"I really try to approach the game like every other by being aggressive,'' said Peja, a pre-trade deadline Dallas Mavericks acquisition who tied his career playoff best with five treys and had 21 points as Dallas takes a 2-0 lead in the series, its first such postseason edge since 2006. "Playing with Dirk, J-Kidd and Jet on the floor, they draw so much attention on the floor that we can move the ball around and get good opportunities."
Dallas has an opportunity to advance beyond the second round for just the second time in five years despite its high-seed history thanks to the veterans Peja cited. Dirk Nowitzki dominated the clutch fourth quarter. Jason Kidd followed up what Portland considered an improbable Game 1 with 24 points with 18 more here. Jason Terry came off the bench for 10, joining Peja and JJ Barea and in helping the Mavs to a 39-11 bench-points edge over Portland (which got zero bench points in the second half).
No, there is not one designated "second banana'' in Dallas.
"We've been doing that second scorer by committee,'' said Nowitzki, the first banana who continued to cement his rep as an all-time playoff stud with 33 points, including 14 points in the fourth quarter and Dallas' final 11.
Dirk now has 32 points in the last two fourth quarters in this best-of-seven series.
Meanwhile, the Blazers cannot seem to come up with a legit "Robin'' to help Lamarcus Aldridge, who scored 24 but was alone in trying to stem the tide of a Dallas team that is 44-4 when it scores 100-plus points. Portland tries to grind it out, but Dallas was too efficient to be taken out of its game here.
Also unable to block Dallas' move to 2-0: The NBA's conspiratorial decision to assign Dallas nemesis Danny Crawford as the lead referee for this game. Portland coach Nate McMillan was upset enough with the Game 1 officiating to issue a gripe that got him fined $35,000 …but it also got him a referee with an uncanny knack for supervising Mavs' playoff losses.
True fact: Up until recently, the official bio photo of Danny Crawford on the NBA website portrayed him embroiled in a Mavs argument. He must be so proud … of the fact that going into Tuesday, when he refereed a Dallas playoff game, the Mavs were 2-16.
The Mavs were losers of 16 of 17 when Crawford works their playoff games. The notable Mavs win under Crawford's watch was in the 2006 Phoenix series, a
Dallas blowout victory in which Dirk scored 50. (Opinion: If The UberMan scores 50, not even Danny Crawford can influence the outcome.) In the infamous
2006 NBA Finals, guess who worked Game 3 against the Heat, when Dwyane Wade was allowed to shoot as many FTs (18) as the entire Mavs team made, all
leading to Dallas' two-point loss? That would be Danny Crawford. And in Game 6, when the Mavs lost by three points?And Wade shot 21 free throws, two
fewer than the number shot by the entire Mavs team?
Danny Crawford strikes again. … and again. … and again.
But not this time. During the bulk of the decade of the 2000's, the Mavs won 59.77 percent of their playoff games. … but when Dan Crawford refereeed, they won one out of 17.
The coin finally landed on "heads.''
One member of the organization tells me the Danny Crawford ghost is now exorcised. In a game the NBA probably wishes the Blazers had won (extended drama and expanded revenue), Dallas was simply too good to allow the outcome to fall into the hands of a nemesis.
Instead, it fell into the hands of a hero.
"His shot-making was great and very timely, but his defense was better,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of Peja. "He just was really solid. He didn't let anybody drive by him all night, which was huge, and he just played a terrific all-around game.''
So Peja is the second banana?
"We're never sure which two or three guys may or may not get hot,'' Rick said, "but we need contributions from a lot of different guys on a nightly basis to be successful. And that's what we got tonight."