Kidd steps up defense down stretch

DALLAS -- The Mavericks buzz Sunday morning will be about all the clutch shots Dirk Nowitzki hit to beat the Charlotte Hornets.

Jason Kidd's defense down the stretch was just as important to the win.

Charlotte's Stephen Jackson, a longtime Mavs nemesis, lit it up for 11 points as the Bobcats padded their lead in the third quarter. He had only six points on 2-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime.

It's no coincidence that Kidd defended the 6-8 Jackson for most of that span. At 36, Kidd is still one of the league's elite crunch-time defenders.

"He has an impact when he guards guys during games, but down the stretch is when he really gears it up," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Last year, how many times did we see it? Probably 15 times. He takes the best player in a two-minute period and we get one or two key stops."

Kidd's secret to playing tough defense with the game on the line is simple: Be physical and don't let the opponent do what he does best. The key is his knowledge of his foes' games.

"I’ve been in the league for some time, so I know a lot of the guys’ tendencies," said Kidd, who had three of his season-high six steals after the third quarter. "I try to take away their strength, their No. 1 move, and hopefully they come up with a miss or a turnover."

We recently discussed whether the Mavs' success in tight games -- they're now 25-6 in games decided by fewer than five points under Carlisle -- is more luck or skill. Another factor that shouldn't be overlooked: Kidd's will.