Just two days after one of the most embarrassing of collapses, the Dallas Mavericks returned home, looking to regain the series lead. Things did not start out well for the boys from Big D, trailing 20-15 after the first quarter. Tensions were running high because of the recent playoff history of this franchise. Many are expecting this team to roll over and quit. But the Mavs showed that this is a different team with a much more resilient heart.
While Dirk Nowitzki is the face of the franchise, it appears that it is Tyson Chandler who is it’s heart. Chandler came out with energy, fire, and simply refused to lose. Chandler, with 14 points and a franchise playoff record 20 rebounds, led the Mavs to a convincing 93-82 victory. Much of the credit for this win goes to Chandler and a conversation that he had before the game began with coach Rick Carlisle. Chandler asked to be freer to roam, instead of playing primarily on the weak side, in order to grab more boards and be more aggressive. Carlisle gave his blessing.
The entire team, followed Chandler’s lead, playing with more energy, urgency, and intensity than the Blazers, evidenced by the fact that the Mavs outrebounded the Blazers 49-37, despite the Blazers height advantage. The Mavs offense was much more balanced, with four players in double-figures, led by 25 from Nowitzki. It was Nowitzki, with 11 of his points coming in the third quarter, that led the charge in the second half to take command of the game, with a 15-5 run. This time the team refused to give it back.
Jason Kidd only scored 4 points, but had a game-high 14 assists, one more than the entire Portland team. Kidd’s presence on the court and what he means to the Mavs offense was obvious from the start. With a slim 15-12 lead in the first quarter, Kidd went to the bench with 2:56 left in the quarter. The Blazers then went on 8-0 run to close the quarter and take the 20-15 lead. When Kidd returned, with 8:18 left in the half, the Mavs still trailed 25-20. The team turned up the offense, going on a 7-2 run, to take the lead 44-43 at the half.
Shawn Marion also netted 14 points while Jason Terry added 20 coming off the bench. Mavericks fans can finally exhale a little bit. The team now has two opportunities to put the Blazers away. The teams now have two days off before game 6 to travel and rest up.
It will be interesting to see if the Mavericks can play with the same intensity and execute with the same passion in the Rose Garden as they did last night. You can be sure that the Blazers, knowing that their season is on the brink, will come out ready and fighting. I think the Mavs will be ready. The confidence they gained from imposing their will last night will carry over to game 6 and will translate to a win. We shall see…