Thanks for coming back for another edition of TGIFF: Thank God It’s Flashback Friday. After watching a near upset in last week’s edition, I’m in the mood for the real thing today. Plus, I badly need Stephen Jackson and Bill Walton back in my life.
2007 Western Conference 1st Round Game 3, Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors
After blowing a 2-0 advantage in the 2006 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks finished the 2006-07 regular season with the best record in the NBA, and became only the ninth team to win at least 67 games in a season. In the midst of an MVP season, Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki even toppled David Hasselhoff as the most culturally relevant German. Now that’s a big time development! Golden State Warriors finished 25 games behind the Mavericks in the standings, and had to win 16 out of their last 21 games just to make the postseason. Despite playing the most difficult schedule over the last month of the season, no team was hotter than the Warriors to close the year.
The Mavericks were overwhelming favorites heading into the series, but the frisky Dubs stole Game 1 in Dallas behind a monster 33 point, 14 rebound, eight assist effort from Baron Davis. Dallas bounced back in Game 2 but was walking into a buzzsaw also known as Oracle Arena for Game 3. It’s time to crack open my handy-dandy notebook yet again as we go for another trip down memory lane.
- There isn’t a whole lot to complain about when it comes to this particular game. Sure, it wasn’t all that close but the action had a good pace, the announcers were solid and the bonkers crowd stood for all 48 minutes. My biggest gripe: it would have been so much more aesthetically pleasing if the Warriors were wearing the yellow and blue unis they currently rock. The dark blue, orange and mustard yellow made it look as if the guys playing on the ugliest bowling shoe you could imagine.
- Warriors’ head coach Don Nelson started the game by playing small ball and continued throughout with good reason—that reason being that it was working. Mavericks’ head coach Avery Johnson stubbornly refused to match those line-ups with some smaller lineups of his own or do anything to make the Warriors pay. The Warriors started the game with Baron Davis, Monta Ellis—who received the Most Improved Player Award before the game — Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins. Dallas countered with Devin Harris, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Erick Dampier.
- Do me a favor; look at those starting five’s again real hard and tell me how the Mavericks are decidedly better than the Warriors. Dallas clearly had the best player (Dirk Nowitzki) and the player who showed the most promise at the time (Josh Howard). Meanwhile, Monta Ellis was on the verge of having it all, Baron Davis was a gamer, Stephen Jackson was a solid player and unequivocally nuts, Jason Richardson had three, 20 point-per-game seasons in a four year span, and Andris Biedrins played well enough to earn himself a six-year, $54 million contract the next summer that Golden State would regret giving him.
- In the announcer booth: Mike Breen, Jon Barry, and the immortal Bill Walton. Walton and Breen co-covered the Malice at the Palace and were brilliant. Breen opens up the commentary by telling us that the Warriors fans were chanting, “Let’s Go Warriors,” an hour before the game, and even chanted it through the National Anthem. I thought the only time people made noise during a National Anthem was when Nikolai Volkoff used to sing the Russian National Anthem back in the day. Clearly, the crowd was jacked up. This was the Warriors first home playoff game since 1994, or as Walton would later tell us, 4,741 days prior.
- For what it’s worth, long-haired Dirk wouldn’t have gone down to an eight seed. That’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact. And I’m using no stats to back that up.
- I forgot to mention, Stephen Jackson was fined $50,000 for not leaving the court in a timely matter after Game 2. You aren’t gonna believe this but Bill Walton had a take on this matter: “There is a difference between emotion and being out of control. And with Stephen Jackson being one of the most undisciplined players in the game today, he has to realize what’s at stake here.” Preach, Bill. Preach. You know what? I think we need more insight from Bill.
- Bill on the Warriors, who gave up the most points in the league during the regular season: “Just because you play high scoring games, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad defensive team. Just because you play low scoring games, it doesn’t mean you’re a good defensive team.” Yeah, but if you give up the most points in the league that has to mean something, right? Let’s give Bill a chance to redeem himself later on.
- In case you forgot, Don Nelson was Dallas’ head coach and general manager from 1997 to 2005 but stepped down from both positions, leaving Avery Johnson and Donnie Nelson, his son, as successors to the head coach and general manager positions. Additionally, Don Nelson was previously the Warriors coach from 1988 through 1995, and Avery Johnson was a former point guard under Don Nelson. Anyone else feel like this storyline belongs in an episode of The Young and the Restless?
