After the Dallas Mavericks shockingly swept the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavs now moved on to the Western Conference Finals to face the young, but deadly Oklahoma City Thunder. This might be the only round of the Mavericks 2011 playoff journey where they were considered the favorites to win the series with being the more experienced team and having home court. Much like most of the previous playoff games, the Mavs were in for a tough fought series that had each game go down to the wire.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals would turn out to be a slug fest between two of the NBA’s best scorers in Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant. As the game went on it seemed each player was trying to out duel the other. In the end the Mavs would come out of the game with a nine point victory to take a 1-0 series lead. Dallas felt great heading into Game 2, especially since the Mavs hadn’t lost a game at home during the playoffs up to that point. But in a reverse role of Game 1, it was the Thunder who would make plays down the stretch to win the game and even the series at a game apiece.
Heading to Oklahoma City for Games 3 and 4, now it was the Thunder that felt great about their position in the series. Oklahoma City had become one of the loudest arenas and one of the hardest places for opposing teams to win, but the Mavs were eager to get their home court advantage back and that is exactly what the Mavs did with a Game 3 victory. The Mavs did not get what they had become accustomed to getting out of Dirk for Game 3 but Dirk hit just enough jump shots at the end of the game for the Mavs to hold off the Thunder. The Thunder came out strong in Game 4 looking to even the series and even found themselves up by 15 points with 5 minutes left in the game; only to have Dirk and the Mavericks storm back and force the game into overtime. Dirk and Jason Kidd would lead the Mavs in overtime and get out of OKC with two wins and going back home to Dallas up 3-1.
The Mavs were now just one win away from getting back to the NBA Finals, a place both Dirk and Jason Terry had been desperately trying to return to after their 2006 Finals collapse to the Miami Heat. But the Thunder were not going to just lay down and clear the path for the Mavs to get to the Finals. The Mavs once again found themselves down with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Luckily this time around they were only down six points and the Mavs, led by none other than Dirk Nowitzki, didn’t have to force overtime like they did in Game 4. The Mavs hit key shots, including Dirk hitting a three point shot, to keep the Thunder down and closing out the series 4-1.
Now the Mavs, with a roster full of players trying to win their first championship ring, had reached the NBA Finals. Waiting for the Mavs was the Miami Heat, the same franchise that overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Mavs in the 2006 NBA Finals. With Dirk and Terry eager to put the 2006 Finals collapse behind them it was only fitting that the Mavs had to face the Heat.