(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers - Dallas leads series 2-0
The Mavericks seem to have things rolling as their first round series with the Trailblazers moves to Portland with Dallas leading 2-0. Dirk Nowitzki has led the team in scoring by making his living on the free throw line. Jason Kidd is averaging 21 points per game after reaching 20 points just twice all season. Even their defense has shown up, as they have stifled the Blazers late in both games.
The challenge is to keep that roll going on the road. Dallas led the league in road wins this season (and did the same the season before), but two of their 13 losses came in their two visits to Portland, and the playoffs … oh the playoffs. The Mavs’ overall playoff woes – one series win since 2006 – have mirrored their stuggles winning on the road. They started those 2006 playoffs well on the road, winning both games in Memphis and winning two in San Antonio, including the decisive nailbiter in Game 7. They even won two of three in Phoenix, including the game that sent them to the NBA Finals for the first time.
Just as the franchise’s fortunes seemed to shift ever since two home wins to start those Finals, Dallas has almost completely stopped winning on the road. Three straight losses in Miami, including two heartbreakers, started them on a streak during which they have lost 16 of 18. They lost all three in their historic first-round upset loss to the Warriors in 2007, all three in their first-round ouster at the hands of the Hornets in 2008, and all three last year in their first-round loss to the Spurs. In each series they lost just one home game, but that one was enough because of their complete in ability to pull out anything on the road.
Their only two wins in this stretch came in San Antonio in 2009, not surprisingly in their one series win in the past four playoffs. They were back to their old tricks after that, going 0-3 in Denver in the Conference Semifinals and losing that series in five.
With home court they may be able to squeak past the Blazers this round without a road win, but until they find their game outside of Dallas they will not return to the late rounds of the NBA playoffs. Tonight is their first opportunity this season, as they have Portland on their heels with two strong finishes and surprising shooting by Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic. Nowitzki’s terrific free throw shooting has masked his unusually low 38% from the field.
Tonight he will look to improve on that number, and the Mavs will hope to stay hot from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, they will hope that they can continue to survive against LaMarcus Aldridge with one man, allowing them to slow Portland’s slashers. They will also hope to once again to keep their smaller guards from being exposed against the Blazers’ athletic, physical backcourt.
It should be choppy, it should be tight, and it could shed a lot of light on just how far Dallas is prepared to go in these playoffs. Tip is 9:30 CT on TNT. Also, be sure to check out Mavs Moneyball to release your inevitable game stress with other fans.