Mavericks Sweep Lakers, Shed Labels
Soft. Choke artists. Can't win the big game.
These are the labels that have plagued the Dallas Mavericks for the last five seasons since their 2006 NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat. The Mavericks were up 2-0 on the Heat and had a 13 point lead in the fourth quarter before Dwyane Wade carried the Heat in an epic comeback that literally took the wind out of the Mavericks sails en route to a six game series win and the first NBA championship for the Miami Heat. With the loss, the stigma on the Mavericks became the team that can't win the big one.
Fast forward to the 2007 NBA Playoffs: after a 67-15 season in which Dirk Nowitzki won the honors of the NBA's Most Valuable Player, the Mavericks were paired up against a Golden State Warriors team who was hungry for an upset in a city that had not seen playoff basketball in quite a long time. The Warriors took it to the Mavericks and became the first #8 seed to knock off a #1 seed in a best-of-7 series (third team ever to do it) in NBA history. The new label was that they were choke artist that can't win the big one. How bad was this loss? It was so bad that the NBA had to hold off on Nowtizki's MVP ceremony until the storm of the Warriors series loss had passed the Mavs.
In 2008, the Mavericks won 51 games, 16 less than their franchise record season. They ended up drawing the New Orleans Hornets in the first round. And the interesting quip on the perception of this team came from current Maverick (and then-Hornet) Tyson Chandler, who called the Mavericks "soft" in the series that these two teams faced off. Dallas bowed out to the Hornets in five games, leading to the to the new stigma of soft choke artists that can't win the big game. This playoff failure led to the demise of head coach Avery Johnson, who led the team to a 194-70 record in three-plus seasons with Dallas.Continued on the next page