Blair returns with a vengeance for Mavs
May, 2, 2014
By Bryan Gutierrez | ESPNDallas.com
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDeJuan Blair gets some love from Mark Cuban en route to 10 points and 14 rebounds.
DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks center DeJuan Blair had to watch Wednesday's Game 5 of the team's first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs from the team's hotel room due to a one-game suspension. It was clear that Blair was intent on making up for lost time in Friday's Game 6.
Blair -- who spent four seasons with San Antonio before landing in Dallas -- responded by collecting his second double-double of the series with 10 points, a playoff career-high and game-high 14 rebounds and a playoff career-high-tying four steals in 29 minutes in his team's must-win game against the Spurs.
"It’s just playing," Blair said of his performance. "I’m glad we got the win. Of course I was fired up, playing at home and to force a Game 7 against a tough team. It was fun."
Blair's roles on the Mavericks are very specific: provide a physical presence, bring energy and grab every available loose ball.
He's doing his job, as he's been a combined plus-15 in the past two games he's played in the series. When it comes to defense, Dallas has allowed 99.3 points per 100 possessions when Blair has been on the floor; the Mavs have allowed 110.1 when he sits.
Simply, a switch is flipped when Blair's out on the floor, and that was the case in Friday's victory.
"He looked fired up," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "It's tough to miss a regular-season game. It's actually fun to miss a preseason game. But to miss a playoff game is a killer.
"I know how bad he felt about missing that one, watching that one in San Antonio."
You could see how bad Blair felt for missing Game 5 just prior to halftime. He was able to let off some steam by setting an aggressive pick on Tony Parker. The Spurs guard dropped to the floor, leaving Devin Harris a free release to the rim. In the end, the Mavs scored two points just before halftime, but the play epitomized what Blair can bring to the team.
It's evident that, though undersized, Blair is really making his presence felt all over the floor. He might not be as big as most of the other big men in the league, but he's incredibly active. On top of that, he works with what he's got, using his body very well.
While he wasn't a primary option during his time in San Antonio, he knows what is necessary to perform during the playoffs.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows what Blair can bring to a team, and he saw it on display in Game 6.
"His energy was great," Popovich said. "He was all over the floor, he was a man possessed at both ends of the floor. He was physical and he played good basketball on top of that. I thought he was super."
This series against his former squad has had an underlying theme of revenge for Blair, who missed Game 5 after a run-in with Spurs big man Tiago Splitter in Game 4. And while Game 6 might have been sweet, Blair is hungry for more.
"It's not over yet," Blair said. "We've got Game 7 on their court. Winning on their court would be the best revenge. We just have to bring it next game."
On top of an upset, revenge is just one victory away for Blair.