Monday, April 18, 2011

Still Underdoggin' It

An interesting thing happened on Saturday night. The Mavericks won their opening game against the apparent Hall of Fame bound 2011 Trail Blazers. Kidding and jokes aside, there's no doubt Dallas has its match up problems with Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge's still a terror, Andre Miller exploited every guard not named Jason Kidd or DeShawn Stevenson and it seems the Blazers have the capable bodies to give Dirk trouble. Those aren't going away.

But I can't help but chuckle as the consensus is that Dallas stole a game at home and the trends that led to the Game 1 victory are very unlikely to continue. I'm not here to disagree with that: if Jason Kidd hits six pointers in another game this series, I'll eat my hat. I just find it remarkable that Dallas found a way to win and not ease any doubts going forward in this series. If the Blazers had held onto the six-point lead, Dallas might of self-destructed with all the negative press and premature "series over" statements.

Which is fine by me. I'll take the underdog roll and it worked well in 2006. I hate to focus on something that really we have no idea if it's a factor not on the court, but I'd like to think Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler along with Jason Kidd are stewing in the locker room, using the playoffs as an outlet to prove there is something different this season.

Other than that, there are some reasons why I believe the Mavericks can take Game 2, despite the shortcomings, holes and match up problems that came to fruition in Game 1. No. 1, Dirk Nowitzki is not shooting 7-for-20 again. And if he does shoot poorly again, he isn't having six turnovers. That I can guarantee. I was very surprised at the effectiveness Aldridge had on disrupting Dirk's line of sight and ability to raise up for his one-legged fadeaways. What made things worse was Aldridge's ability to stop Dirk from converting in the paint and after Dirk became frustrated with a few calls that were iffy, he stopped being as aggressive throughout the second and third quarters and settled for jumpers. Dirk's game usually follows the same pattern: hit a couple of face up jumpers, get the defense to bite on pump fakes, get to the line, then use that aggressiveness on defending his jumper to get closer to the rim. It's like clockwork.

On Saturday, Dirk opened with a couple of face-up and catch-and-shoot makes, but then preceded to get ambushed when he ventured closer to the rim. Flustered with the lack of calls, Dirk resorted to some contested fades which he can nail, but just seemed out of rhythm and focus. Again, it's a testament to Dirk's game and evolution as a complete player to go back to attacking again in the fourth, when the team needed offense in the worst way, and continued to rebound (10 for the game.)

Another reason to remain optimistic in Game 2 is the defense. Taking away the fact that Portland converted well at the rim, Dallas did a reasonable job to limit the scoring to only Aldridge and Miller. In the fourth, Aldridge was held to only four shot attempts and while that doesn't solely rest on the laurels of the Mavs' defense, there was at least the effort and drive to play better defense then what was seen after the All-Star break. Granted, some of this has to do with Portland coach Nate McMillan playing Brandon Roy too many minutes and not adjusting, but still, there's SOMETHING to build on with the Mavs defense. Holding a team under 100 points per 100 possessions doesn't all come from the other team's lack of execution. There's some defense in there somewhere from Game 1 and if the Mavericks can dig it out completely and polish off the dust and grime, the plane ride to Portland can be a lot more enjoyable to the minds of Rick Carlisle and company.

Be our friend! Join The Rice of Passage Facebook page! 

Want to tell me how dumb I am? Follow my dumb thoughts? Then check me out on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Up 2-0 ... Dirk didn't have a bad night and the defense held them to under 100 again - it's like you had a crystal ball when you wrote this on Monday.