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 Mavericks ended Jackson’s tenure, and the Lakers’ reign as two-time champions, with a 122-86 victory yesterday in Dallas. 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 Terry made threes 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 with the Celtics, 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.
He had to be talked into coming back this year. The lure of chasing a 12th title, bundled neatly as four three-peats, did it, but he knew it would be tough with a team worn down by three straight years of reaching the Finals.
“[That] puts a lot of strain on the basketball club from all angles: personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team,’’ Jackson said. “It was a challenge bigger than we could beat this year.’’
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 yesterday he was probably happy to have them around. They sat near the Los Angeles bench, wearing yellow hats with Roman numerals marking his 10th and 11th championships.
Terry tied a playoff record with nine 3-pointers, and the club matched NBA postseason marks with 11 threes in the first half and 20 for the game. 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.
Hawks 100, Bulls 88 — Josh Smith answered his critics with a huge game — 23 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 assists — and fill-in Jeff Teague came up with the Derrick Rose-like plays down the stretch to lead host Atlanta past Chicago, evening their Eastern Conference semifinal series, 2-2.
The Hawks snapped a nine-game home losing streak in the second round, their misery dating to a May 13, 1996 win against Orlando.
Teague, filling in for injured guard Kirk Hinrich, played with the poise of a veteran and scored 12 points and doled out four assists, putting the capper on a late 10-0 run.
Driving toward the hoop with Kyle Korver draped all over him, Teague flipped up a shot as he was falling down. It banked in, giving the Hawks a safe lead, 94-84, with 1:26 remaining.
Rose scored 34 points for the Bulls, but attempted 32 shots.