Full credit to the Dallas Mavericks tonight who, despite being on the second leg of a road back-to-back, out-executed the Portland Trail Blazers throughout the 4th quarter to come away with a 93 to 89 road victory.
It was a frustrating night for the Blazers for a lot of reasons. Playing without Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden, the team's rotation changed and its second unit struggled, most obviously during a 19 point second quarter. Travis Outlaw, who I do not hate, went for another 20 point effort, including 4 three pointers; his benchmates, apparently in awe of Trout's dominance, combined for zero points on 0 of 10 shooting.
While there was plenty of in-arena complaining when Channing Frye lined up and missed a long 3 point attempt during the game's final minute, the endgame execution really hinged on a critical turnover by Steve Blake, who attempted to hit a streaking Brandon Roy during a helter-skelter sequence. The play started with Outlaw picking Jason Kidd's pocket clean (those words could not possibly have been written in that order before tonight). Outlaw went to the ground to retrieve the loose ball and then, rather than calling timeout, quickly passed to Blake near midcourt. Blake admitted that he never saw Antoine Wright, who hustled back on defense and stole the ball back immediately before it could reach Roy, who was otherwise headed towards a sure layup.
A bucket by Roy would have tied the game at 88. Instead, Wright's steal and the a dagger jumper by Nowitzki that soon followed made the score 90-86.
Hindsight is 20-20 but with the ball loose on the ground, the game so tight, and the clock showing under a minute to play, I would have liked one of the Blazers to use one of their two remaining 20 second timeouts as soon as Travis secured the ball. Didn't have to be Travis who signalled the timeout. It didn't have to be Blake. But use the timeout there, set up the 1-4 offense and I might be chronicling another miracle finish by the Blazers.
As it was, you''ve got to be happy that the Blazers came up short on that possession because of over-aggressiveness rather than a lack of aggressiveness, especially considering the flat play the Blazers exhibited throughout much of tonight's contest. The sequence turned out to be another snap-your-fingers "shucks" kind of moment in a game that was full of them.
But full credit to Dirk's big shot making. Full credit to Antoine Write's instinctive hustle on the game-deciding sequence. Full credit Jason Terry, one of my top 10 favorite non-Blazers, for giving Portland fits on his way to a 24 /5 /4/ 2 night.
Full credit to a short-handed Mavericks squad for beating the short-handed Blazers. They earned it.
Random Game Notes
- I know you're sitting at your computer right now, pouting over the loss and refreshing cuteoverload.com hoping that a baby zebra or something will brighten your day. How about this picture instead? Martell Webster in sneakers warming up pregame and looking like he has turned the corner on his foot injury.
- Before the game, Rudy held a brief press conference outside the Blazers locker room. He was sporting a thick stubble and looked kind of tired. Despite the language barrier, he did a nice job conveying a few thoughts. First, any decision about the call was the league's to make and he was fine with that. Second, he wanted to name-check his friend Pau Gasol approximately 35 times in 30 seconds. Third, he said he's still feeling pain when he breathes and the pain is originating from his chest/rib cage area. Fourth, he noted that he's feeling better day by day and that makes him happy.
- Rudy was actually the first person I saw when entering the arena as he was hanging in the player's garage with one of his friends from Spain. I fought off the unbearable urge to give him a hug. (I don't usually have that type of urge. I swear.) I hope Rudy hasn't heard some of the negative things written about him online, which are ridiculous. It was a serious relief to see him. Click through below to see him smile.
- It's been bugging me for awhile now: what does Brandon Roy's signature move -- the one where he drives hard right, stops on a dime, dribbles the ball through his legs from back to front, right to left, and then changes direction -- remind me of? Tonight I finally placed it. It's George Frank Costanza's "stop short." It's the exact same thing except the defender doesn't wear a seat belt and there's no dashboard. Who's with me?
Much talk was made during and after the game regarding Brandon's 4 turnovers and his out-of-sync play. Certainly he did not look himself tonight despite his 22/ 3/ 6 line. Brandon gave the credit to Dallas's zone defense for making it difficult to attack the rim and made no mention of feeling sick.
- Shavlik selected the pregame music tonight: Magnificient by Rick Ross. "Push It" was a classic.
- The crowd was quiet tonight but that didn't mean there was a lack of action. First, I almost got hit by one of the free t shirts. Then, I almost got hit by one of Sergio's wayward 3 point attempts. I regret that one already. Sorry, I'm better than that.
- Nic Batum left tonight's game with a shoulder sprain. Word from Brian Hendrickson is that Batum will have a precautionary MRI tomorrow. Nic's shoulder was noticeably red in the locker room but that could have been from an ice bag. He was definitely favoring it as he walked but seemed to be in relatively good spirits and said simply that "he will know more tomorrow."
- The Agency. Noon on Friday. Lunch with Dwight Jaynes. I'll be there. So will Jim Pasero. RSVP with Dwight if you think you can make it by leaving a note in his comments section. I would love to see you there.
- Speaking of Dwight, I insist you go read this post. That's the kind of post where you shut down the browser window, unplug the computer and reflect: "Damn, I hope someone writes something like that about me when it's my time."
- Everyone's favorite sign of the night had a picture of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes urinating on Trevor Ariza. I'm not sure what the right reaction to that is. Mortification? Embarrassment? Call me crazy but that's poor form.
- The good news: there were literally dozens of "Get Well, Rudy" signs tonight.
- Shout out to the JHSers that found their way courtside pregame and took delight in chucking basketballs in the direction of Dirk Nowitzki. You guys rule.
- Someone link drop the youtube of LaMarcus's ridiculous posterization. Best dunk of his career? LMA continues to roll on.
Nate's Postgame Comments
Nate on whether the team was getting the shots they wanted: "I thought early, I thought in the first half, we just missed some shots. We had some shots that we can knock down, and the shots weren't falling against the zone. We didn't attack it. We passed around the perimeter. There were gaps, one time Travis went to the basket and got to the rim. We had some open looks against that zone, just needed to be aggressive."
Nate on the team's aggressiveness: "Well, if you're open you've got to shoot the ball. The one thing I thought at times, we were a little hesitant being aggressive. There were lanes for us to drive the ball. You want to attack. What we want to do on the offensive end of the floor, man or zone, is attack the paint. There were some gaps and they were forcing us to be aggressive. When you have the open shot you gotta take the shot."
Nate on Dirk: "He's a tough matchup. He hit some tough shots. I thought we made him take some tough shots. The first couple of games we switched a lot, I thought tonight we didn't switch as much. We tried to keep a big on him and he made some tough shots. That's what he does. He gets that single coverage in the middle of the floor and you try to get a hand in his face, a seven footer that can shoot over the defense."
Nate on the endgame: "You gotta get stops. Part of getting stops when you force them to miss is you have to rebound the basketball. Dampier, big guy up under the boards, got several offensive boards. Part of getting the stops and making plays when you force them to miss you got to rebound the ball."
Nate on whether Brandon was sick: "No."
Nate on Brandon's struggles: "Yeah, you know, I guess he's going to have a game like that. Tonight, we need to play well, we need to be at our best and tonight we didn't knock down some shots. Some shots he's capable of making didn't fall for him and we did an ok job taking care of the ball but I think some turnovers at crucial times when we were about to make a run or get back into the game were pretty big."
Nate on Nic: "Nic is ok. He got his shoulder tangled up but should be ok."
Click through for KIX PIX!
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Martell's new adidas -- instant rivals with Brandon's shoes as best on the team. Casey would like to make sure you all notice the Trail Blazer logo on the heel. Pretty sweet.
Jason Kidd's shoes look like a masonic temple.
-- Ben (email@example.com)