MIAMI _ After three decades of heartbreaks, the Dallas Mavericks are finally running with the big boys of the NBA.
Finally able to shed their “soft’’ label. Finally able to put their big-boy pants on and pull up a chair and join the NBA’s elite company.
With Sunday night’s electrifying 105-95 victory over the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Mavs are the 2011 NBA champions.
In winning the best-of-seven series over the Heat, 4-2, the Mavs were able to exact revenge on Miami while winning their first NBA title in team history.
Back in the 2006 Finals, the Heat rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Mavs in six games while clinching the series in Dallas and celebrating on the Mavs’ court.
That’s exactly what the Mavs did Sunday – clinch the series in six games and celebrate on the Heat’s court.
“Now that we have done it you can say it was sweet vindication,’’ guard Jason Terry said. “We've been on the other end.’’
“We've been the team most hated, the team that's not picked to do anything.’’
The Mavs did a lot Sunday. They kept Miami’s rallies to a minimum.
They overcame foul problems between Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. And they overcame their own dark history of having one hiccup after another, one bonehead play after another that would disrupt an otherwise fine season.
When the Mavs land at Love Field sometimes today, they will have the Larry O’Brien trophy tucked safely away with them. It’s the fancy piece of hardware which signifies them as the newest NBA champions.
It’s the trophy Nowitzki was graciously hugging. He also hugged another prestigious trophy – the one naming him as the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals.
“Man, this is what I obviously played for the last couple of years,’’ said Nowitzki, who scored 21 points on 9-of-27 shooting. “I think when you come in this league you want to establish yourself.
“All these All‑Star Games and all those things are nice, in scoring. But when you get to a certain age you've basically seen it all, and all you play for is for that ring.’’
And now he has it.
By halftime Sunday, Nowitzki was a lousy 1-of-12 from the field with just three points. But he made 8-of-15 shots and tallied 18 points in the second half when the game was on the line and the Heat were stumbling all over themselves.
Jason Terry kept the Mavs in it in the first half when he poured in 19 of his 27 points as Dallas led, 53-51, at the midway point. That was only fitting since Terry and Nowitzki are the only two players remaining from the ’06 squad whose hearts were crushed when the Mavs lost to the Heat after they built a 2-0 lead.
“It wasn't about me carrying the team – I was doing my job,’’ Terry said. “My job is to come in and provide a spark, make plays, make shots.
“I did my job and I knew if Dirk continued to get the shots he was getting, those were good shots. He wasn't forcing anything.’’
When the dust settled, coach Rick Carlisle proudly said owner Mark Cuban was available for interviews. Cuban, of course, hasn’t talked since the first round of the playoffs against Portland.
“I'm so happy for him, I'm so happy for Dirk,’’ Carlisle said. “I'm so happy for the Mavericks' organization, which is such a class organization, as are the Miami Heat.
“I don't think there's any doubt after this series that Dirk has certainly earned the clout of being one of the all‑time great players. His versatility, how he's done it in the clutch. He goes 1‑for‑12 in the first half, and then in the second half he was just absolute money.’’
So was Terry, who converted 11-of-16 shots, including 3-of-7 from three-point range. He remembers crying after losing to the Heat in the ’06 Finals.
On Sunday, there were only tears of joy coming from the Mavs’ locker room. But there may have been some tears of disappointment coming from the Heat locker room.
“Obviously (the ’06 Finals) was one of my most disappointing losses in my career, to lose the Final series after being up 2‑0,’’ Nowitzki said. “It took so long just to get here.
“Just this feeling to be on the best team of the world is just indescribable.’’
The Mavs knew the Heat would come out smoking – and they did. Miami led 20-11 behind nine points from LeBron James.
Dallas employed a 29-8 run to go up 40-28 only to see the Heat storm back with a blistering 14-0 run to assume 42-40 lead.
From there, the Mavs slowly pulled away and kept the Heat on their collective heels.
James led Miami with 21 points, Chris Bosh scored 19, Mario Chalmers had 18, Dwyane Wade tallied 17 and Udonis Haslem added 11. But that pop and sizzle in the Heat’s offense was practically non-existence in the second half when they scored just 44 points.
And the way the Heat went down, it shows that the preseason pep rally they had after signing James and Bosh – and re-signing Wade – was extremely premature.
“Obviously, it feels great, but I'm happiest for Dirk, J‑Kidd, Jason Terry, Donald Carter, Mavs fans, the city of Dallas,’’ Cuban said. “These are the guys laid it out every single day, played through pain.
“So I'm happiest for them. Hopefully I’ll have more cracks at it.’’
Other than Terry and Nowitzki, JJ Barea scored 15 points and dispensed five assists, Shawn Marion tallied 12 and gathered eight rebounds, Jason Kidd contributed nine points and eight assists, and DeShawn Stevenson scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point land.
The Mavs shot 50 percent form the field, outscored the Heat 40-39, and turned 17 Miami turnovers into 27 points. It was a thorough performance by the newest NBA champions, who are probably planning a parade at this moment.
Carlisle, who also won a ring as a player with Boston in 1986, took time to reflect on the historic journey and epic ride his squad was able to take this season. And he made a point to say he was impressed with his team’s overall toughness.
“It's a team that when you view it from afar it doesn't look like a physically bruising‑type team,’’ Carlisle said. “So a lot of people don't think we have the grit and the guts and the mental toughness.
“This is as mentally tough team I've been around.’’
And as fate would have it, those ‘The Time Is Now’ T-shirts the Mavs printed up and handed out to fans at home games during the playoffs turned out to be right on time.
“I just think we're a resilient bunch, and we saw it,’’ Nowitzki said. “This whole series we were down some, we kept battling back, kept believing in each other.
“I just think this is a win of team basketball. This is a win for playing as a team on both ends of the floor, of sharing the ball, of passing the ball, and we've been doing that all season long.’’
And that’s why the Mavericks are this year’s NBA champions.
-- Dwain Price
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