Down Goes Dallas! Down Goes Dallas! Down Goes Dallas!The Golden State Warriors completed the greatest upset in NBA playoff history with a 111-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, winning the series 4-2. Stephen Jackson set a Warriors' playoff record with seven three pointers (on just eight attempts) and scored a game-high 33 points. Baron Davis fought off a hamstring injury to add 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. All five Warriors' starters scored in double figures and two besides Davis had double doubles as the Warriors outrebounded the Mavericks 53-38; Matt Barnes had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Andris Biedrins had 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 20 points for Dallas but that was not nearly enough to make up for the complete disappearance of the likely 2007 MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, who shot 2-13 from the field and scored just eight points. Nowitzki did manage to get 10 rebounds, but this has to be one of the worst performances ever by a player of his caliber in an elimination game; there may have been others that were worse statistically--though I cannot think of one at the moment--but it is difficult to recall a game six in which a prospective MVP had no impact whatsoever and was neither injured nor in foul trouble.
The Warriors are just the third eighth seed to beat a number one seed--Denver stunned Seattle in 1994 and New York defeated Miami in 1999--but they are the first to do so in a seven game series and the first to do so in less than the maximum number of games; New York needed a last second Allan Houston jump shot to win 78-77 in the fifth game of a five game series, while Denver needed overtime to prevail 98-94 in the fifth game of a five game series. Golden State, on the other hand, beat Dallas senseless in the third quarter in game six and did a victory lap in the fourth quarter. Prior to this year's 67-15 Dallas Mavericks, every other team in NBA history that won at least 65 games also won the championship except for the 1972-73 Boston Celtics, who lost in the Eastern Conference Finals after John Havlicek injured his shoulder--and those Celtics went on to win two of the next three titles. Dallas suffered no injuries to key players but lost in the first round to a team that had to win on the last day of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs. From a historical standpoint, nothing like this has ever happened in the NBA.
You'd never believe it based on the final score, but this game was close well past halftime. The Mavericks came out in a good flow, with Jason Terry opening the scoring with a three pointer on the first possession of the game. The Warriors led 19-15 when Davis left the game at the 5:10 mark in the first quarter after injuring his hamstring. He went to the locker room for some treatment and the score was tied at 29 when he checked back in with 9:46 left in the second quarter. Davis committed a turnover and Terry soon blew by him for a layup. Davis then made a jumper, missed a shot and committed an offensive foul. It hardly seemed like he was poised to do great things; in fact, it looked like Don Nelson needed to get Davis out of the game, both for Davis' good and for the sake of the team--but then, in the next four minutes, Davis made four straight shots, including three three pointers. He was making shots that have not been seen since Michael Jordan and Larry Bird played "horse" in the old McDonald's commercial. The Mavericks kept pace despite Davis' onslaught, trailing just 50-48 at halftime, but Davis had made it clear that he would be a factor the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki endured a nightmare first half, shooting 1-10 from the field and scoring just four points. Stackhouse shouldered the bulk of the scoring burden, pouring in 18 points. The teams traded baskets for the first few possessions of the third quarter before Jackson nailed consecutive three pointers to push the Warriors' lead to 62-54. Howard countered with a three pointer to make the score 62-57 at the 7:32 mark--and Dallas did not score again until Stackhouse's jump shot with 2:24 left in the third quarter. During that time, Golden State went on an 18-0 run that obliterated a season's worth of work by Dallas: Jackson made a free throw and two three pointers, followed by a Davis jumper, two Davis free throws, two Jackson free throws, a Davis free throw, two Biedrins free throws and a Barnes dunk. The last two scores symbolized Dallas' complete helplessness: the Mavericks apparently intentionally fouled Biedrins, a notoriously poor free throw shooter, because they simply could not stop Golden State from scoring. TNT's Steve Kerr noted that for a defensive minded team like Dallas to resort to "Hack a Biedrins" in the third quarter was basically a sign of surrender. Nelson took Biedrins out of the game, so on the next possession Dallas trapped Davis, an adjustment that worked in the latter stages of the Mavericks' game five victory--but he calmly fed Barnes, who delivered an emphatic dunk. If this were a boxing match, the referee would have called the fight right at that moment. Golden State outscored Dallas 36-15 in the third quarter, led 86-63 going into the fourth quarter and did not allow the Mavericks to get closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
Whether or not Golden State can sustain this level of play in the next round, the Warriors' accomplishment in this series will forever be remembered and images from this sixth game--Davis' off balance shots, Barnes' dunk, a great dunk by Jason Richardson in the fourth quarter--will take their place alongside Denver's Dikembe Mutombo cradling the ball in 1994 and New York's Allan Houston pumping his arm and sprinting the length of the court in 1999.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:56 AM