Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dallas Mavericks 101, Portland Trail Blazers 89: A New Hope

Halfway through the fourth quarter in this Game 2 of the first round, a particular scene stuck with me. Dirk Nowitzki finished a tough shot at the rim over LaMarcus Aldridge as the Mavericks begun to pull away. Blazers coach Nat McMillan called a timeout and the AAC faithful went into a frenzy. Dirk walked back to the bench, his Michael Jordan-esque tongue celebration in full force.

But that wasn't what stuck out to me, I've seen that before. As Dirk strutted back to the bench, Tyson Chandler walked beside him, screaming at him, chest pumping and forehead bumping him. Chandler was so intense I thought he might pass out right there on the court. I've never seen another Maverick that into outside of Dirk. Sure, there's Jason Terry and he tries to get the crowd into it, but I've never really believed Terry, mainly because he usually doesn't back it up on the court.

I'm probably taking too much stock into this. This isn't talking about Dallas offensive efficiency or turnover rate, I know. But still, this has to count for something. Dallas seems tougher, acts tougher and looks to be completely aware of its past playoff fates lately, and wants to change something about it.

Anyhow, before I keep rambling on, Dallas takes a 2-0 lead against a team that was widely predicted to beat them behind an MVP performance from well, the MVP, another brilliant shooting night from its point guard and a return of what was the deadliest stroke in the NBA from 2000-2004.



  • There isn't much more to be said about Dirk Nowitzki that you probably haven't heard or already read today. The man is an MVP in every sense of the meaning, a superstar and transcendent player that one day, I'm going to have to put into words what his career meant to Dallas, the NBA and more difficulty, me. Soft label need not apply: 33 points on 22 shots, 15-17 from the line. And how about this -- only one turnover while Dirk used 41.1 percent of the available 80.3 possessions in the game. He is one of a kind.

  • When Jason Kidd banked home a midrange jumper off the pick and roll in the opening minutes of the third quarter, I knew we were seeing something  unreal. Kidd has not only realized he has needed to be a scorer in these two games, but more impressively, he's taken on that challenge head on and rising above expectations. I've always said Kidd needed to drain open threes for the Dallas offense to have any kind of success. But 9-of-16 from deep in two games? Midrange step banks? Bank shots? Layups? This is unexpectedly marvelous stuff from a Hall of Fame point guard.

  • Speaking of how amazing Kidd was, how about Dallas has a team only having six turnovers in a game and none in the second half? The Mavericks haven't been as stout at protecting the ball this season, especially Jason Terry and J.J. Barea in the final two months of the regular season. But in the slow, half-court game, this trio has thrived on executing every play and not gambling with careless passes, a staple of Terry and Barea's shortcomings as point men at times.

  • Dallas might have lost the overall rebounding battle 37-28, but the Mavericks won the most important aspect: 10-7 on the offensive boards resulting in the Blazers being -7 in second chance points compared to the Mavs. Combine that with the turnover battle being won (six for DAL, 12 for POR) and the Mavs had 10 more shot attempts with only one less free throw attempt.

  • The Mavericks are controlling the glass and not turning the ball over. Kind of blowing the hell out of the Blazers game plan, don't you think?

  • After being fairly useless in Game 1, Peja Stojakovic struck back with vengeance on Tuesday night. I've seen what Peja has done to the Mavs wearing Sacramento purple plenty of times and the gut wrenching he has caused me with his back-breaking three pointers. Peja's ability to curl off down screens is a direct blow to one of Portland's biggest weakness -- an inability to close out on shooters. Dallas exploited this perfectly and Peja obliged by knocking down five three-pointers. If the Mavericks can get this type of production from Peja for the rest of the playoffs, the Mavericks offense is on a whole different level (as evidenced by Dallas' ridiculous 125.8 offensive efficiency rating on Tuesday)

Sorry to stop the recap a little short and sorry for the very, very late publish. Game 3 is Thursday night, a bit later time at 9:30. I'll butter my biscuit if the Mavericks duplicate this same performance in Portland at the Rose Garden.

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