DONUT 1: What We Said: The Dallas Mavericks have had trouble slowing down Aldridge, but at least they'll have two healthy bodies to throw at him in Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, something they haven't had in their two losses to the Blazers, as Chandler missed one game and Haywood missed the other. Meanwhile, the Blazers haven't done much to slow down Nowitzki, either. His points-per-game may not be as impressive as Aldridge's, 21.7 for Dirk compared to 27.8 for Aldridge. However, this isn't a symptom of better defense, note that Dirk is hitting 52.5 percent of his shots against the Blazers, only of fewer shots. Even the most pessimistic of Mavs' fans can view this as nothing worse than a wash … and most would probably admit that they wouldn't trade Dirk for Aldridge for this series if given the chance.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Bingo. Except for allowing a couple of oops to L.A., the Mavs came away believing that his 27 points were earned due to his terrific talent and his clever-and-smooth bag of tricks.
But Aldridge still isn't Dirk.
Maybe he will be someday. Or next year. Or heck, maybe on Tuesday. But Nowitzki survived his 5-of-16 shooting through three quarters before elevating himself to his usual playoff level: 18 points in the fourth alone. Twelve straight in the quarter. And 28 for the game, his 28/10 reinforcing what basketball historians know: In the playoffs, it's Hakeem and Elgin and Pettit and Dirk.
"Just really kept on plugging,'' Said Dirk of his approach. "I didn't have a really good game going -- they were physical and played me pretty well, I turned the ball over some. But for this team I gotta keep going, everyone was telling me, 'Keep attacking and things will start happening your way.' And that's what happened."
Said Marcus Camby: "Dirk came alive."
Hey, it's spring. He pretty much always does.
DONUT 2: What We Said: If Jason Terry can't correct his playoff failures of the past, obviously the Mavs are going to face problems. Hopefully someone is letting Terry know that the playoffs are essentially just the fourth quarter of the season, and reminding him that "the fourth quarter is his time.''
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: It's one of the areas that gives Dallas optimism for Game 2: Jet's head was screwed on, and he will have much, much bigger nights. Start with the head: Every moment he wasn't in the game, he was marching around his corner of the floor, by the bench, encouraging a Rowdy, Loud and Proud crowd. And when he was in the game? He shot just 2-of-5 through three quarters and then pops up a bit in the fourth with five points to total 10. But he didn't take but one ill-advised shot (and he made it). And he did a nice job playing and overplaying on defense when guarding bigger guys like Roy and Batum (neither of whom did anything against him). Jet's infamous impatience didn't happen here.Maybe patience can pay off as he waits for Game 2.
DONUT 3: What We Said: Is point differential important? Because the point differential for the year is +4.2 for the Mavs and +1.5 for the Blazers and after the All-Star Break it is a +6.2 for Dallas and +3.2 for Portland so …
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Woj at Yahoo picked Portland in 4. (So ridiculous that his fellow writers were tweeting him wondering if it was a typo or a joke.) Lots of people picked Portland in 7. (Nonsensical, in the sense that if all you have to do is bet your house on a winner, not against the spread, there is no way you are betting your house on a road team and a 5-point 'dog.) But we save our deepest chuckles for Blazers fan/ESPN "scientist'' John Trollinger, who has been telling us for years that Point Differential is the Holy Grail and that Dallas' traditional weakness there is PROOF that Dallas' record is a mirage.How can a critic have it both ways? Either Point Diff matters or it doesn't, right? Or do the rules change of the impartial scientist isn't actually impartial?
Screw Point Differential. Believe your eyes. Or, if they can't be trusted, believe Las Vegas. Five-point favorites are generally superior to five-point underdogs, you know?
DONUT 4: What We Said: For all their perceived dominance over the Mavs guards, which we're not entirely denying, the only Portland guard to have consistently hurt Dallas this season has been Matthews. Against Dallas, Andre Miller is averaging 9 points on 41.2 percent shooting. Fernandez isn't any better at 6.8 points while hitting only 36.4 percent of his shots. Yes, Roy had his 21-point game, but never scored more than 11 in the 14 games after, and in his other two contests against Dallas he averaged only 6.5 points on 35.7 percent shooting.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Miller was strong offensively, with 18 points and six assists. I mean, about three times as strong as I predicted he'd be. But Brandon Roy appeared to return to being a shadow of what he was pre-double-knee surgery. He couldn't guard Kidd on the perimeter. He couldn't post-up on Jet and others. He never once really broke anybody down. Roy was 1-of-7 for two points.Oh, and speaking of two points: That's what young Wes gave Portland.
DONUT 5: What We Said: The Blazers get over four more shots per game at the rim than Dallas (24.5-20.2). While we're on the subject, the Mavs get more short to mid range shots from 3-15 feet (19-18) but take more long 2's and 3's as well. From 16 feet out, the Mavs take 39.5 shots on a per game average (9 th most by the way) while Portland takes about 38 shots from 16 feet and beyond. … Can the Mavs get some easy baskets?
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: You know, in the first half, Dallas got to the rim at will. They just didn't finish. Hey, if Dirk and Peja convert on back-to-back layup tries in the second quarter, the Mavs roll to a double-digit lead ...
Portland coach Nate McMillan is bitching about the foul calls given Dallas, but that happened for a reason: Dallas' offense initiated the late action at the rim. Yeah, the Mavs attempted 19 3's. But they also attempted 29 FTs.
Dallas got superstar calls (Dirk especially, of course, who shot 13 FTs, the same number of the entire Portland team). Dallas earned those by going to the rim.
