TOP STORY, KIDD EDITION: There are a few worthy topics here. Do we go with the greatness of Jason Kidd, the 11:09 the Dallas Mavericks went without a made field goal from 4:37 in the third quarter to 5:28 in the fourth, or the fourth-quarter brilliance of Dirk Nowitzki?
We'll start with Jason Kidd.
Against the Spurs in the first round last season, Kidd made a total of nine three pointers, and scored 48 points for the six-game series, leaving people to question whether or not the 17-year veteran was capable of keeping enough in the tank to remain an impact in the playoffs.
In 34:18 against the Blazers, things may have changed.
"Spectacular," Rick Carlisle said in respect to Kidd's play. "We had some guys that didn't play their best games, but Jason Kidd played the game of the year to this point. Every shot he made, every play he made was absolutely essential to us. His leadership is something you can't quantify."
More Carlisle ...
Perhaps you can't "quantify" it, but let us at least peruse his tangible impact.
Through three quarters Jason Kidd stood alone at the offensive end. He'd hit 7-of-11 from the floor, while the rest of the Mavs had combined to go 16-of-45 (35.6 percent). Without his production, Dallas comes nowhere close to the four-point lead they carried into the final period.
Kidd with finish with a season-high 24 points, set a career playoff high with six made three pointers, including a dagger to put the Mavs up seven with 25 seconds to play, along with grabbing five rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block … and only one turnover.
"They want me to be aggressive,'' Kidd said. "We all know that Dirk and Jet are offensive guys and they put the ball up. But, in the playoffs you have to have other guys step up and score and I know that our opponents are going to give me that jump shot and I have to be able to knock it down. Tonight was a good example of that."
Perhaps more than a "good" example, this may have been the perfect example.
With those around him unable to carry their weight for three quarters at the offensive end of the court, Kidd did what he had to do and took the weight upon his own back, where he found a willing set of shoulders to share the load …
TOP STORY, DIRK EDITION: For three quarters, The UberMan was a mere mortal. He hit only 5-of-16 shot attempts for 10 points and seemed both flustered by a lack of calls, including zero trips to the free-throw line, and his errant shot. He was often aggressive and charged into the teeth of a physical defense, or turned to his patented lean-away without success.
This wasn't how things were supposed to go for one of only four players to average 25 points and 10 rebounds over his career in the playoffs (for those with a minimum of 15 games played) … then the fourth quarter arrived with a welcoming smile.
With the game slipping away, and the Blazers building as much as a six-point lead, The UberMan arrived, shedding the mortal disguise worn over the first three periods.
Dirk scored 18 points, including 13-of-13 from the line, to help lift his team from the disappointment of a home playoff game slipping away to a much needed win.
Dallas closed with a 23-9 run, with Dirk contributing 14 … going from down six to winning by eight.
Nowitzki finished with a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds. He also had an uncharacteristic six of the Mavs 13 turnovers … but zero in the final period.
KIDDIRK: Watch the presser. It was just like the game, which featured KIDDIRK scoring 52 of Dallas' 88 points. Kidd handles the first three-fourths of the questions, and then passed to Dirk ...
11:09: Spanning the final 4:37 of the third quarter, and the first 6:32 of the fourth, Dallas did not make a single field goal … and somehow they survived.
Can you say any other recent Mavs team could have persevered through such a circumstance to claim a win? Perhaps … but it's hard not to believe we may have just witnessed what sets this team apart from those.
"This is a big time win for us," Tyson Chandler said. "I know in the past, from what I've seen, these are the kind of games that we have struggled to win. But tonight, to come out in the playoffs, sometimes you have to win on nights when you aren't making every shot and you have to grind it out. For us to come off with a big stop there and we were down six and we go on and make that run, that is huge for our confidence right now."
When the game became a grind, when both teams seemed to amp up their level of physicality, the Mavs did what they had to do to win.
It's only Game 1, and they must continue to do so, but this was a win dominated by "disposition." … that Rick Carlisle petword come to life. We've seen a few media outlets insist that the Mavs got "pushed around.'' Bullshit. Overall, Dallas did not shy away from the challenge at hand, choosing instead to face and overcome it.
THE BLAZERS' ONE STAR: In the first quarter, LaMarcus Aldridge reminded us all of why he's been the center of so much discussion as he scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 7:24 on the court, escorting the Blazers to a 22-21 first-quarter lead.
In the second quarter, Portland began to lean on their star, leaving him on the court for the full 12 minutes … only the results of the first would not be duplicated. Aldridge hit only one of his four attempts for two points as Dallas built a 10-point lead.
After the intermission, Aldridge continued to have his way with the Dallas defense, despite a near constant hand in his face from either Tyson Chandler or Brendan Haywood. The defense wasn't bad; the offense was simply that good. L.A. was clever and smooth. Unstoppable, really.
