SAN ANTONIO -- It was a new day, a new game and a new Jose Calderon for the Dallas Mavericks. Maybe it wasn't a brand-new Calderon, but it was the one the team had come to expect over the course of the season.
As the San Antonio Spurs ended the first half on a 10-point run and pulled to within five points, it was clear the game and, potentially, the series was on the line for Dallas. Out of all of Dallas' explosive options on offense, Calderon was the one who delivered the counterpunch.
After going scoreless in the first half, Calderon scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter and finished the game 5-of-10 from the field in the victory. The Spurs continued to try to run him off the 3-point shot, but he was able to operate off the dribble. He was able to figure things out and ultimately got hot.
"It felt great when I saw those shots go in," Calderon said. "It always gives you a little bit more confidence, for sure."
After he scored only seven points in Game 1, many wondered if Calderon's minutes were going to be cut again in favor of Devin Harris, who played 32 minutes to Calderone’s 16 in that loss. While Harris delivered another strong game with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes, Calderon kept his poise by being aggressive and staying the course over 28 minutes Wednesday night.
"Listen, Calderon has been great for us all year," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We need him. ... He’s played in a lot of big games. He’s played in a lot of hostile environments. You know, in Europe, those venues are wild. There’s people throwing stuff. There’s all sorts of stuff going on there, so he’s used to that environment.
"He knows what this is all about. My message to him has been, ‘Hey, you stay aggressive and keep doing what you do. That’s what we need you to do.’"
Calderon's response from Game 1 to Game 2 shows that he got the message. As things appeared to be coming apart at the seams, Calderon and the team regrouped and got back on track.
"Sometime when it's low, everybody gets so crazy too quickly," Calderon said. "I've had some bad games or could have done better, but we're 15 guys. Coach makes the decision. It doesn't [matter] who plays more minutes. Whoever is in there is going to try to do the best for our team to win.
"That's what everyone has to understand. It's not about who got more points on our team. It's about who got more points as a team. That's what basketball is about."
Even though this is his first playoff appearance since the 2007-08 season, Calderon is a veteran and knew that Game 1 was just one game and he would have a chance to show he could bring value to the team.
"I wasn't worrying about it," Calderon explained. "I was just trying to go out there and do my job. I was lucky today that my shots were going in. I feel comfortable. My guys have confidence in me. It's been like that for 82 games and two playoff games. It's not going to change after one game."
While Calderon will be the consummate teammate and gladly step to aside for a teammate if he's not delivering, he's still a proud guy who wants to have a positive impact on his team. He was able to rise to the occasion and display some shooter's amnesia as his third-quarter performance was instrumental in Dallas' ability to steal the home-court advantage.
"I always try to go out there and play the best basketball I can and make every shot possible, but there's nights you're shooting and the ball isn't going to fall. I'll keep being aggressive and hopefully they can keep falling."
It might have taken an extra game, but Calderon answered the challenge.