Sunday, June 04, 2006

"...we band of brothers. For he who today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, be he n'er so vile..." - Henry V

I will admit that I was cursing at the screen. My girlfriend was working on lesson plans for her upcoming school year (already busy at work), while I sat on her couch and agonized over the first half of the game.

I thought that overconfidence had once again raised its ugly mug and taken over on the Dallas bench. I may have been right about that, but as Doug Collins astutely mentioned during the waning moments of the first half, "If Dallas can get it down to 12 or 10 by halftime, they'll be in a good position." Dallas was down by 12 at the half.

I didn't watch the halftime analysis. Instead, I switched over to 'Friday Night Lights' on one of the Encore channels. I watched the championship game instead for inspiration, and I figured if MOJO could go back out there after being humiliated in the first half, then surely I could turn it back to TNT for the second half of this game. In my mind however, I firmly believed, even when down by 18, that Dallas would find a way to win the game. The great thing is that, I don't believe I was the only one. It was quite evident to me that the Dallas Mavericks believed that they could win as well.

On to the second half...

I was getting small ulcers, or what felt like ulcers over the fact that the Mavs could never break the ten point lead the Suns had. happened. It went to 8, then 6, then 4, then 2, then it was tied up. Before I knew it, we were up by 4. And we never looked back. We clamped down and played defense. We started hitting our shots and the ball was going through Dirk's hands on the offensive side. Long story short...we were in control, and Phoenix was out of sorts. Where was the Nash magic? Where was the MVPness of it all? It must have wafted away with Phoenix's hopes when time after time they came down the court and came up with nothing. Dallas eventually pulled away until there 4 delicious minutes to ruminate over the fact that after 26 very long and painful years, my hometown team, was going to the NBA Finals. Terry came on big in the second half, as did Howard who once again scored 20 points in a Dallas win (24-0 when that happens). DeSagana Diop was huge tonight early, and Jerry Stackhouse played like the wily and alert veteran that he is and provided huge minutes, rebounds, poise and points tonight as well in key moments of the game.

My brother mentioned that Tim Thomas does not come from a tradition of winning, and for all of his antics in game 5, he was simply not there for them when they needed him late in that game, nor in game 6 at all. Jordan, once again, you were right.

Long known as a doormat, and the stepchildren of a city known primarily for its football team, television show and the Kennedy assasination, the Mavericks are now in rarified air. They finally did what has alluded them for so long, and as a very tired and embattled Mavs fan, man it feels good. In 1988, we were one game away, but during Game 7 at the Forum, Magic and Co., made sure that any Finals hopes that I had as a precocious 13 year old, were wiped away. In 2003, Dirk went down, and Steve Nash and Finley (who oddly aren't with the team anymore, and who the Mavs beat in successive series) couldn't beat the Spurs down near the RiverWalk nor in downtown Dallas.

I know I've written quite a bit about the Mavs this past season, but my pride in them knows no bounds. This feels as good as the Super Bowl XXVII berth for the Cowboys in 1993. It's new ground though for a town that supported the Mavs through those terrible years during the 1990s. And hopefully, the Mavs who built up the organization; Jay Vincent, Brad Davis, Mark Aguirre, Ro Blackman, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Dale Ellis, James Donaldson, Detlef Schrempf, Roy Tarpley, Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, Jim Jackson, Michael Finley, Steve Nash...will know that it couldn't have happened without them. This is as much about the current guys as it is about the guys of the past. This is about a team that not only fights for respect in the league, but in its own hometown. And no more will that be a question, because Dallas loves a winner, and in this edition of the Mavericks, Dallas has a winner again.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the historical significance of the fact that the head coach, Avery Johnson, former player and this year's NBA Coach of the Year, is the first African American head coach in the NBA Finals since 1987. The last African American head coach to win the Finals was K.C. Jones in 1986. He coached for a little club called the Boston Celtics, led by a tall shooting forward (eerily reminiscent, huh?) from French Lick, IN named Larry Joe Bird. The historical significance of Avery Johnson's presence in this series should not be overlooked whatsoever.

I think there is another commentary that for all of his greatness and bluster, Coach Don Nelson COULDN'T and DIDN'T get the Mavericks to this place where they are now. Debate me if you want to, but it's true.

Say what you want to about the Mavs, their excitable owner Mark Cuban, and the rabid Dallas fans, but this is such a long time coming, that we are going to enjoy this thing...truly. Right now, the Mavs have won 72 games and have lost 27 this year. I think our chances are pretty good at the next level.

We've already handled the Suns, so it should be no mystery that we're ready for the Heat.

I'm Joe, and that's how I see it.


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