- Speaking of young and restless, Stephen Jackson was a vital piece of the Warriors pulling the first best-of-seven series one over eight upset. Not only did Jackson put up 22.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.0 steals and drill 48 percent of his three pointers during the series, but he was a big part of the reason why the soon-to-be MVP Nowitzki—19.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 38 percent shooting in the six game series—struggled to get going during the series. Jackson pestered Dirk on the offensive end, and Dirk was forced out of his comfort zone on the defensive side of the ball, needing to guard Jackson on the perimeter because Avery Johnson refused to play small. God forbid Dirk had to defend Andris Biedrins. Jackson wasn’t even a Warrior at the beginning of the season. Cap’n Jack was traded along with Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell from the Indiana Pacers for Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu, Troy Murphy and Keith McLeod. Let’s agree that the Dubs don’t upset Dallas in Round 1 if Dunleavy is stuck with Dirk duty.
- Obviously, Jim Gray is known for “interviewing” LeBron James during The Decision, but the interview he had during the game with Commissioner David Stern is my all-time favorite Jim Gray moment. It also might be my favorite David Stern moment save for when he encouraged the crowd at the 2013 NBA Draft to boo him:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnuRJiFz7u8 [/youtube] Anyway, Gray asked all of the questions you know David Stern didn’t want to field. Frankly I’m surprised Jim Gray didn’t turn up dead in the San Francisco Bay the next day. Stern was asked if Stephen Jackson’s large fine had anything to do with prior incidences. He was asked if Joey Crawford’s suspension for ejecting Tim Duncan for laughing would be overturned. Gray next asked the commish about Clay Bennett—the new owner of the Seattle SuperSonics (soon to be the Oklahoma City Thunder)—telling the Seattle Convention Bureau that if the Sonics were to leave a likely destination would be Las Vegas. This one was my favorite, because Stern sharply responded, “I don’t think he said that.” Gray quickly came back with, “Well his spokesman reconfirmed it.” Stern, not missing a beat: “Well by tomorrow he’ll be withdrawing that.” And if that weren’t enough, Gray finally threw out a question about tanking, to which Stern responded with “Come on, there’s a game going on here. Get your fans back to the action. I wanna hear Bill Walton.” Wait, the commish wanted more Bill Walton? I think I have a Walton gem ready!
- “The Golden State is glowing in the golden light of day here.” I’m sure that one made Commissioner Stern happy.
- Tim Donaghy officiated the game so we can’t get too caught up in the result.
- Al Harrington grabbed an offensive rebound and got fouled on the finish. Warriors are up 13. Admittedly, this is an irrelevant play but I needed an excuse to include this clip.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poWDJdcAbX4[/youtube]
- In case anyone was wondering why Avery Johnson has been fired twice in his career as a coach despite a 254-186 record, it’s because he did dumb shit like refuse to go small against the Warriors despite the fact that his centers were Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop. He didn’t play a line-up without either Dampier or Diop—who I will from here on out call “The Double-D’s”— until late in the 3rd quarter. For what it’s worth, Golden State outrebounded Dallas 46-44 in Game 3 and The Double-D’s combined for three points and eight rebounds. That extra size really did Dallas a whole bunch of good. Seriously, why couldn’t the Mavs have countered Golden State’s small-ball with Harris, Terry, Jerry Stackhouse—who looked pretty washed up, but still better than the Double-D’s—Josh Howard and Dirk?
- Bill Walton used the phrase “Dazed and Confused” at least five times to describe the Mavericks in third quarter. I think he might just be reminiscing about his glory days at UCLA.
- Mike Breen literally got out of his seat on a fast break sequence highlighted by no-look-over-his-head-sitting-down pass from Jason Richardson to Monta Ellis. Ellis got fouled and missed the layup. I’m 75 percent sure that if Ellis made that lay-up Breen, along with 19,000 Warriors fans would’ve stormed the court.
- The previous sequence is accompanied by a close-up of a dejected Avery Johnson. Of course, our man Bill has something to say about it: “Avery Johnson, who can only sit there with his head in hands. The only thing he’s yet to do is put his hand over his eyes.”
- It’s more of the same in the 4th quarter. The Mavericks were overwhelmed by the effort and speed of the Warriors. Dirk played a so-so game in a subpar series, and no other Mavericks picked up the slack. Meanwhile, the Warriors got 30 from Jason Richardson, 24 from Baron Davis and 40 more from Jackson, Ellis and Biedrins. Just an awesome overall team and crowd effort. And three games later they all made history. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuMTBV7XkA8[/youtube]
Come back next Friday for another edition of TGIFF. If you want to check out the full game, go ahead and click here.