PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The Dallas Mavericks keep catching the Trail Blazers off guard.
First it was Jason Kidd, then it was Peja Stojakovic — as if defending Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t enough.
The surprising success of those two veterans has put the Mavs in control as they head to Portland with a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Blazers.
So it begs the question, who will break out for Dallas in Game 3 Thursday night at the Rose Garden? Jason Terry? Shawn Marion? Nowitzki said the Mavs have been trying to spread it around all season.
“We’ve been doing that second scorer by committee. Marion had a great finish to the season, Jet (Terry) has been there all season long and Peja was a great addition at the trade deadline because he’s still a great knockdown shooter,” Nowitzki said.
But even collectively, visiting the Rose Garden could pose a challenge for the Mavs. They split the regular season series against the Blazers, with each team winning on their home court twice.
Portland is 30-11 this season at the Rose Garden, winning 10 of their last 11. Overall against Dallas, the Blazers have a 46-18 advantage at home in the regular season, and they’re 6-1 in playoff games.
“We know that they (Portland) are a very good home team so we wanted to hold home court here and go up there with a 2-0 lead but this series is far from over,” Nowitzki said. “They play well at home, they make shots, and they play tough D so we’ve got to be prepared for a tough game on Thursday.”
Dallas is 2-1 overall when they’ve opened 2-0 in 15 previous best-of-7 series. The exception was the 2006 NBA Finals when the Miami Heat defeated the Mavericks in six games. The Heat were just the third team to claim a championship after trailing 0-2.
The last time Dallas and Portland met in the playoffs was 2003. The Mavs claimed the first three games before the Blazers won the next three. The Mavericks took the deciding game in Dallas.
The third-seeded Mavericks opened this year’s series with an 89-81 victory. Kidd had 24 points, including a playoff career-best six 3-pointers. Nowitzki had 28 points — 18 in the fourth quarter alone — and 10 rebounds.
In a 101-89 Game 2 victory, Stojakovic tied his career playoff best with five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points, while Kidd pitched in 18. Nowitzki, showing more resolve than in the opener, finished with 33.
Dallas signed Stojakovic in January after he was waived by Toronto. He’d hardly played because of injuries.
“His shot-making was great and very timely, but his defense was better,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “He just was really solid. He didn’t let anybody drive by him all night, which was huge, and he just played a terrific all-around game.”
Dallas is shooting 47 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs, as opposed to 36 percent in the regular season.
Obviously Portland will need to do a better job with perimeter defense in Game 3.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting first control of the ball. The basketball is getting to the paint, which is forcing the defense to collapse, and we’re losing these guys on the three point line — Jason Kidd, Stojakovic,” coach Nate McMillan said.
And Portland needs to get more production out of their reserves. In Game 2, the Mavs’ backups outscored Portland’s 39-11. Nicolas Batum had 10 of those points, Rudy Fernandez had 1, and Brandon Roy and Patty Mills both went scoreless.
Roy’s role in particular was becoming something of an issue for the Blazers.
The three-time All-Star struggled during the regular season with knee issues, finally undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both knees in mid-January.
Upon his return, Roy struggled to find his place with the Blazers, who had moved on without him. The playoffs have intensified that problem. In Game 2 he played just eight minutes, missing his lone shot.
McMillan said he limited both Roy and Fernandez because Dallas was successful in defending them.
But Roy sparked controversy Wednesday in Portland with comments he made to The Oregonian newspaper after the game.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little hurt or disappointed,” Roy told the paper. “I just always thought I would be treated a little better. That was a little disappointing for me.”
The Blazers could do without the distraction as they prepare for Game 3. McMillan gave the team a break with a maintenance day on Wednesday.
“We will protect home! We know yall are with us,” Wesley Matthews posted on Twitter.
It certainly wasn’t all bad for the Blazers, who are getting production from their starting five. Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 25.5 points and eight rebounds in the first two games. Matthews and Gerald Wallace were solid in Game 2 after both had a shaky opener, and Andre Miller has been dependably solid with 18 points in each of the two games.
“We’ve got to win the two on our home court and get this thing back to an even ballgame,” Wallace said.
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