While the Mavericks topped the Portland Trail Blazers 89-81 Saturday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs, veteran guard Jason Kidd was the answer to their triumph.
As Kidd erupted for six three-pointers, four assists and two steals finishing with a season-high 24 points, the fans in Dallas echoed a sound that nearly blew the roof off the hinges at the American Airlines Center.
Head coach Rick Carlisle said Kidd played his game of the year to this point.
“Kidd played spectacular,” Carlisle said. “Every shot he made, every play he made was absolutely essential for us. He was a great example of persistence. He was rested and continued to play at an extremely high level. His leadership is something you can’t quantify.”
“Kidd was big tonight,” Mavericks scoring leader Dirk Nowitzki said. “He had a phenomenal game.
“I was able to make some strong moves in the paint,” Nowitzki said. “This game means nothing if we lose game two. We have to look at some film.”
Even with home court advantage, facing a young Portland crew was a tough matchup for Dallas. The Mavericks had trouble trying to sustain their largest 10-point lead, while the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge was the force that kept his ball club in it. The Texas native from Seagoville High School finished 27 points and six rebounds.
“Aldridge is a great player and great players are going to score,” Carlisle said. “He’s terrific at finding the spots to do it.”
But it was the competitive spirit that ignited Kidd into playing the vintage basketball he’s played during his early NBA seasons. The 17-year pro said he wants that mentality to stay assertive throughout the playoff series.
“I need to be a little more aggressive,” Kidd said. “The last two weeks I’ve been shooting the ball. I felt fresh and got lucky making some shots.”
The California native made his team-high 15th postseason appearance. Kidd held averages of 14.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game and 8.8 assists per game in 121 career playoff games. He averaged five points, five rebounds and eight assists against the Blazers during the regular season.
Kidd recorded his 11,000th career assist in a 99-90 win at Philadelphia last November and moved past NBA retiree Dale Ellis (1,719) into third place on the all-time three-point field goals made list in a 102-89 loss to Indiana in January.
The 6-foot-4 guard registered another incentive to his statistics this season after surpassing former Seattle Super Sonics guard Gary Payton (2,445) for third place on the all-time steals list in a 104-103 upset to Memphis in March.
While Mavericks guard Jason Terry suffered his shooting woes in game one, finishing with 10 points and 2-of-5 from the field, teammate DeShawn Stevenson said Kidd had the ability to make up for Terry’s scoring.
“I think it was big,” Stevenson said. “I think he (Kidd) took over Jason Terry’s scoring and we needed that. We needed another guy to step up and Kidd did a tremendous job. He’s a Hall of Famer and you never know what you’re going to get each day and each night. He’s a pro and that’s something he can bring out, especially during the playoffs.”
“He made some big shots and iced it,” Nowitzki said. “His shot was fantastic.”
Game two is set to broadcast Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. on TNT and the Mavericks will be looking go up 2-0 in the first round Western Conference series.
“I’m ready to go, my teammates are ready to go and we got a big game Tuesday,” Kidd said.