Saturday , Apr , 19 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Showboating’s Dallas Mavericks-New Orleans Hornets Game One Wrap-up

Showboating's Dallas Mavericks-New Orleans Hornets Game One Wrap-up

The biggest question mark that I had about the Dallas Mavericks heading into their first round series against the New Orleans Hornets was their inconsistent play on the road.  There were too many instances during the regular season when the Mavericks played very well for a complete quarter or half, then somehow blew the lead in the end.  One of the things that the Mavericks would have to do, in my mind, was keep their focus down the stretch in close games.

Well on Saturday evening, all of those worries reared their ugly heads once again.  The Mavs held a 12-point first half lead and had all three of their stars (Nowitzki, Howard and Kidd) playing at a high level.  Then led by Chris Paul the Hornets stormed back, outscoring Dallas 64-40 in the second half.  The end result for the Mavs was an ugly 104-92 loss, putting them down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Poor shot selection and an inability to hit jumpers, both issues that have plagued the Mavericks many times before, once again doomed Dallas in the second half.  Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard were both very aggressive in getting to the free throw line in the first half, but the second half was a different story.  Howard was a virtual non-factor, failing to make a shot from the field and looking at times reluctant to even shoot.  Nowitzki played great and did his best to keep Dallas in the game, but unfortunately he didn’t get much help.

Jason Terry, a guy who has killed New Orleans all season, finished with only eight points and struggled to get open looks all night.  Jerry Stackhouse ended up with nine points and eight rebounds, but he got most of those in the fourth quarter once the game was out of Dallas’ reach.  He looked uncomfortable all night long.  And Erick Dampier got absolutely abused by the more athletic Tyson Chandler on the boards.

Heading into Game 2, the Mavericks need to rethink how they are going to approach guarding Chris Paul, who certainly made his mark in his first ever playoff game (35 points, 10 assists, four steals).  The Mavericks tried to trap him to force the ball out of his hands late in the game, but that strategy certainly won’t work forever.  They also need to work on shoring up the holes in the rebounding department.  Most importantly, the team needs better contributions from the supporting cast, and they must figure out how to keep Josh Howard involved and in rhythm throughout the entire game.  Dirk Nowitzki can’t do it on his own.

From Dallas’ perspective, of course this loss was disappointing.  But if any team knows how to fight back from adversity, it’s this one.  A win on Tuesday night in Game 2 would put the momentum right back in the Mavs’ favor.  The Hornets took round one in the battle of youth vs. experience, but this fight is far from over.