The Miami Heat earned its first trip Friday with a victory over the Detroit Pistons, and the Dallas Mavericks did the same last night against the Phoenix Suns and thus made it the first NBA Finals featuring two first-time teams since 1971 - when the Baltimore Bullets played the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Mavericks rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to a 102-93 victory behind Dirk Nowitzki's 24 points and Josh Howard's 20. Dallas won the series, four games to two, and will take on Eastern Conference champion Miami in the Finals starting Thursday night in Dallas.
The Mavericks' top two scorers also led them on the boards, with Nowitzki grabbing 10 rebounds and Howard 15.
"We've been a good road team all season long, we believed in each other," Nowitzki said. "We went through some ups and downs this season, but the playoffs is all about showing heart and playing together."
The home crowd was most excited as the Suns came out playing like they weren't done yet.
Instead of their aggressive, driving approach from Game 5, the Mavericks showed up working on their perimeter jumpers, missing seven of their first eight shots, and 14 of their first 17.
It gave the Suns the boost they needed after their own slow start.
With a short bank shot from Diaw for an 8-3 lead five minutes into the game, the Suns heated up. Diaw followed with a 15-footer, Shawn Marion got loose on the fast break after Diaw blocked Jerry Stackhouse and Tim Thomas hit a jumper. The Suns were off to a 29-14 edge after one quarter. They shot 61 percent to 28.6 percent for Dallas and out-rebounded the Mavericks 15-6.
As usual, the game also had a game within a game, especially with the Mavericks accusing Marion, regarded as a sportsmanlike player, of an intentional elbow to Adrian Griffin in Game 5. The Mavericks said they would appeal to the league for a suspension. Nothing was done, but it raised the ire of the Suns, who had been seething all series about Jason Terry and Howard, whom they claimed intentionally stick out their feet to trip up players driving past them.
"My gosh, grow up!" Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said about the Mavericks' complaints.
The Suns, who never have won an NBA title, and the Mavericks, never before in the NBA Finals, continued to both try to do just that.
In the end, it was the Mavericks whose effort paid off.
Sam Smith writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.