Mavs play maturity card in high-stakes finals push
Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 9:06 pm
By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki wrapped his hands around the silver ball trophy that goes to the Western Conference champions and smiled. After five years, he and the Dallas Mavericks are kings of their conference again, earning another trip to the NBA finals.
Yet Nowitzki didn’t flash the wide, toothy grin of someone relieved to have accomplished his goal. Because, he hasn’t.
Unless the Mavs win the next round, too, and become NBA champions for the first time, their whole glorious postseason — and that silver trophy — won’t mean as much. It’s a lament heard by many superstars, but Nowitzki’s indifference amid much of the frenzied celebration around him showed just that.
“I was already thinking about the finals,” he said. “This is nice for a day, but we set our goals in October to win it all. We haven’t done it yet.”
Dallas capped its climb back to the NBA finals with a 100-96 victory over Oklahoma City Wednesday that ended the Western finals in five games.
The young, up-and-coming Thunder made things tough on the older, now-or-possibly-never Mavericks. And, as he has throughout the postseason, Nowitzki made the plays that mattered most. His latest highlights: swishing a 3-pointer with 1:14 left that put Dallas ahead and making two free throws with 13.3 seconds left to seal it.
“It feels good to finally go back,” Nowitzki said. “This time, hopefully we can finish the job.”
The Mavs’ only other trip to the finals was in 2006. They were up 2-0, with a big, late lead in Game 3, but wound up losing to the Miami Heat in six games. They’d won only a single playoff series since until a tremendous run this postseason — going 12-3, with wins in 10 of the last 11 games, including a sweep of the two-time reigning champion Lakers.
This Dallas team filled with veterans all seeking their first rings has played with what coach Rick Carlisle calls “a laser-like focus.” It showed when they clawed back from a 15-point deficit late in Game 4, and again in this game, when the Mavs trailed by six with 4:37 left.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.11