Last night the Dallas Mavericks took care of business, putting the Portland Trail blazers out of their misery, winning 103-96. Once again Dirk Nowitzki came up large, fueling the win with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Jason Terry was the man coming off the bench, and was the perfect complement to Nowitzki, adding 22 points and 8 assists. This was a HUGE win for the Mavs. HUGE!!! See why after the jump!
For one, the win gets the Mavs a first round victory, a difficult task for this team the past four years. Everyone knows that in three of the past four years, the Mavs were upset in round one, obscuring the tremendous consistency that the Mavs have maintained for over a decade. Yes, I know that it’s not about the regular season. We have a tendency in this country only to look at championships. And Dallas has none. So grabbing this win, and eliminating the Blazers, helps to validate their success and silences their critics for a little while.
For another, they clinched the series on the road, and Portland is very good at home. The Mavs have never been great on the road in the playoffs. And they were 0-4 in Portland this year. The last time they went up to the Northwest, they had a historic collapse. Everyone was watching to see how they would respond here. And things did not look good when this game got underway.
Predictably the Blazers came out with great intensity, led by Gerald Wallace (why couldn’t the Mavs have swung a deal for this guy?). Wallace had 13 of his 32 points in the first period, helping the Blazers open up a sizeable 19-7 to start the game. The first quarter ended with the Mavs facing a 27-19 deficit. The Mavs offense was horrendous, going 8-for-23 from the field, a pathetic 34.8%.
But the Mavs got cooking in the second quarter, sparked by J.J. Barea’s energy, going on a 16-4 run to tie the game. Dallas kept their foot on the gas, surging to a 52-43 lead at the half. And they would never surrender the lead, although the Blazers made a run at the end. Dirk and JET simply refused to let this one get away. Jason Kidd, who only had 7 points for the game, knocked down a clutch three-pointer down the stretch to help seal the deal. Shawn Marion also had a solid game, netting 16 points while snagging 6 boards.
This win proves that the Mavs can, not only finish off an opponent on the road, but hit the clutch shots when it counts. When push comes to shove, this team will not back down. They are not afraid of the moment. Kidd and Nowitzki refused to let things fall apart a second time. Jason Terry can make the big shot. The team has confidence. And they have persistence.
This version of the Dallas Mavericks are dispelling the belief that they are soft. A soft team does not bounce back from two straight road losses, one of which could have been devastating, with two straight wins. A soft team does not fall behind by double digits and keep fighting. A soft team doesn’t continue to hit big shots down the stretch in crisis moments. This team is NOT soft.
This was a HUGE win! And there are some HUGE challenges waiting for this team next. But Dallas Mavericks have proven that they have what it takes to meet them. Does this mean that they will be able to dethrone the two-time defending champs? I see no reason why not! We will have to wait until Monday to see. The Mavs have three days off to rest and to prepare for the Los Angeles Lakers. All I can say is, beat LA!