Mavericks sweep Lakers to send record-setting coach Phil Jackson into retirement
So long, chances for another Lakers three-peat.
Hello, Western Conference finals for Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
Jason Terry tied an NBA postseason record with nine three-pointers and the Mavericks matched a league playoff mark with 20 threes on their way to a 122-86 victory over the Lakers on Sunday, giving them a sweep of their second-round series against the most successful coach in NBA history and the two-time defending champions.
Terry made five three-pointers in the second quarter, personally outscoring Los Angeles 20-16 in the period as Dallas went ahead by 24 at halftime. When Terry made threes on consecutive possessions early in the third quarter, he drained whatever comeback hopes the Lakers had left. Their frustration spilled early in the fourth with vicious cheap shots by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum that got them ejected 45 seconds apart.
By then, the 65-year-old Jackson knew it was over—the game, the series and his remarkable career.
“It’s been a wonderful run,” he said.
The Zen Master is retiring again, and he says it’s for good this time. The sour taste of his first sweep in 21 postseasons, and his second-widest margin of defeat, can’t override all the sweet days.
A Hall of Famer since 2007, he leaves with a record 11 titles, and only 10 series losses. Take away Red Auerbach, who won nine championships, and Jackson won more titles than any two coaches combined. He won six championships with Michael Jordan, three with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and the last two with Bryant leading the way.
He had to be talked into coming back this year. The lure of chasing a 12th title, bundled neatly as four three-peats, did it, but he knew it would be tough with a team worn down by three straight years of reaching the finals.
“(That) puts a lot of strain on the basketball club from all angles: personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team,” Jackson said. “It was a challenge bigger than we could beat this year.”
Four of Jackson’s five kids flew to Dallas for this game, in case it was the end. On Saturday, Jackson called that “a drag that I don’t need,” but by Sunday afternoon he was probably happy to have them around. They sat near the Lakers bench, wearing yellow hats with Roman numerals marking his 10th and 11th championships.
Then there was his extended family—his coaches and players, especially Bryant.
“I grew up under him,” Bryant said. “The way I approach things, the way I think about things—not only basketball, life in general—comes from him. It’s a little weird for me to think of what next year is going to be like.”
Assistant Brian Shaw, a former Lakers player, is considered a front-runner to take over. The bigger decisions for general manager Mitch Kupchak will be how to surround Bryant. He may want a younger point guard than Derek Fisher, who turns 37 before next season, and he may consider breaking up his tandem of 7-footers, Bynum and Pau Gasol.
“We all know they always come back and get themselves back in the race,” Jackson said. “The Lakers are going to survive.”
For Nowitzki and the Mavs, clearing this hurdle sets them up for a chance to redeem themselves for flopping during the 2006 NBA finals and for flaming out in every postseason since. That’s why when this game ended, confetti didn’t fall; the organization’s bigger goal is reaching the finals and winning its first championship.
They’re halfway there, having won a franchise-record six straight playoff games, a streak that began right after they blew a 23-point lead in Game 4 of their first-round series against Portland.
“The job is not finished,” Terry said.
Dallas will host either Oklahoma City or Memphis in the conference finals. The Grizzlies lead the Thunder 2-1 going into Game 4 tonight. The next round likely won’t start before next Sunday, a layoff that could pay huge dividends for a roster filled with players in their 30s.
Then again, they might want to keep playing the way they’re going.
Terry made 11 of 14 shots for 32 points, missing more inside the arc than outside. He fell a few points shy of his most in a playoff game only because the game was such a blowout. J.J. Barea set a career playoff-best with 22 points and Peja Stojakovic added 21 points. All three of those guys come off the bench.
Nowitzki scored 17 points—his fewest this postseason.
Dallas made 20 of 32 from behind the arc, and 60 percent of its shots overall.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a team play to that level in a series in a game like they played this afternoon,” Jackson said.
Bryant finished 7 of 18 for 17 points. Shannon Brown was Los Angeles’ next-best scorer with 15. Pau Gasol’s lost postseason continued, too; he had 10 points and eight rebounds.