DALLAS – Phil Jackson walked off the court with a tight smile, shaking hands and accepting congratulations like he has after so many series-ending playoff games.
Never like this, though.
His team didn’t win; they were crushed. Swept, too.
And he wasn’t just heading to the offseason – he’s calling it a career, ending the most successful run by any coach in NBA history.
Jason Terry and the Dallas Mavericks ended Jackson’s tenure, and the Lakers’ reign as two-time champions, with a 122-86 victory Sunday. After two tight finishes and another game that was relatively close, the Mavs turned this one into a rout in the second quarter.
With Terry leading the way, Dallas hit a barrage of 3-pointers to go ahead by 24 points at halftime. When he made 3s on consecutive possessions early in the third quarter, Los Angeles knew it wasn’t going to come back in this game or the series.
Things got ugly early in the fourth quarter, with vicious, frustration-fueled cheap shots by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum getting them ejected 45 seconds apart. But at game’s end, Dallas coaches, players and team owner Mark Cuban lined up to bid farewell to the Zen Master.
For Dirk 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 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 tied a playoff record with nine 3-pointers, and the club matched NBA postseason marks with 11 3s in the first half and 20 for the game. Dallas made 63 percent of its shots from behind the arc (20 of 32) and 60 percent of its field goals (44 of 73).
“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. “You’d like to have an opportunity to challenge, but we didn’t.”
Terry made 11 of 14 shots for 32 points. 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.
“We’ve been doing it by committee all year long,” said Nowitzki, who scored 17 points, his fewest this postseason. “There are a lot of guys who can make plays and make shots when it counts.”
Nowitzki was still in during the fourth quarter and took the blindside blow that led to Odom’s ejection. Then Barea took a Bynum elbow to the “D” on his Dallas jersey while up in the air after releasing the ball for a layup. Fans threw things toward the court and officials scrambled to keep the peace. Bynum took off his jersey and was escorted to the locker room by Ron Artest, of all people. Artest was suspended from Game 3 because of his shot on Barea in the closing seconds of Game 2.
“I wasn’t happy with the way our players exited the game, on Lamar and Andrew’s part,” Jackson said. “It was unnecessary, but I know they were frustrated.”