When the two-time defending champions LA Lakers were paired up with playoff underachievers Dallas Mavericks in Round 2 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs, almost everyone gave Dallas no ghost of a chance at all. After all, this is the Dallas team that has consistently finished the regular season with 50+ wins and yet fail to translate that into playoff success, getting eliminated in the first round on most occasions. In fact, when the regular season was nearing it’s end about a month ago, many of the teams scrambling for 5-8 spots in the West would have been secretly hoping to draw these sorry Mavs..
So, when the Mavs sensationally rallied from 16 points down in the 3Q of Game 1 to beat LA and win the series opener, the entire LA crew dismissed it as a game which was given away. In Game 2, LA couldn’t keep up with the deep Mavs bench and lost, the Lakers still kept insisting that they were the ones who controlled the pace and Dallas were just lucky, etc. There was so much talk about Lakers could reverse their fortunes in Dallas in the next two games and the basketballing universe that centred around the purple and gold would find its equilibrium again.
In another tight 3rd game, LA led like some 7 points in mid 4Q and then apparently went to sleep. Dallas shooters would take over and conjure up (yet) another improbable fightback to push the champs to the brink in a 0-3 hole! And yet, the Lakers were stubbornly denying they were being beat by the better team, kept insisting they had been the better side, blaming luck, not enough stops, etc.
If any NBA team could be beaten when leading a series 3-0, it has to be the sorry Mavs. Perhaps that’s why LA still projected the overconfidence and swagger like they still had a chance to overturn the series and rewrite record books. For the record, no team has ever come back from 0-3 down to win an NBA playoff series. Personally, I have never seen a team trailing 0-3 that oozed so much self-belief, pride (and probably delusional too) in themselves. At the other extreme, Dallas coach Rick Carlise remained firmly on the ground and said that although the score shows 3-0, the Mavs still need to remain humble, but hungry.
In Game 4, Dallas put on a three point clinic, making 20 treys (tying NBA playoff record), whilst dismantling LA 122-86. They didn’t even need superstar Dirk Nowitzki to perform anything extra. Two LA players, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were ejected for flagrant fouls flaring up from frustrations that their team was being embarassed. After the dust had settled, LA were shockingly swept 4-0. Not even Kobe could save them this time. Go Mavs!
This series made me reflect on whether or not there were times in our life that we felt we were so good or confident in something? To the point that it had made us too proud or cocky? Humility can somethings be such a tough virtue to project in today’s world.
Seeing how Dallas stayed focussed and humble throughout the series echoes the words found in Proverbs 3:34, which says, “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”
Have you checked your heart today?