The Blazers smelled blood in the water, and devoured the Chandler-less Mavericks in a game that was about as close as the final score indicates. The night after being run around the court by the Warriors, the Mavericks look a step slow most of the night, and the energizd Blazers gave themselves a halftime buffer they never lost. In the middle of the fourth, Andre Miller was inadvertently poked in the eye by Brian Cardinal. He looked hurt, but came back to shoot free throws, and stayed in the game.
In the first quarter, the Blazers came out inspired, looking like a team who wants to clinch a playoff spot. But every time they grabbed a lead, Dallas fought to tie it up. Back and forth like an accordian they go, but late in the quarter, a small run gives the Blazers a 6 point lead, 23-17.
Dallas makes another quick run to start the second behind the heroics of Jose "Blazer killer" Barea, but the Blazers would have none of that. Like a prizefighter, they hit with jab after jab after jab. Just before the half, they add an uppercut, using defense and some good decisions to make a late run. They finish the half with a 15 point lead, 61-46.
By halftime, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 14 with 5 rebounds, Gerald Wallace added 10 points, and the supporting cast spread the points out evenly. This includes Brandon Roy, who scored 7 points on 4 shots. Amazingly, Dirk Nowitzki only took 4 shots.
In the third quarter, the active Blazers stretched the lead to 20 points! But this is the NBA, so that's when the Blazers went cold, and Dallas went on a run. They cut it to 11, only to watch Portland rebuild the lead, as Good Rudy reappears for a few big plays. Dirk hits a jumper at the buzzer to keep Dallas within 18.
The fourth quarter picks up where the third left off, with Portland fighting off furious Dallas runs, trying to keep them at arm's length. When the Blazers push the lead back to 20 with 4 minutes left, Dallas is clearly waiting for the game to end. The game eventually ended with a late Dallas run to make the score respectable, and 49.6 seconds of Luke Babbitt goodness.
The Blazers spread out the scoring nicely tonight. They were led by Gerald Wallace, with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Other key players were LaMarcus Aldridge (18 and 8), Wesley Matthews (16 points, 2 steals), and Nicolas Batum (15, 3 and 4). With Roy and Rudy's presence next to Nic, the bench was a big key tonight.
We need just one more win, or a Rockets loss, to clinch a playoff berth. Next game is Tuesday night against the Warriors in Portland. As Cab reminded me tonight, next Tuesday the Blazers play Memphis, with a possible sixth seed on the line. Every game is vital, and Portland won a big one tonight.
The box score is here. Stay tuned for a recap from Dave later (with a live perspective from tonight's game) and the Media Row report from Ben.
This was a tired Dallas team who was playing the second night of a back to back, and missing a key player (Chandler). I don't expect Dallas to be the same team in the playoffs that we saw tonight. So, to quote a famous philosopher, "Great shot kid, don't get cocky". Do you think the Mavs are the team you want in the playoffs? -- Tim