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 Mavericks 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.
“It’s been a wonderful run,” Jackson said.
The 65-year-old Jackson has retired before, but he insists it’s for good this time. While he goes out with the sour taste of his first sweep in 21 postseasons, and his second-widest margin of defeat, it can’t override all the sweet days.
A Hall of Famer since 2007, he leaves with a record 11 titles, and only 10 series losses. Take away Red Auerbach, who won nine championships, and Jackson won more titles than any two coaches combined. He won six championships with Michael Jordan, three with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and the last two with Bryant leading the way.
Four of Jackson’s five kids flew to Dallas for this game, in case it was the end. On Saturday, Jackson called that “a drag that I don’t need,” but by Sunday afternoon he was probably happy to have them around. They sat near the Lakers bench, wearing yellow hats with Roman numerals marking his 10th and 11th championships.
Then there was his extended family — his coaches and players, especially Bryant.
“I grew up under him,” Bryant said. “The way I approach things, the way I think about things — not only basketball, life in general — comes from him. It’s a little weird for me to think of what next year is going to be like.”
Assistant Brian Shaw, a former Lakers player, is considered a front-runner to take over. The bigger decisions for general manager Mitch Kupchak will be how to surround Bryant. He may want a younger point guard than Derek Fisher, who turns 37 before next season, and he may consider breaking up his tandem of 7-footers, Bynum and Pau Gasol.
For Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, 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 next 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.
Bryant couldn’t bail his club out. He made only 1 of 5 shots in the period and had two turnovers. His only basket came after shoving Barea away from him; the pesky little point guard got even right away, driving straight to the rim for a layup.
Bryant finished 7 of 18 for 17 points. Shannon Brown added 15.