Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dallas Mavericks 89, Portland Trail Blazers 81: The Heros We Deserved and Needed


Let me repeat: Wow.

I'm not sure how the Dallas Mavericks won tonight. Let me rephrase that. I'm sure of how the Mavericks won tonight -- Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. I'm just not sure how I can fathom what those two did. We're just mere mortals. Mere humans.

When Jason Kidd hit his final three -- a step back with the shot clock running down -- he capped off what might have been the greatest game in his Maverick career. Yes, I know about the triple doubles. I know about the assists. But to score 24 points, in a playoff game where no one else on the court was giving Dallas much of anything (sans Dirk in the fourth)? Bravo, Kidd. Bravo.

As much as I want to sing the praises of these two for the next couple of paragraphs, the Dallas defense needs to be spoken of. Simply put, I haven't seen the Mavs defend like this since early December, if that. The Blazers aren't the greatest offense in the league, but they're good. Pretty good in fact. And Dallas held this pretty good offense to 97.6 efficiency. The Mavericks rotated, closed out and got in the face of seemingly every Portland jumper or move into the paint. If it weren't for the brilliance of LaMarcus Aldridge and the mismatch that Andre Miller can be for J.J. Barea, Dallas might have won this game in a walk, that's how good the overall team defense was. 46.1 percent shooting for the Blazers but the Mavs defense was much, much better than that number.

Offensively, Dallas was doing what they normally do against the Blazers by shooting and shooting well. Dirk opened the game 2-for-4, Kidd started raining threes and even DeShawn Stevenson got in on the act. Not a big coincidence, when Dirk cooled off, so did the offense. Dallas only shot 40 percent from the floor the entire game as it's clear that even with Jason Kidd swearing to a higher power, the Mavs need Dirk to be at normal Dirk levels for the offense to function right. Good news is I don't expect Dirk to have another 7-for-20, six turnover night.


  • I'm not sure what Dirk Nowitzki that was in the first three quarters but I never want to see it again. 5-for-16 and some rough looking jumpers (even for Dirk's awkward style.) Granted, Dirk continuously went into the paint or at least attempted to drive but wasn't getting any sort of treatment from the officials. Predictably, the refs sent Dirk to the line 13 times in the fourth, calling fouls on the exact same plays Dirk was encountering in the first 36 minutes of the game. NBA officiating folks! Still, props must be given to Dirk for not letting his shooting stroke bother his overall game, as he grabbed 10 rebounds and played some OK defense on LaMarcus Aldridge when he was matched up against him. Standing O for our German. 

  • Biggest difference in this game from the previous two Portland games: Turnovers. While the teams were even at 13 apiece, that's a huge victory compared to the Blazers huge turnover differential advantage in the last two match ups. Portland thrives on controlling the ball and winning the turnover battle and creating more shots than its opponent. The Blazers had 76 shots to the Mavs 66 but the Mavericks had 16 more free throw attempts. 

  • Rebounding was the other main issue concerning Dallas heading into this series and once again the Mavs passed with flying colors. Portland only had one more overall rebound (40-39) and offensive rebound (11-10) than Dallas which is once again, nothing spectacular, but huge considering how much the Blazers rely on offensive rebounds. Dirk, as mentioned, really took it upon himself to get into the paint and be physical to control the glass. And Tyson Chandler's tip out in the final seconds led to Jason Kidd's icing three. Great, great stuff.

  • I said earlier that Dallas' defense was great despite the 46 percent shooting from the Blazers. It looks worse when you look deeper. Portland went 15-for-23 at the rim and then 7-for-13 from 16-23 feet, essentially midrange jumpers. The percentages were high, but I believe the Mavs were contesting fairly well and that the Blazers just made their shots. Hopefully Rick Carlisle highlighted those 23 shots at the rim, because while the effort was there for the Mavs D, they really need to do a better job at containing the Blazers and forcing them away from the rim. 

