Mavericks' experience paying off late
Veteran group has been at its best in fourth quarters and has put the Blazers in 2-0 hole
DALLAS -- Perhaps I ought to begin with a prediction revision. Portland in six ain't gonna happen.
Not after the Mavs' statement-making 101-89 win in Game 2.
Maybe we've underestimated these Dallas Mavericks, who might be the only 57-win No. 3 seed to have an underdog mentality entering a matchup against a franchise that hasn't won a playoff series in more than a decade.
There is a 94 percent chance that the Portland Trail Blazers' playoff series win drought, which dates to 2000, will last at least another year. That's how often teams that take a 2-0 lead have won the series in NBA history.
Of course, the Mavs have been the exception before. In fact, the last time they opened a series with a pair of home wins was the 2006 NBA Finals, and there's really no need to remind folks of what followed.
But horrendous recent postseason history has nothing to do with these Mavs. They proved that by beating Danny Crawford, by golly!
Whoops. Sorry about that. That was an unnecessary cheap shot to both the Mavs and the refs.
The officiating crew led by Crawford -- the man whose mere presence seemed to ensure playoff misery for the Mavs -- had nothing to do with the outcome. If there was a Crawford curse, which would be a kind and gentle way to rationalize the Mavs losing 16 of their previous 17 games worked by the veteran ref, it didn't matter Tuesday night.
The Mavs won this game the way they plan to win many more this spring. They did it with stingy defense (37 points allowed in the second half), selfless and efficient offense (20 assists and only six turnovers) and the kind of veteran poise that should be expected from a bunch of NBA greybeards (28-17 advantage in fourth quarter scoring).
And they didn't feel the need to puff out their chests after protecting their home court. The Mavs, first-round losers in three of the past four years, don't feel like they've proven anything yet.
"Nothing that we didn't already know," said Jason Terry, who made a positive impact despite scoring only 10 points. "We're a good, solid, veteran team. Defense is what we've built this whole season on, and we've just got to continue to do it."
The Mavs' longest-tenured veterans did the heavy lifting in this win.
Jason Kidd -- the geezer Dirk Nowitzki joked had been in the league for 25 seasons -- abused the Blazers for the second consecutive game. The refreshed 38-year-old, who had a regular-season high of 21 points, is averaging 21 for the series after scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added eight assists with no turnovers.
Small forward Peja Stojakovic, the 13-year vet who signed midseason with the Mavs for the league minimum, produced at almost a point-per-minute pace in Game 2. He pumped in 21 points -- matching a career playoff high with five 3-pointers on 10 attempts -- in 27 minutes.
And Dirk delivered down the stretch again after struggling through three quarters, just like Saturday night. He had 14 of his 33 points in the fourth Tuesday night, coming on the heels of 18 of 28 in the final frame in Game 1.
You want to pinpoint the difference in this series? Sure, Kidd deserves a ton of credit, as does the Mavs' dedication to defense. But it comes down to the go-to guys. LaMarcus Aldridge, the skinny kid from Seagoville, Texas, who blossomed into an NBA star this season, certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. He's averaging 25.5 points on 55 percent shooting in the two games.
But Dirk is the dude who has gotten it done with the game on the line. In the two fourth quarters, Nowitzki has a 32-9 scoring edge on Aldridge.
That shouldn't be surprising, even for those of us who predicted another first-round flameout for the Mavs. Aldridge has been a go-to guy since December, when Brandon Roy (remember him?) had to go under the knife on both knees. Dirk has been doing this for more than a decade, having long ago established himself as one of the NBA's elite closers.
But Dirk, depth and defense weren't enough to eliminate all the Dallas doubters. Not that Dirk blames us.
"The only thing [to make] that doubt go away is ultimately if we win it all," Nowitzki said. "I understand that. We had our chance there in '06 and unfortunately came up a little short."
The Mavs will most likely come up a little short again this season. But not in this series.
And, really, who knows? Man, if the Mavs can win a playoff game with Danny Crawford working, anything seems possible.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Follow him on Twitter.
2011 NBA PLAYOFFS: DALLAS VS. PORTLAND
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