The Rest of the Series

The inbox is full today.  People are asking whether the Blazers can still win this series.  Some are lamenting poor play.  Others are trotting out the "defend homecourt, get one win on the road" theory.  Since you asked...

The Blazers are going to win games in this series, don't worry.  Hopefully they'll take both at home.  I'd all but guarantee the first one.  That second one will be more iffy but it wouldn't surprise me entirely to see the Blazers take the next game in Dallas even if they split win-loss at home.  I'd bet the Blazers win at least two any way it shakes out.  Portland hasn't been playing horribly.  At times they've executed enough to confound Dallas' defense.  The games have been close enough to call contested.  Portland plays better at home.  Refs will lean more towards Portland at home.  Despite their success in the first two games the Mavs aren't that awe-inspiring.  They're still depending heavily on the outside shot which goes astray easily.  This is not over...the Blazers do have a chance.

It's just not a good one.

For all the home-road math, Dallas' history of blowing series, and the wiggle room everybody's trying to find, the Blazers have shown zero evidence of the traits they need most:  control and dominance.  The Blazers have played well for stretches but at no point have you gotten the feeling that they had even a game in hand, let alone the series.  Even after their best stretches the Blazers have ended up ahead by 6 or 7, not 16 or 17.  Dallas has always closed those gaps quickly.  Most importantly, Dallas has schooled the Blazers when it counts, when the games have been on the line.  The Mavs know how, why, and when they're winning.  The Blazers are just kind of playing...playing hard, but without the same purpose and intensity as the Mavericks.

People have searched for reasons for the Portland losses.  We've now had one game with odd reffing, one with more normal.  Dallas won them both.  We've had one game with Brandon Roy playing through the fourth, one in which he was nowhere to be found.  Dallas won them both.  We've had one no-show by Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews and one game in which both played well.  Dallas won them both.  Dallas hasn't been that much better, but Dallas knows how to control and dominate the Blazers when it counts and the Blazers haven't shown that capability in reverse.  Portland's success has been precarious, conditional.  Dallas' success has been intentional and looked very much like textbook Maverick basketball.

Portland will probably pull some domination out of the hat, again likely in Game 3.  The Blazers have the horses and Dallas isn't capable of stopping them entirely.  But when one team knows how to close and control while the other doesn't, series tend to mirror the individual games with which they started.  The losing team makes a mid-series run just like they made mid-game runs in their losses.  But when the series gets down to crunch time the dominant team reasserts itself and takes it home.  If I were forced to bet, that's exactly what I'd put my money on happening in this series.  The Blazers may be able to defend the homecourt.  They may even be able to get a game on the road should they fail to defend the homecourt fully.  But when push comes to shove, home or road, Dallas has shown every indication of being able to succeed in the critical moments while Portland has not.

The hope at this point is to take the Mavericks to 7 games and see what happens.  Already you know things are not going well when you have to make that statement, but that's where we are.  The Blazers have had opportunities and did not seize them.  They're left now with ifs and hopes when the key to victory is surety.  The tide could still turn...that's why they play the games until someone wins 4.  But if the Blazers were capable of turning the tide around they should have shown it by now.  Those games were begging to be taken.  Portland didn't.  It's hard to imagine them doing in an extended series what they twice couldn't do for just 12 minutes.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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