  • Wasn't a fan of the bench watching the game. Even less looking at the box score. Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic combined for 20 points -- a far cry from the bench we saw earlier in February that was putting up close to 60 and 70 points in some contests. Terry looked into the game, but the results weren't there. His early two fouls were awful on his part and it looked like he had his jumper somewhat within grasp, but never had a chance to exploit it. Barea is the most depressing case since he wasn't playing any different than he normally does. He consistently blew by whoever was guarding him, but the Blazers length and height at every position make every defender a prime shot blocker on any Barea attempt. Barea simply couldn't finish among the trees, a shame considering how well he was getting to the cup. Stojakovic looked to be a strong point, making two threes before succumbing in the second half during the Blazers run. Once Peja bricked a completely wide open (and I mean wide open) three halfway through the third quarter, I knew his night was over with. Makes me think what kind of impact Corey Brewer could have had in this game, matching up with Gerald Green and Nicolas Batum as the two had a field day dunking and running past Peja with ease in the second half.

  • Speaking of Barea, as expected, the Portland guards terrorized him in isolations. Andre Miller made a habit of exposing Barea at every chance he got, making a variety of turnaround jumpers a few feet from the basket. Listen, I love Barea's competitiveness and his ability to run the team off the bench, but Carlisle is going to have to figure a way to minimize the damage the Blazer guards do to him when he's in the game. You can't bench him, since he's the back up point. Unfortunately there might not be much the Mavericks can do about the match up at this point instead of riding it out and hoping for the best. Some zone could be tried, but I'm not too much of a fan of zone defense in an NBA playoff game where possessions can't be experimented on.

  • Marcus Camby can rebound like a motherf***er

  • Dallas: 4-of-12 on shots at the rim. Yikes.

  • Double Yikes.

  • Tyson Chandler's impact on this game was noticeable, not necessarily for box score reasons. Even though Aldridge had a fine game of 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting, Chandler played him perhaps the best I've seen him play him so far. He did a great job at contesting and staying up on Aldridge when he faced up from 17 feet out, forcing him to put the ball on the floor. It's a testament to how much Aldridge has grown as a player as he met that challenge head on and took 16 of his 20 shoots from nine feet or closer. Still felt like his impact was moot, especially in the fourth when he only took four shots. Can't expect that to happen in Game 2. Only one shot attempt for Chandler as I feel the Blazers have the respect other teams lacked, failing to leave Chandler at any time in order to help on Dirk or the Mavericks guards. He's gotten their attention, now he and the Mavs have to adjust because Chandler scoring is a good, good thing.

  • Wesley Matthews scored two points and played less than 20 minutes tonight and I'm not sure why. I can't remember Matthews doing anything particularly wrong and I know he wasn't being challenged on defense, guarding Stevenson or Terry for his time out on the court. I think this was more of Portland coach Nate McMillan giving Rudy Fernandez some burn. Fernandez only went 2-for-3 from the field and I think the Mavs lucked out in Fernandez not being agressive enough. He had a clear size advantage over any bench guard but he never took his man into the post and sort of floated throughout the game. Combined with Roy, the Blazer two guards shot 4-for-13, a rough number considering how much of an advantage they had heading into the series, I felt.

  • Brandon Roy looked more like the hobbled Brandon Roy than the All-Star Brandon Roy that the Mavs saw in March. Whatever your allegiance, it's a tragic story as one of the NBA's rising stars is having his career cut short and exploded right in front of us. Roy played 26 worthless minutes tonight and I can't help but wonder if McMillan will hand that share more to Matthews and Fernandez in Game 2. Roy doesn't look to be getting much better. 

Game 2 is Tuesday night, same time. Let's not repeat last year, shall we Dallas?

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1 comment:

  1. It looks like I can safely revert to my old Barea-hating ways. Great finish, though. They looked several times like they were on the verge of folding and stormed back from the ledge.