DONUT 6: What We Said: Late in the year, we all saw Dallas have a problem with turnovers. Possessions get more valuable in the slower pace of the playoffs and this is particularly magnified against Portland, which played the slowest pace in the league this year. Portland also limited its opponents to the fewest shot attempts in the NBA this season, in part through pace but in part through forcing turnovers, the fourth most per game in the NBA. Value the ball, Mavs.
How That Worked Out For Us
And The Mavs:
Only six turnovers in the first half. Kidd in control, slow pace, Portland held to 37 points. Then came an 11-minute stint during which Kidd got some rest, and the JJB/Jet backcourt combo started coughing it up. But in the end? Just 13 turnovers, a number that would really shrink if Dirk himself wouldn't have accounted for six of them.
And again, this is one of those "Are you counting on that happening again?'' issues. If Portland's plan is to rely on Dirk being a screw-up, well, good luck with that.
DONUT 7: What We Said: Things have changed with the insertion of DeShawn Stevenson, who stands at a physical 6-5. Anytime you rely upon Terry and Barea for key rotation minutes, you're going to be small, but replacing the slender Beaubois for the strength of Stevenson is certainly a significant change. The concern is not alleviated completely, and there remains no one Portland is putting on the court that either Barea or Terry can defend consistently, at least not that we've seen yet.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Well, brilliantly, really. D-Steve was slated to play maybe 10 minutes. But some foul trouble for Jet moved him to 19 minutes, and DeShawn was on the money. Right from the jump, he pushed Portland into its own foul trouble. He made an early 3 -- ah, tone-setting -- and he actually looks like a puzzle piece for this team that doesn't have to lose a personal matchup even with someone with Roy's rep.
This is on Rick Carlisle here. A button well-pushed.
DONUT 8: What We Said: Experience matters. Or, at least, it better.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Dallas players have 576 postseason games combined. That's the fifth most of any of the 16 playoff teams.
The Blazers? They have 186 combined playoff games. (And the franchise, in the last decade, has zero series wins). That's 14th of the 16 teams. Does experience matter? Go ask Batum (1-of-7 from the arc). Go ask Matthews (as many TO's, three, as he had assists, rebounds and points combined).
DONUT 9: What We Said: Portland grabbed 29.5 percent of available offensive rebounds this year, third-best in the league. Meanwhile, Dallas was seventh as the Mavs secured nearly 75 percent of available defensive rebounds. It can be very demoralizing to play great defense for 20 seconds, force a miss and then not get the board. Dallas needs to win this battle.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Big Wood was inspired, no doubt. He played 15 minutes and grabbed six boards -- four of them offensive. TY was good for nine rebounds, four of those offensive. This is a subtle thing, but think about that: In a very low possession game (by Portland's design) Dallas' centers combined to provide eight second-chance opportunities.
This isn't going to be about being better than Aldridge. (Unless you are named "Dirk.'') It is going to be about hanging with Camby, who had 18 rebounds but didn't show himself to be an offensive threat.
DONUT 10: What We Said: Maybe the Mavs don't have a second banana. They'll have to win with four guys who are, maybe, third bananas. But what about Portland? Where is Portland's "second superstar''?
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: When Kidd scores in double-figures, the Mavs are 25-6. There are similar numbers when TY doesn't something statistically stellar, when Jet does, when Marion does ... If Andre Miller is going to be Portland's "second star,'' L.A. is going to be very lonely over the course of the next couple of weeks.
On Kidd's 24 (and 6-of-10 from the arc), Dirk said, "J-Kidd was big. A phenomenal game by J-Kidd."
Now, Portland can argue that Kidd won't repeat that performance. But this is first-guy-to-four. At least Kidd's done something once that no Blazer not named "LaMarcus'' has ever done.
DONUT 11: What We Said: Aldridge played the second-most minutes in the whole league, so is there a fatigue factor there that might be evident at the end of games? Well, Aldridge did shoot 45.6 percent in fourth quarters, his poorest shooting quarter. He also shot only 40.2 percent in the fourth quarter in games played from March 1 ‘til the end of the year.
How That Worked Out For Us And The Mavs: Maybe it's not about Portland's fourth quarters. Maybe it's about Dallas'. The Mavs were down six late. And then -- in reverting to form from the first two-thirds of the season, and the previous two years around here, Carlisle/Kidd/Jet/Dirk combined to close like few other NBA teams can.Keep the game in range. Execute with unbeatable precision to close. Jet didn't need to even be a part of this ... heck, why take that risk when nobody can guard Dirk?
Said Jet: "It wasn't frustrating at all, it was encouraging actually because we weren't scoring and neither were they. We were locking up pretty good. When they did get a couple of baskets and took the lead, we held our ground and we continued to communicate. And we knew if we got them to a close game anywhere in the game, our guys could do good things."
DONUT 12: What We Said: Portland is a different team at home than they are on the road. At home, they are a mighty 30-11. On the road they fall to 18-23. And, during the four-game regular season series, the home team did not lose. Dallas cannot afford to let a home game get away from them. We can praise the league-best road record of the Mavs, tied at 28-13 with the Miami Heat, but in a playoff series where you hold home-court advantage, you place yourself on dangerous grounds if you must rely on "stealing" a road win to take the series.
How That Worked Out For Us
And The Mavs:
Danger averted. For one game.
Check the rallying cry from the Dallas room:
"Obviously a big win, but this game means nothing if we don't win Game 2," said Dirk.