Living behind enemy lines is never a particularly pleasant experience come playoff time. Yet, it does provide an interesting and telling perspective on your opponent. After weeks of listening to Dallas player, media and locals talk about the upcoming matchup with Portland, a few general ideas about what Mavs fans think about this series.
1. You may have to force-feed a truth potion, but the majority of Dallas fans were not confident going into this series with Portland. In fact, there was not one local media member that I could tell that believe Portland was not going to win. They believed that Portland was the more physical and potentially talented team.
2. The thing I have found most interesting is the Dallas fan's perspective on how to beat the Mavs. Much talk revolves around the lack of playoff success down here and it usually comes down to a simple point: Outside of Dirk, the rest of the Mavs players just aren't that good come playoff time. I can't remember how many times I've heard people say, "the blueprint to beating Dallas is playing Dirk straight up and shutting down everyone else." Locals are worried about the Blazers employing this strategy for two simple reasons.
A. The Blazers can play Dirk straight up with Aldridge and Camby. The first two games have shown this to be true. Dirk has been very ineffective when guarded by either of those two. All the more stunning to Mavs fans here that the Blazers continue to switch Batum and Wallace on to him. Teams that have beaten the Mavs in the playoffs concede Dirk "will get his." The Blazers amazingly haven't had to concede this, but seem to be willing to.
B. The rest of the Mavs cannot create their own shot. This has been key to Dallas' playoff failures. As Dirk plays hero for three quarters, opponents simply stand the other four defenders in front of mostly stationary offensive players. Locals have been shocked every time the Blazers switch into their zone defense, which has regularly yielded uncontested shots from the perimeter, where the Mavs prefer to play anyway.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge. They are terrified of him. Maybe because he's from Texas. But it seems as though every Dallas fans concedes that Dallas has no answer for him. They are also similarly surprised when Portland goes huge stretches ignoring him on the floor (Game 1: 4 shots in 4th quarter; Game 2: 5 shots second half).
4. Dallas fans concede they don't play a brand of basketball that is conducive to winning in the playoffs. They know they are ill-suited to play the "grind-it-out game." The Dallas fans I saw Game 2 with, were ready to pack it in after the first quarter. Portland was making every possession a war and the Mavs had 9 points with 4 minutes to go in the quarter. They had seen this movie before. Then, to their amazement, the Blazers seemed content if not insistent on speeding up the pace of the game. They saw their team gain their footing and slowly take control of the game. As a Blazer fan, this puzzled me the most. It seemed as though the Blazers were trying to play two or three different styles in this game, yet weren't really committed to doing anything with consistency.
I find it interesting that the Blazers are almost avoiding the type of approach that most Dallas fans think would be most successful against their own team. Here's hoping the Blazers figure out what every Dallas fan seems to already know.