As game two of the first round draws near for the Dallas Mavericks, defense continues to be the underlying theme. As game one showed, Dallas has capable offensive threats and Dirk Nowitzki will be Dirk Nowitzki in the clutch — but defense had a huge part in the win. Likewise for game two, the Mavericks must rely on defense to pull out another victory.
The Portland Trail Blazers have plenty of offensive weapons to utilize against the Mavs. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is a big-time scorer, averaging 27.6 points per game against Dallas. Forwards Gerald Wallace and Brandon Roy have the talent to show up with a 20-plus point game and cause havoc for the Mavs’ backcourt. If Dallas cannot show tenacity on defense, the Blazers will score their way to a series win.
The spark plug to the Mavs’ defensive tenacity will be the effectiveness of Tyson Chandler. Case in point, in the two losses that Dallas had against Portland in the regular season, Chandler was injured and didn’t play. In the two wins against the Blazers in the regular season, Chandler made full appearances and had an average of 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.
When Aldridge is the most powerful player against the Mavs, Dallas desperately needs a big man to challenge him. Chandler is that player. On Saturday, Chandler had more rebounds off both the offensive and defensive glass than Aldridge and he also held Aldridge to his average points total. With Chandler anchoring the front line, Dallas’ defense stepped up and held the Blazers to 81 points.
A late lineup change also helped the Mavs’ defense. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle made a smart decision in putting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson in the starting lineup because Stevenson brings both size and defensive presence to the roster. Along with sixth-man Jason Terry and an old-school looking Shawn Marion, Stevenson played a big role in holding Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace to a combined 12 points on Saturday.
While defense continues to be the most important part of the Mavs’ playoff strategy, it was refreshing to see Jason Kidd return to his playoff days of old and put in 24 points on Saturday. Carlisle called Kidd’s performance in game one the “game of the season” for Kidd.
With the benching of Roddy Beaubois because of another foot injury, someone from the Mavericks has needed to step up and bring in points. It seemed apparent, however, Beaubois would be removed from the starting lineup before his injury in preparation for playoff basketball. Kidd and/or other stars from the team need to continue this role for game two.
While some pundits have argued that the “Beaubois Experiment” in the second half of the season was a failure, Beaubois averaged 17 points in both of his games against the Blazers during the regular season. In those games, Jason Terry averaged nine points and JJ Barea averaged 8.5 points. Kidd didn’t hit a single field goal in either of those games. Other than Nowitzki, Beaubois was the only player during the regular season who showed that he had a definitive handle over the Blazers. Even if Beaubois was to come off the bench when he returns to the court during the Blazers series, he still would provide a spark to Dallas’ offensive rotation.
Dallas shot 40.9 percent and managed only 89 points in the game one victory — and that was with a season-high 24 points from Kidd and an astounding 18 points in the fourth quarter from Nowitzki. Dallas can’t expect those performances from their two Hall of Fame veterans every game of this series. Dallas should, however, shoot higher than 41 percent from the field.
With Beaubois’ sprained left foot, his status for game two is questionable. Without Beaubois, the Mavs won’t score 100 points against Portland, but as game one showed, that’s not necessary. The Mavericks still have enough of a defensive element to take the series from the Blazers. If they continue to show up with a defensive mindset, they will also take game two tonight.
J.D. Moore is a freshman journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii and a writer for SportDFW.com.