The Dallas Mavericks took a big first step in proving all the naysayers wrong, winning game one against the Portland Trail Blazers 89-81. Dirk Nowitzki once again proved why he is the greatest player in franchise history, coming up big in crunch time, scoring 18 of his 28 points in the final quarter.
This was an entertaining game as neither team was able to pull away from the other. Back and forth they went until the fourth quarter. That is when Dirk took over. Nowitzki scored 12 consecutive points as the Mavs took the lead late in the fourth quarter and they never looked back. Jason Kidd helped to seal the deal by sinking a huge three point shot, his sixth of the night. These two veterans combined to score 52 of the team’s total 89, a whopping 58% of the team’s points. Nowitzki also led the team with ten rebounds.
While Nowitzki struggled from the field for most of the game, Jason Kidd was hot all night. The future Hall of Famer hit 9-of-14 shots for 24 points, argubly his best game of the year. Kidd also had four assists and two steals. Even thought the Mavs were out-shot from the field hitting only 41% of their shots while Portland hit 46%, it was the shooting from beyond the arc that was the major difference. The Mavs hit 10-of-19 from downtown while the Blazers hit only 2-of-16.
Free-throw shooting also played apart in deciding the outcome as the Mavs went to the charity stripe 29 times, hitting 25 of them. Portland only had 13 free-throws, connecting on 9.
While the Blazers shortened their bench, going with an eight man rotation, the Mavs played ten men, with Brian Cardinal playing less than a full minute. Of note, Roddy Beaubois did not play due to an injured left foot. DeShawn Stevenson got the starting nod at shooting guard once again. In a bit of a surprising move, coach Rick Carlisle decided not to play guard Corey Brewer. Brewer had been playing well when given the opportunity at the end of the season. One can only wonder if Brewer is in Carlisle’s doghouse as there appears to be no reason for this decision.
Whatever the rationale behind that move, it worked. Stevenson played only 19 minutes and added only 5 points and 1 assist. This is not really surprising as he is certainly not the top scoring option. Jason Terry played the bulk of the minutes at two guard, scoring 10 points, the only other Mav to score in double digits in addition to Kidd and Nowitzki.
Most likely the team will need more scoring from Terry and Shawn Marion in the rest of the series. Jason Kidd is simply not going to score 24 points each game. Peja Stoyakovic added 6 points off the bench, hitting a couple of big three’s, early in the second quarter but did nothing else. The Mavs will need more from him as well.
Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood did their job, combining for 15 rebounds and three blocks. They will need to do a little better job on LaMarcus Aldridge who scored 27 points to lead Portland.
Overall, this was a good first step for the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki scored a lot of points while having a rough night. You have to think he will hit more of his shots in the next game. JET and Marion had off nights, as did Peja. That won’t happen again either. Yet the Mavs found a way to win. They persisted and got the win. The teams don’t play again until Tuesday, which is good for this veteran squad. Kidd can rest those legs and Roddy can continue to heal. Things are looking good in Big D, for now. Let’s hope they stay that way!