The Dallas Mavericks held their home-court advantage, maximizing their opportunities, and sending the Portland Trail Blazers home with a 101-89 loss. Concerns about referee Danny Crawford, who officiating almost seems to guarantee Dallas losses, were unnecessary as officiating was not a factor. Blazers coach Nate McMillan had no reason to whine following this loss, except about his team’s inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki in crunch time.
Once again the game was close with neither team able to pull away from the other for three quarters. The Blazers jumped out to an early lead and threatened to blow the game open several times. Fortunately for Dallas, despite their slow start and throwing up enough bricks to build a new arena, the Blazers were building their own house. Yet the Blazers began the game, holding to their coach’s declaration of aggression. Gerald Wallace attacked the basket repeatedly, drawing fouls and scoring points. Despite the hot shooting of Wallace, the scoring of LaMarcus Aldridge, and the resurregance of Wesley Matthews, the Blazers held a slim 52-50 at the half.
This was thanks in large part to the hot shooting of Peja Stoyakovic. Peja scored 10 of his points in the first half, helping to keep Dallas close. Peja put up 11 more in the second half, knocking down a sick 5 three-pointers to give him 21 huge points off the bench.
Stoyakovic was not the only hot hand for the Mavs. Jason Kidd continued his hot shooting from Game 1, going 7-for-11, including an outstanding 3-for-6 from downtown, for 18 points. Kidd had been receiving plenty of blame for his poor shooting down the final stretch of the regular season, leading many to believe that the Mavericks would be quickly disposed off in the playoffs. But Kidd seems to have been rejuvenated, benefitting from extra rest. In fact, it was Kidd who hit a big three to open the second half, giving the Mavs a lead that they would not reliquish.
Carlisle is looking like a genius after making that call, even though it may have cost the team a chance at the second seed. Kidd also had 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki led the team with 33 points, despite another poor shooting performance, hitting only 9 of his 22 shots. It was Nowitzki’s ability to drive to the hoop and draw contact that allowed the Mavs to seal the deal in the final quarter. Dirk was awarded 17 free throw attempts, by far the most in the game, while knocking down 15 of them. Nowitzki may need to change his name to “the Closer” as he scored the team’s last 11 points to finish off Portland. Nowitzki also contributed to the win by grabbing 7 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.
Jason Terry was the only other Mav to hit double-digits in points, adding 10. But this does not tell the whole story. Terry’s entrance into the game provided a burst of energy and the Mavs quickly went on a scoring run to prevent the Blazers from getting too far away.
The Mavs defense continues to be a force, which has to make Rick Carlisle smile. The Blazers scored 52 points in the first half, including 28 in the second quarter. This was due, in part, to Tyson Chandler getting into early foul trouble on two ticky tack fouls. But in the second half the Mavs tighten things up, holding the Blazers to a paltry 37 total points.
The Mavs will need to bring that intensity to Portland as the series shifts to the great Northwest on Thursday night. You can’t help but believe that if Shawn Marion and Jason Terry start hitting some shots, and Nowitzki can start knocking down jumpers, that the Mavs should be able to close this series out on the road. Dallas has played well on the road all season and there is no reason to think that trend cannot, or will not, continue in Rip City.