Sixth in a series chronicling the Dallas Mavericks' streak of 10 seasons with 50 or more wins (previous installments).
It is almost impossible, in any sport at any time, to find another team that achieved the franchise's proudest moment and its most shameful in the same season. It happened to the Dallas Mavericks in the span of a month.
Dallas stunned San Antonio in an epic seven-game series and then overcame Phoenix to advance to its first NBA Finals. After going up 2-0 on Miami, the City of Dallas began plans for a parade as the series shifted to South Beach. Once there, everything fell apart. On their way to a commanding 3-0 lead, the Mavs unraveled in the late stages of Game 3 and the Dwyane Wade-led Heat stole the show.
From that point, it just got worse -- a total meltdown from top to bottom. Coach Avery Johnson moved the team from its Miami hotel to Fort Lauderdale, citing distractions. Sixth man Jerry Stackhouse was suspended for Game 5 after being called for a controversial flagrant foul against Shaquille O'Neal in Game 4 that led to an outburst from Johnson.
After the Mavs lost Game 5 in the final seconds on, yes, Wade free throws, Cuban became irate, running on the court, shouting at official Joe DeRosa, then screaming in the direction of the scorer's table near where commissioner David Stern was seated. Stern later told Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio that he thought Cuban's behavior was hurting his team. Stern fined Cuban $250,000 at the end of the series for "repeated misconduct."
The rest is torturous history for the Mavs. Still, this was a club that figured to be back, to make another run in 2006-07. But, what happened next was almost as unthinkable as the failed Finals.
Coach: Avery Johnson
Record: 60-22 (2nd, Southwest Division)
Playoffs: defeated Memphis (4-0), defeated San Antonio (4-3), defeated Phoenix (4-2), lost to Miami (4-2)
Team payroll: $98.45*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($15.9**); Keith Van Horn ($15.7)*
In-season transaction: Nov. 25, 2005: Waived Doug Christie; Nov. 28, 2005: Signed G/F Adrian Griffin (free agent);
The high: Along with the Spurs, the Mavs became the only other team to have won 50-plus games in each of the previous six seasons. Dallas won 60 games for the second time in four seasons. The Mavs returned the favor on Steve Nash and the Suns with a 4-2 series win in the West finals. That came, of course, after the monumental victory over the Spurs in the second round. The heated series, in which the Mavs took a 3-1 lead only to see it vanish as quickly as a Jason Terry sucker punch to the groin of new Spur and former Mav Michael Finley. The series headed back to San Antonio for Game 7, which goes down as the greatest moment in franchise history. Dirk Nowitzki was the hero with a 37-point, 15-rebound effort in the 119-111 overtime victory. It reached overtime thanks to Nowitzki's drive to the basket and a controversial foul called on Manu Ginobili to send Nowitzki to the free-throw line for the memorable and-1.
The low: Most of this story is stated above, but there's more pain. Since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format for the Finals, the Mavs became the 10th team to win the first two games but then became the only one not to finish the job. Dallas became the third team in Finals history to drop the series after leading 2-0. NBA referee Bennett Salvatore became Public Enemy No. 1 in Dallas for his perceived one-sided officiating that helped Dwyane Wade wear out a path to the free-throw line and ultimately help the Heat sweep the three games in Miami. Salvatore remains a marked man in Dallas.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 26.6 ppg and 9.0 rpg)
G Jason Terry (17.1 ppg, team-highs 171 3FGs, 41.1% 3FGs)
F Josh Howard (15.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (13.0 ppg in 55 games)
G/F Marquis Daniels (10.2 ppg, started 33 of 62 games)
G Devin Harris (9.9 ppg, started four of 56 games)
F Keith Van Horn (8.9 ppg in 53 games)
C Erick Dampier (5.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, played 82 games)
G/F Adrian Griffin (4.6 ppg in 52 games)
G/F Doug Christie (played just seven games, then waived)
F Rawle Marshall (3.1 ppg in 23 games)
C Pavel Podkolzin (played in one game)
F Josh Powell (3.0 ppg in 37 games)
C DeSagana Diop (2.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg in 81 games)
G Darrell Armstrong (2.1 ppg in 62 games)
F Alan Henderson (3.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15.4 mpg)
C DJ Mbenga (1.7 ppg in 43 games)
**The Mavericks waived Michael Finley, taking advantage of a one-time amnesty provision that allowed them to avoid luxury taxes on the $51.8 million owed him over the next three years. Finley became an unrestricted free agent and joined the San Antonio Spurs, although the Mavs remained on the hook to pay his full salary.