x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The old bunch of Mavericks beat the Heat for the people

The anti-Miami sentiment was a boost, but it was more possibly this was the last chance for the Mavericks' elder statesmen.

Dirk Nowitzki, cente, of the Dallas Mavericks celebrates with teammates after winning the NBA Finals.
Dirk Nowitzki, cente, of the Dallas Mavericks celebrates with teammates after winning the NBA Finals.

The season began with LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach.

It ended with Dirk Nowitzki taking the NBA championship trophy there for a late-night celebration as the Dallas Mavericks enjoyed the season's biggest - and final - party at a Miami Beach club.

Jason Terry scored 27 points, Nowitzki scored 21 on his way to being named MVP of the series, and the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat 105-95 on Sunday night to win their first NBA title.

"Nobody can ever take this away from us," Nowitzki said. "For one year, we were the best team that was out there.

"This feeling, to be on the best team in the world, it's just indescribable."

Rick Carlisle, the Dallas coach, joined an elite group, those with NBA titles as both a player and a head coach.

Others on the list include Phil Jackson, KC Jones, and the Miami Heat president Pat Riley.

"This is a true team," Carlisle said. "This is an old bunch. We don't run fast or jump high. These guys had each other's backs. We played the right way."

He said the Mavericks got a boost from the anti-Miami sentiment that was pervasive throughout the regular season and play-offs, as many fans reacted negatively to the attention showered on the Heat's "Big Three" collection of all-stars: James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

"We could feel it," Carlisle said, noting he was repeatedly told during the finals that "billions" of people wanted to see Dallas topple Miami.

But the Mavericks also praised the Heat for their post-game reactions.

Carlisle said Riley came down to congratulate the Mavericks after the game, showing "unbelievable class." And Nowitzki and Wade exchanged texts after Wade was unable to reach the Dallas star during the on-court celebration to shake hands.

"Their time will come," Carlisle said. "But now, it's our time."

The victory was sweet revenge for the Mavericks, who had lost the 2006 finals to Miami after winning the first two games.

"We got vindication," Terry said.

When the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead in Dallas in 2006, plans for their victory parade were announced.

The Mavs did not win another game in that series. Now, that parade will finally happen, with city officials in Dallas saying it could be several days away.

Carlisle called the Mavericks "the most special team I've ever been around".

Jason Kidd, at 38 years old, got his first championship. Nowitzki got his at 32, Terry at 33.

They were featured on the video screen in their arena in Dallas during this series on what seemed like a constant loop, each posing with the NBA trophy and looking longingly at it, as if to say "so close, yet so far away".

No more. It's theirs.

Nowitzki sealed it with 2:27 left, hitting a jumper near the Miami bench to put Dallas up 99-89, and some fans actually began leaving the Miami arena.

Nowitzki walked to the Mavericks' sideline slowly, right fist clenched and aloft.

He knew it. Everyone did.

"Hands down, they were the better team in this series. ... All we can do is just admit it and move forward," Bosh said.

Wade added: "We ran into a team that at this time is obviously better than us."

Nowitzki made only one of 12 shots in the first half and the Mavericks were still ahead, 53-51, thanks largely to Terry's 19 points on eight-of-10 shooting.

"Was he unbelievable tonight or what?" Nowitzki asked.

Kidd, who lost two previous finals trips with the New Jersey Mets, said: "I can't believe the journey. The journey, the character of my teammates telling me they wanted to get me a championship. Tonight they came out and played well. I came here twice, this being my third time so third time was the lucky charm."

Of the players from the 2006 series, only Nowitzki and Terry remain. Terry won't have to get his tattoo - the one of the NBA championship trophy - removed, which he vowed to have done if Miami won this series.

And Nowitzki will never be in the conversation of "best player without a title" again.

* Associated Press