Aldridge finished with 27 points, six rebounds, one steal, one block and four turnovers … and in the fourth, he was outshined by Dirk, 16 points to six.
The Sunday Morning Donuts will address this theme in great deal, but quickly here: Isn't Dirk being superior to L.A., at least for the moment, a really good reason to pick Dallas in the series?
THE BLAZERS' ‘SECOND STAR': In order to win in the playoffs, a team must have a second star, right? That's the criticism of Nowitzki & The Dirkettes, right?
So … who is the Portland second banana? Which of these guys goes and gets them 20 every night? Andre Miller (more in a moment) gets 18. Is he the second star? Is that all ya got? Brandon Roy scored two points. Two. Is that all ya got?
SIZE MATTERS?: Prior to the game, deep questions lingered over the ability of the Mavs smaller guards to stand up to the Blazers size at the position. Though one game, the results were not completely positive.
Both Jason Terry and JJ Barea were aggressive early, but that did not translate into later success. Only Andre Miller found statistical success for the Blazers with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but that belies the fact that Portland was able to have success by exploiting the matchups with Terry and Barea to keep their offense afloat at times.
Making things worse, neither Terry nor Barea were able to use what advantages they do own at the offensive end.
Barea finished 1-of-7 from the floor for four points and only one assist.
Terry, who the Mavs will need to fulfill his role as the second scorer, managed only 10 points on 2-of-5 shooting.
While noting where they lacked, you must also note that Terry calmly strode to the line with a two-point lead and 1:30 remaining and drilled a pair of free throws to put the Mavs up four … an would do so again to push a four-point lead to six with 11 seconds to play … of course, this also highlights the fact that Terry only had six points with 1:30 to play in a playoff game.
In fairness, though …
For all the acclaim for Portland's size on the perimeter, somebody forgot to consider that those same guys might have shortcomings in terms of guarding Dallas smalls.
In the first half especially, Rudy had no prayer sticking with JJB, who got to the rim at will. Jet also had no problem getting inside, and both those little fellas made a handful of drive-and-kick plays that should've resulted in more Dallas buckets.
In fact, in that first half, during which Dallas owned a 47-37 lead, the Mavs were a few Peja and Dirk missed layups away from making this thing a blowout.
This is promising for Dallas in the sense that there aren't really adjustments to be made here. Portland doesn't seem to have perimeter defenders who can stay in front of Dallas' waterbugs … which means there are matchups there to be won going forward, too.
By the way: The Big Blazer/Small Mav thing didn't work for Portland on the other end, either. It was Jason Terry who frequently found himself guarding people like 6-8 Nicolas Batum, and not even Batum could take advantage of the seeming edge.
FEEL-GOOD HALF: That halftime lead came in spite of the fact that Dirk Nowitzki was only 4-of-12 from the floor for eight points. The UberMan was playing hard, note the five rebounds, but had as many turnovers (four) as converted field goals … and yet Dallas remained up by 10.
You have to feel good about that … right?
The lead wouldn't hold, and may have been deceiving by its mere presence, but you still had to find a bit of comfort there … don't you?
WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN: Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, JJ Barea, Peja Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood combined for 32 points on 9-of-28 field-goal attempts (32.1 percent). These same players averaged 60.9 total points in the regular season.
Is it fair to say we shouldn't expect so little from all of these guys for the rest of the series?
Peja had looks. Next time, he'll knock ‘em down. TY had his hands full on the defensive end (watch that oop to L.A., Tyson!). Marion went at Gerald Wallace with aggression (but not many results) – aggression that should eventually pay off.
Take it, 'Trix:
There's important room for improvement here – after a game Dallas won by a touchdown.
NUMBERS-CRUNCHING: One prominent one that the Mavs need to remind themselves of:. NBA teams that win the first game of a series go on to win the series 79 percent of the time, and before you suggest that Dallas is the sort of postseason flop that stands to ruin even that, know this: The Mavs are historically 10-4 in Game 1's played at home. The Blazers are historically 4-21 in Game 1's played on the road.
FUNDAMENTALS, BOYS: Kidd needs to teach some of his mates – JJB and Jet – the art of not leaving one's feet in anticipation of pretending to be a shot-blocker. Barea and Terry were both victimized by Blazers pump fakes that resulted in Dallas fouls (and helped put Jet in first-half foul trouble).
Is 5-10 JJB going to hang in the air to block the shot of 6-5 swingmen? Kidd gets his hands on the ball as the shooter is still low – or simply puts a hand in the face of the shooter.
Which, when we come to think about it, is middle-school fundamental stuff.
