seems to be the only player who could handle him. i was rooting for dallas right after our exit. yes it still hurts but it feels good to know we played so well against the world champs! we were that underdog team too last season with all those injuries. great blog as always sarah....also I thnk we have that mentality go forward as I think exiting out early ignited a fire in a few of the players to not do this again...
    ty for wriiting what a lot of blazer fans feel!

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 6/13/2011 10:58 AM
  2. Hey Miss Sarah:

    Jason Terry said that Portland's defense was the best they played against. Of course some of that was trash talk to get Miami's goat.

    The coach said that game four against the Blazers was the turning point of the post season. instead of putting their tail between their legs and hiding, they put their heads together and decided a game plan that would work against us. That happened to be the zone defense that was almost like the one we used against them. Kind of like if they can't whip us they will join us. The biggest thing was they decided it best they learn to play defense as well as offense. It worked against Portland, Portland defense worked against the Lakers, OKC, and Miami, so they perfected it, with their style and players, and practiced it doing the long wait between beating the lakers and waiting for OKC.

    Now I have no links to this rant, this is just the way I seen it happening. Last year was the same, Phoenix couldn't beat us until they played our style of defense against us. It is pretty bad when our defense is so good we can't play against it.

    Therefore, IMO, that gives us Blazers a hand in winning the championship. And that is not the same as being practicing dummies either.

    BTW, one of my star posters, Ewaynn Almeria, (darn I forgot how to spell her name, She will kill me if she reads this) said that we might be sorry for what we wish for.

    Thank you for the blog miss sarah

    by Hg on 6/13/2011 11:05 AM
  3. LA's defense on Dirk was nothing short of remarkable, esp considering the damage Dirk did the rest of the way

    by DHawes22 on 6/13/2011 11:11 AM
  4. EwoynAmarie. I believe that's how you spell it.

    Anyways, first of all credit to the Mavs, despite how much I dislike them, they did earn it. No denying that. But, I'll be honest, I highly doubt they'll be on the throne next season. Just saying...

    I also highly doubt OKNoDefense will be much of a threat in these playoffs either. Sure lots of teas would love to go through Denver and Memphis.

    But these finals proved a lot of things.

    1) Flopping is good, and playing poor defense is good
    2) You NEED outside shooting.
    3) You need to never have bad refs, and need some in your favor as well

    Charles Barkley may be right in predicting the entire playoffs, but he was wrong about one thing - a jump shooting team won the championship.

    Honestly, I saw a lot of flopping from mainly the Mavs. I also saw Dirk get the most generous calls I've ever seen. And, last but not least, the Mavs took control of the series by shooting jumpers.

    I disagree when you say the Mavs are like us. Only thing we're alike is that we have team basketball. But the rest is fairly different. I don't think we should look at what the Mavericks did and try to follow that. Otherwise, Portland would become a worse defensive team and have a far less lower FG%

    by Herr on 6/13/2011 11:14 AM
  5. Thank You Herr!

    by Hg on 6/13/2011 11:17 AM
  6. Sarah, a lot of people wanted Dallas in the first round. We really did match up with them well. I personally wanted the Lakers.. only because taking them down in the first round would have quieted a few friends who continue to taunt about our excess of first round exits.

    As a sports fan in general, it is great to see a team like the Mavs win the title... especially against a team like the Heat. And as much as people like to hate Mark Cuban... you can't accuse him of "buying" a championship. They won it the hard way... the right way.

    by Misfit503 on 6/13/2011 11:21 AM
  7. Before the playoffs started I was torn. I thought the Blazers matched up better with LA, but I've lived in Dallas for 10 years and wanted the Mavs, so I could see my boys in person!

    The local DFW media had NO faith in the Mavs, most picking the Blazers to upset them. After the "meltdown" in game 4 (depending on your viewpoint!), everyone around here thought they were toast.

    The big story was how much better the fans are in Portland. The Rose Garden crowd rocks!! The AAC crowd is more of a "I want to be seen" crowd. They were called out and responded in game 5. I was able to score tickets to the game with a friend who happened to be in town from Portland, and being a couple red dots in a see of blue was a little intimidating. And the fans were louder than any other game I've been to in Dallas. I was impressed, and it continued to grow during the playoffs.

    Even though I bleed red and black, it's hard to not like the Mavs. They will always be my second favorite team!

    by casterca on 6/13/2011 12:47 PM
  8. after they won it, Dirk and Jason Terry both commented that the toughest series for them was the first round; that's saying a lot. then, on Courtside last night, mavs asst. coach Dwayne Casey said pretty much the same thing, as well as claiming the mavs had to "scratch and claw" their way out of every round (probably least so in the sweep of the lakers, i would imagine!). i never want to pull for a team that eliminates mine, butit's nice to see dallas win one. of course, we all know next year will be an entirely different story!

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 6/14/2011 7:48 AM
  9. We still should have beat Dallas. But it does feel a little bit better knowing we gave them their toughest matchup in the playoffs, so maybe we aren't as far away from a deep playoff run as some think.

    by ClydeFrog on 6/14/2011 12:56 PM
  10. I like how you're looking at it ClydeFrog, I completely agree, glass half full.

    by sarahhecht on 6/14/2011 12:59 PM
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