Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Being Wrong Never Felt so Good

Who had Mavericks in four? Oh, that's right -- nobody. Probably not even the higher powers of this universe could have predicted such a fate for the two-time defending champions.

But Dallas is moving onto the Western Finals for the first time since 2006 and the fourth time in franchise history. An incredible implosion from the Lakers all helped by an incredible team effort for the Mavs. Funny enough, in my series preview, I stated that the only way Dallas had a chance to win is if Gasol + Bynum fail to average 35 points per game and the Mavs were blazing behind the arc.


  • Bynum and Gasol averaged 25 points per game for the series, with only two games even reaching the 30 point mark. The duo never reached a combined 35 points in a single game with the highest being 31 in Game 2.

  • The Mavericks shot 46 percent from three, which is a great number in itself. But the Mavericks made 49-of-106 behind the arc. 49 three pointers in four games. An incredible number punctuated by the 20-of-32 display in the Game 4 beat down.

The most shocking part of the series to me was the ability of Tyson Chandler, Brandan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki to handle Gasol and Bynum in the post. Gasol shot under 50 percent for the series and only attempted 18 shots total at the rim for all four games. This was obviously not the same Gasol we've seen over the last three years and while Dirk's defense was perhaps the best I've ever seen him when guarding a potent post threat, Gasol didn't do himself any favors by straying farther and farther away from the basket. 

I knew Haywood would be able to body Bynum because he as the size and weight to do so. Chandler was a different story and while Bynum had two sparkly games, the Lakers needed every game for Bynum to be a difference maker. Chandler was benefited by the referees allowing physical play and Chandler used that to body up Bynum and limit his catches in the paint. Chandler forced Bynum to make three or four dribbles on most of his post catches and that's a huge deal. Big men don't like dribbling. It's science. 

And how nice is it to have Jason Terry back? According to the greatness that is Rob Mahoney, Terry is having his highest PER in the playoffs since, well, ever. Terry has long been known for his post season disappearances since 2006 and what we're seeing now is what we've expected to see for the last five years. Terry's long-standing role on this team has always been to be the second scorer. In the past, that well was dried up and Dirk was forced into a one-man stand against an onslaught of playoff opponents. For right now, that is no longer the case. Dirk has help in the scoring department, as  both Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic have also had their moments. 

Speaking of Jason Kidd, the Devin Harris trade might have officially been decided win (and especially will so if the Mavs advance to the Finals.) There's no question the fact that in in each fourth quarter against LA, Dallas out-executed the champs in every way. The Mavs ran their offense to perfection to close out every tight game in the series and that has to go with Dirk's steadiness in not turning the ball over and the grasp in which Jason Kidd has on a team's offense. Kidd might not have put up the scoring numbers like the Portland series, but he didn't need to -- he just kept the Mavericks ship from not capsizing and played some credible crunch time defense against Kobe Bryant. 

And how can we not finish with Dirk? While I plan on describing his brillance in more detail later on, he was quite simply, the best player of the series. Outplaying Kobe both in scoring and making his teammates better, Dirk simply did what Dirk do (to steal a phrase from a certain baseball manager) and drain silly fades, drop daggers and find his teammates off of double teams. An exemplary performance and one that, honestly, isn't too surprising anymore. 

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