You are going to have people remind you today that this is only a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals. You are going to have people (especially Spurs fans) remind you that you haven’t won anything yet. This is only the Final 4, and only 1 of these 4 teams is going to end the season with a smile and celebration.
They are right. But ignore them for today.
That win was not for a championship. I contend that it may be for something more valuable than that in many respects. This win was for anyone who has called the Mavericks soft. This win was for anyone that said to wait for the playoffs and we will see the Mavericks exposed yet again. This win was for anyone who said that Mavericks would have to beat the Spurs in the playoffs. This win was for those who thought that Dirk was never going to be able to rise up and be the superstar that they needed. This win was for Jason Terry’s career. This win was for all those who wish failure on Mark Cuban. This win was for those who hung in there.
Now, there is still 2 rounds to go. And there is still a very realistic chance at a NBA Title hanging out there for the Mavericks to win. But that is something to worry about tomorrow. Today, is a day to finally enjoy the toppling of a very worthy champ. You have sent the Spurs fishing. Very few teams ever have the chance to say that. In fact, aside from Kobe and Shaq, nobody in the West can say they have taken down the mighty Spurs. And you can not undersell that.
Phoenix awaits, and you wonder if by 7:30 tomorrow night the Mavericks could be focused on a dramatically different opponent so that they do not squander away home court advantage in the first game. But that can wait. Soak in the journey today. Soak in what you just saw for the past 16 days.
Magical basketball. Amazingly close. If only it was the NBA Finals.
Exclusive Bob’s Blog Game 7 Quickhits:
• Dirk Nowitzki had two moments last night that seemed to demonstrate his growth in the NBA. One was in the first half when everything was going great and the Mavericks were already ahead by an absurd 55-38 margin. Dirk took the ball right in front of the Mavs bench, and after the ball started squirting away and the play looked like complete chaos, Dirk did what few of us have grown to expect. He put his head down and headed for the hoop. He then exploded to the rim and got the dunk and the foul. That was a strong move that he has added as he has grown. And of course, that set up the play you see at the top of this page. Perhaps the strongest, most important basket ever scored in Dallas: down 104-101, Dirk does not settle for a weak 3 pointer. He decides to not fade away. He drives the lane, gets to the rim, and of course, the basket and the foul. He made two incredibly strong moves to the goal that punctuated two distinct halves of basketball. This, friends, is a superstar. 37 points, 15 rebounds at San Antonio in Game 7.
• Now, speaking of performances that were worthy of mention, I do not wish to go further than here to address the life and times of Jason Terry. On Saturday morning, I wrote the following:
…But for getting yourself suspended, everyone can keep as brave a face as they want. The fact is that Jason Terry may have cost his team a chance of a lifetime based on 1 moment of losing his head.
But, redemption has a funny way of offering itself to those who need it most.
Game 7 Monday is Jason’s chance. To save his reputation around these parts, I suggest he play pretty well.
Well, Terry did what he had to do. Be awesome in the most important game he had ever played. In the first half, the dude could not miss. What a clutch performance for a guy who was the target of the crowd. And then in the second half, after he cooled off, he still hit a few monster shots down the stretch. His career could have gone one of two ways last night, and he showed that he is one of the more underrated players in the league.
• The Mavericks are the 2nd team in the history of the NBA to win a Game 7 in overtime on the road. Let that soak in.
• Tell me that you planned to see Desagana Diop as a key player in overtime last night. Key stops on Tim Duncan and what an offensive rebound.
• In the end, how do you not respect the San Antonio Spurs players? I find it absolutely laughable that the guys on NBA TV were trying to convince me that the Spurs may be facing the end of an era. Let me tell you something: Next season, Duncan will be 30. Ginobili will be 29. And Parker will be 24. That is not old, kids. I get that they were saying their bench needs to be overhauled, but that will be easy when they you have those 3 guys in their primes. San Antonio will likely be the favorite in the West next season regardless of what happens the rest of the way this season.
• The focus on the Dirk drive that tied the game up was the Manu decision to foul. In the post game press conference, it was clear that his coach and his teammates wondered why he did not listen in the huddle and DO NOT FOUL. But, live by the Manu and die by the Manu. He is a great player, who made a poor decision. But, no player gained status in my sports brain like he did in this series.
• Let’s be honest for a moment: I felt horrible when the Mavericks weren’t missing in the first half. At first, it seemed great. But then, I started to wonder if we were all being pranked. Was it another Roadrunner-Coyote episode, where this time the Coyote gets a 20 point lead and a 3 games to 1 lead only to have the biggest meltdown ever to end it with the Roadrunner winning yet again? Nope. This time, the coyote was victorious. But, in the first half, we all knew that the Spurs were coming back, right?
• On the other hand, there was no doubt in my mind when they got the stop to end regulation that the Mavericks were going to win in overtime. Sure, they almost had no players left, but it just appeared that they got their confidence back on the Dirk drive and were not going to be denied.
• Newsflash: Mike Modano appears to be able to pick up hot blondes.
• Bill Russell was 10-0 in Game 7’s through his career. That is pretty tough to nitpick.
• Jerry Stackhouse has taken his share of abuse throughout this series, but his tough hoops in overtime gave him a strong feeling of contribution as well. Make no mistake, I believe everyone who wore the uniform and got in the game played an important role. Look no further than Keith Van Horn’s back to back 3’s to prove that.
• Was anyone else wondering what Josh Howard was thinking when Cuban would not let go of him with that warm embrace from behind? Seemed like a nice moment that quickly turned uncomfortable.
• Enjoy this. You finally Beat SA.