- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
PORTLAND, Ore. -- There isn't a better road team in the NBA than the Dallas Mavericks, except when it really matters.
"It's only been two games," Jason Kidd said, referring to the Mavs' losses at the Rose Garden this series.
Well, it was also three games at the AT&T Center during last year's first round. And three games at the Pepsi Center the previous postseason. And 18 of the last 20 playoff road games.
Not that the Mavs have any interest in discussing their recent playoff history, particularly on the road.
"It's time for us to go out and get this thing done," Jason Terry said. "We will. We've played well enough to win those two games. We just hadn't done it."
Hey, it's tough to win playoff games in hostile environments. However, the Mavs' run of postseason road futility is mystifying, considering this is a franchise that had the NBA's best road record in three of the last five regular seasons.
The Mavs' spring travel woes started with the Miami meltdown in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, when they blew a 13-point lead with 6:42 remaining to give the Heat life, eventually leading to the cancellation of parade plans in downtown Dallas. It continued during last week's 0-for-2 trip to Portland, when the Trail Blazers rallied from a 23-point deficit in the final 13-plus minutes to win Game 4. There have been plenty of regular ol' tough losses and a handful of humiliating no-shows, most notably a 25-point loss in the 67-win Mavs' win-or-go-fishin' Game 6 against Golden State in 2007.
OK, you get the point. So does Kidd.
"We've got to find a way to win," Kidd said. "If you're going to win championships, you've got to win on the road."
The Mavs' only two playoff road wins since clinching their NBA Finals berth in Phoenix came in San Antonio in 2009. Not coincidentally, that's the only playoff series the Mavs have won in the last five years.
That can change Thursday night. Game 6 at the rowdy Rose Garden would be a great time to end the trend.
It's not a must-win game, even though that's what Kidd called it before boarding the plane for the four-hour flight to Portland. The Mavs can win this series without beating the Blazers away from the American Airlines Center.
But they can't beat the Lakers, the two-time defending champs the Mavs would almost certainly see in the second round, without winning at least one game at the Staples Center. And the odds of that happening increase if the Mavs have the reassurance of winning a playoff road game, plus the extra couple days of rest they'd earn in the process -- time off that'd be especially beneficial to the 38-year-old Kidd.
Kidd, of course, can't be blamed for the beginning of these road blues. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are the only players from that Finals flop remaining on the Mavericks' roster. Jose Juan Barea, a benchwarmer at the time, is the only other player left from the top-seeded team that lost to the 42-win Warriors in '07.
But the Mavs traded for Kidd in large part to solve this problem. He was the tough-minded, savvy, poised point guard the Mavs needed to close out playoff wins on the road.
So we were told the day the blockbuster deal with the New Jersey Nets went down, when then-coach Avery Johnson squawked that he "finally had a quarterback." So we had seen when Kidd carried an otherwise mediocre Nets team to consecutive Finals in 2002 and 2003.
We're still waiting for Kidd to prove that theory right in a Mavericks uniform. Dallas is 2-12 in road playoff games with Kidd; in those contests, he is averaging 9.8 points, 6.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers while shooting 41.6 percent from the floor.
The tough-minded, savvy, poised point guard failed to get Nowitzki involved in the offense, dribbled the ball off his leg for a turnover and missed a 3-pointer so badly it hit the backboard on the opposite side of the rim down the stretch of the Mavs' last road game. He performed like a wide-eyed kid, not future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, while the Blazers and their fans cranked up the pressure during crunch time.
Kidd isn't the player he was five or 10 years ago, but he's still plenty capable of clutch performances. He has had many since returning to the Mavericks, a list that should begin with his last-minute 3 to beat the Celtics in Boston this season.
Now it's time for Kidd to come up clutch on the road when it really matters.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
16hMichael C. Wright
4hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
5hMatt Walks, ESPN.com