DALLAS — In the spirit of Hollywood, the Dallas Mavericks have been waiting to exhale for a long time. Waiting for a moment like this.
Waiting to bring some sunshine into their life. Waiting to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and put an end to this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series.
For the Mavericks, the moment arrived Sunday at approximately 5 p.m. CDT. It was swift and punctuated with all sorts of exclamation points.
Playing with passion, the Mavericks stomped the Lakers and sent the two-time defending NBA champions to an early summer with a resounding 112-86 victory before a thunderous crowd of 21,087 at American Airlines Center.
The lopsided win completed a surprising 4-0 sweep of the Lakers and sent the Mavericks to the West Finals against the Memphis-Oklahoma City survivor. Memphis leads that best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 tonight in Memphis.
Dogged throughout their history for not being able to win big games or big series, the Mavericks put all that aside with an explosive output against the Lakers. The Mavericks shot 60.3 percent from the field, held the Lakers to 37.8 percent shooting, and made an NBA playoff-record 11 3-point field goals — in the first half.
It was such an all-around team performance for the Mavericks that Dirk
Nowitzki almost became an afterthought with his 17 points and seven boards. That's because the Mavericks' bench scored as many points as the entire Lakers team — 86 points.
Jason Terry was sizzling as he poured in a game-high 32 points while making 11 of 14 shots, including nine 3-pointers, tying an NBA playoff record. J.J. Barea followed with a personal playoff-high 22 points and eight assists, and Peja Stojakovic added 21 points while hitting all seven of his shots, including all six from 3-point territory.
Terry was so hot that he said: "On a couple of those shots I didn't even see the rim. I know Dirk doesn't want to hear that because he probably was open."
It was open season on the Lakers, for sure, for the Mavericks. Dallas tied an NBA playoff record for the most 3-pointers made in a game — they were 20 of 32 — and made quick work of the Lakers by putting the game away in the second quarter.
Terry, who converted 9 of 10 from 3-point range, outscored the Lakers in the second period 17-16. The Mavericks scored 36 points in the second quarter and went to the locker room riding a 63-39 lead.
The Lakers managed to get within 19 points (65-46) on a three-point play by Ron Artest, and could have sliced into the deficit even more. But
Artest was flying in for an uncontested layup, and after he glided toward the basket, the ball inexplicably hit under the rim when it left his hands.
Less than a minute later, Terry drained back-to-back 3-pointers and the Mavericks were up 25 (71-46).
"The 3-point shot is a big part of the game now," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's been a big part of the success that we've been able to have.
"But more importantly, we guarded."
The game signaled the end of the career of Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who had already announced this season would be his last. Jackson finished with 11 championships and was favored by some for a 12th before the impressive showing by the Mavericks.
"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. "They were terrific."
The Lakers were so frustrated that within a 45-second span of the fourth quarter, Lamar Odom was ejected for leveling Nowitzki with a forearm, and Andrew Bynum was ejected for hitting Barea in the ribs with an elbow.
But the Mavericks weren't flustered as they advanced to the West Finals for the first time since 2006.