MAVSELLANEOUS: "It's rough,'' said Aldridge. 'Whenever you have control of the game going down the stretch and you got to get it out of your head.' Ahhh, but there's the rub: Maybe Dallas just got IN their head. ... Dallas entered the postseason for the 11th straight year, the second longest streak in the NBA to San Antonio's 14. This also marked the 17th time overall the Mavericks have qualified for the playoffs … Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic have combined to appear in 37 postseasons. Kidd leads the way with 15, with Dirk and Peja not far behind at 11 each … Only two players on the Mavs roster experienced the playoffs for the first time in their NBA careers Saturday night: Corey Brewer and Dominique Jones, neither would see the court … Carlisle twice called immediate timeouts following alley-oop lobs to Aldridge, making it obvious that putting a lid on this is obviously a Dallas point of emphasis … Gerald Wallace obviously wanted very badly to be a take-over guy. But after one game, the Dallas personnel dept. evaluation of him (not a great half-court offensive player, one of the reasons the Mavs have never pulled the trigger on this otherwise gifted athlete) rings true. … DeShawn Stevenson responded to his elevation into the starting lineup with sound perimeter defense – and yeah, tone-setting toughness, too. … … Kidd's late sneak-attack steal on L.A.? Planned. (On his defensive effort and late strip on Aldridge…) "We talked about it during the free throws that I was going to come down on the pass just to give him a different look,'' Kidd saif. "We were on a swing defensively and after talking about it, I knew we could come away with a steal there." ... Know that Dirk's 28/10 is his 66th career double-double, and that he is one of just four players in NBA history (Olajuwon, Baylor and Pettit) to average 25 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs. Doubt him at your own risk.
No matter what question Blazers coach Nate McMillan was asked in the postgame presser, he gave the same answer. Examples?
Q: You made eight more FGs than them but really got hurt from three and fouls...)
A: (In part): " The free throws, I just don't get that. It's hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it's called a little different; 19 to 2 [Dallas vs. Portland FT attempts] in the fourth
quarter. And I felt like we were attacking, and guys really didn't know how to play with the fouls that were being called. A lot of touch fouls; I thought that took the momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter."
Q: (You had so many things going right tonight; does it feel like one that got away?)
"Yeah, well, it's a tie ballgame with 4 minutes to go but before that we're up 6. And, again, I thought we made some stops but they marched to the
free-throw line. Everything [Dallas made in the fourth] was from the three-point line and the free-throw line."
Q: (You guys only put up 81; what did Dallas do defensively?)
A: "Well, we didn't shoot the ball well from the three point line. I thought at times we
had some matchups, but we ended up with 46 points in the paint but only 13
free throws [attempted].''
McMillan is rather transparent here. He's trying to get a whistle in his favor for Tuesday's Game 2. What we say: Portland beat the hell outta Dirk away from the ball, especially. They're lucky Nowitzki didn't get 20 FTs.
THERE GOES THE 0-4 SWEEP: The Mavs have their soiled reputation as an almost-great team,
the only explanation for why outsiders harbor such distrust in what this 57-win team would be able to accomplish against the 47-win Blazers. Picking
Portland in seven means you believe the Blazers will beat a five-point favorite in the road in a Game 7. Picking Portland in four? One prominent NBA
beat writer from Yahoo put that on paper. We joked that the dislike for the Mavs (who've been ousted in Round 1 in three of the last four years) is
such that national writer John Hollinger of ESPN would, if possible, pick "Portland in three.''
‘HEY, I'M YOUNG': It was almost two-and-a-half hours before Saturday's Portland-at-Dallas Game 1 tipoff, and the difference in 38-year-old Jason Kidd was already in evidence. He was clean-shaven, head and face, and his golf tan seemed a bit faded, too. He was also on the floor at that early hour in the day, the only Mav out there in an otherwise largely empty gym. And he was working up a sweat doing the one thing that, by reputation, is a wobble in his otherwise legendary game:
Kidd worked ferociously on an array of jumpshots.
Then the game started. And Dallas' securing of a victory is the result of him working ferociously again on an array of jumpshots – only these actually counted.
"I was ready,'' said Kidd, who shocked the Blazers with 24 points. "The (end-of-regular-season) rest definitely helped. (The Mavs) did a great job of resting me and keeping me fresh and ready. I had my little rest. I got my legs back.''
We were of the opinion that Dallas shouldn't have given him those game-days off last week. Wasn't pushing for the No. 2 seed instead of slipping one spot from that worth it?
After Game 1, Kidd and the Mavs have every right to applaud themselves for their asset management.
Let's check in with Kidd's new/old backcourt mate, DeShawn:
THE FINAL WORD:
This is playoff basketball.
In a position we've seen them fail, Dallas rose from the ashes of a disintegrating game and took the win. ... and a sober attitude about it all.
"This game means nothing,'' Dirk said, punctuating the evening, "if we don't win Game 2."