Posted Apr 17 2011 9:24AM
Dallas -- That pages-thick scouting report LaMarcus Aldridge read couldn't have been better prepared or more detailed unless it was written by the Dallas Mavericks themselves. Every nuance, trend, pet move and piece of minutiae you could imagine was delivered by the Portland Trail Blazers' scouting department in all of its stat-filled glory.
Everything, of course, but the section where it explained how to defend the crusty old point guard who has never been a terribly dangerous shooter, going 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line and setting the table for Dirk Nowitzki to deliver Game 1 of this playoff series to the home team in the final minutes.
That "crusty old point guard" being Jason Kidd, who was playfully referred to as "Benjamin Button" several times throughout and after his 24-point outburst fueled the Mavericks gritty comeback win that preserved home-court advantage in this series.
"We definitely didn't prepare for him making six threes," Aldridge said, cracking a reluctant smile as he said it. "But that's what pros do. They step up when their team needs the most and deliver whatever is needed." Aldridge wasn't surprised Kidd came through for the Mavericks. Like most everyone else at American Airlines Center, he was just a bit startled at how Kidd did it.
"He's smart. Just like Andre Miller is still playing," Aldridge continued. "When you have guys who understand the game and are really smart they can play and be effective as long as they want to ... as long as they can walk. They don't have to be fast or explosive. They know the fundamentals of the game inside out."
Kidd's 3-point shooting is not a staple the Mavericks are counting on using as this series goes along, although they have every reason to buy in. Whatever statistical metric you worship, the Mavericks' record this season when Kidd scores the way he did in Game 1 -- they are 25-6 when he scores in double figures -- suggests they at least think about it.
"He played like a 25-year-old Jason Kidd," said 22-year-old Trail Blazers swingman Nicolas Batum, who is lucky the young Kidd couldn't shoot as well as the current version. Kidd made 34 percent of his 3-pointers this season. And he needed a week off late in the regular season to help rest and strengthen those 38-year-old legs of his and refine his shooting stroke, with technical advice from Nowitzki. "I was ready," Kidd said. "The rest definitely helped. Between coach and our trainers, they all did a great job of resting me but keeping me fresh at the same time and ready for tonight. I felt great and we got a big one under our belt."
In a league where Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is most likely going to be the MVP and the "elite" point guard crop is nearly 10-deep with dynamic scorer/facilitators, it's easy to forget that Kidd was once the prototype. In his prime he had no physical equal at the position, a point guard as big as a linebacker that could dominate on both ends of the floor without taking or needing 20 shots a night. A triple-double machine, Kidd led the Nets to back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals, his leadership and otherworldly passing ability compared most often to Magic Johnson's back then.
These days he's part of an elders' council at the point, a future Hall of Famer and along with Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups and the Trail Blazers' Miller, one of the relics of his era that has survived the revolution staged by the next generation. Batum was just six when Kidd made his NBA debut in November of 1994.
His performance in Game 1 wasn't necessarily a reminder of one of Kidd's jaw-dropping efforts of the past. It was more of a confirmation that Kidd has never and might never be fully appreciated for being the by-any-means-necessary tactician that he's always been. The six 3-pointers was a career-high in a playoff game and his 30th career 20-plus point scoring game in the playoffs.
His Game 1 masterpiece was also a reminder that Kidd is still fiendishly effective on both ends of the floor. And it was more than just the 24 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals and blocked shot that did it for the Mavericks. During the two most crucial stretches of the game for the Mavericks, Kidd was at his best.
With Aldridge leading the Blazers on a third quarter surge on both ends, it was Kidd that held them off while Nowitzki struggled to find his rhythm. Two deep 3-pointers, another 22-footer on one end and a block, critical rebound and a strip of Gerald Wallace helped hold the Trail Blazers off for a few more minutes. A strip of Aldridge and a final 3-point dagger with 25.4 seconds to play helped seal the deal for the Mavericks, who could not afford another playoff disappointment with so many picking them as the most likely favorite to be upset in the first round, yet again.
The significance of Kidd's effort wasn't lost on Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. "Spectacular," he said when asked to describe Kidd's performance. "We had some guys that didn't play their best games. Jason Kidd played the game of the year, to this point. Every shot he made, every play he made was absolutely essential for us. His leadership is something you can't quantify."
You might find it in a scouting report for Game 2.
Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and the author of NBA.com's Hang Time blog. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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