By Doyle Rader
In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks entered the postseason with one of the deepest benches in the league. Head Coach Rick Carlisle would give just about any player an opportunity and preached “stay ready” to his bench. They did. Game after game role players emerged to give the Mavericks the edge they needed on their way to the franchise’s only championship.
The Mavericks weren’t supposed to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. None of the experts at ESPN predicted the Mavs would win the series though a few thought it would go seven games. Former Moneyball manager LJ Rotter also thought that Dallas could take the series to seven games. She picked the Mavs to win, though. Nationally, the Mavericks were the underdogs. This was the Lakers after all. They had all the jewelry. They had the history. They had Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and an Andrew Bynum that is barely recognizable today. The spotlight was theirs.
In game one, it looked as though the national crowd may be proved right. It just didn’t seem like Dallas had what it took to take on the vaunted Lakeshow. The Mavericks stumbled and made a series of mistakes that looked like it would cost them the game. None was more of a blunder than Jason Terry fouling Lamar Odom from the other side of the court as he tossed up a prayer to end the half. Odom made all three free throws. Dirk Nowitzki was then hit with a technical foul. Bryant went to the line and converted. Dallas led with two minutes remaining in the first half 42-41. They trailed at halftime 53-44.
After seven quick points by the Lakers to start the third quarter, Carlisle called a full timeout. The Lakers’ lead was now 16 points and Dallas looked deflated. Carlisle turned to the end of his bench and summoned for Corey Brewer to enter the game for DeShawn Stevenson. Brewer only logged four minutes in the playoffs up until this point. Only Brian Cardinal and Ian Mahinmi had played less. Yet, his number was called.
He would make the most of his opportunity, though. In just over six minutes with Brewer on the floor, Dallas cut the Lakers’ lead to just two points. In that span, he contributed five points, including a timely 3-pointer, an assist, a steal, and drew a foul on Bryant. Brewer would leave the game after almost eight and a half minutes and the Mavericks down 71-66. While Brewer can’t be given credit for the whole comeback effort, it was his spark off the bench that ignited it. He pestered Bryant. He swiped the ball from Gasol twice. He got out and pushed on fastbreaks. He spread the floor. He moved the ball. He brought energy. He was exactly what Dallas needed. Brewer finished the game with a Plus/Minus of +11, the highest mark on either team.
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