In a Nutshell
After trailing by 23 late in the third quarter...that would be TWENTY-THREE POINTS with 13 minutes left in the game...following a horrific offensive performance the Blazers storm back behind Brandon Roy and overcome the Mavericks by 2 points in one of the more unbelievable finishes in playoff history, let alone Portland history.
To say the Blazers and Mavericks got off to a slow start in this one would be a riotous understatement. The two teams combined for 15 points in the first 6 minutes of this game. Dallas lived on threes. The Blazers relied on Andre Miller, once again coming through for Portland in the midst of a drought. This time, though, the drought would start at the opening tip and not finish until deep into the third period. Miller was literally the ONLY Blazer who could string together offense beyond a single shot. 'Dre scored 6 in the first, accounting for more than half of Portland's points, as they scored but 11. The Mavericks weren't faring much better, obviously trying to get everybody but Dirk Nowitzki involved. Their strategy worked in a way. Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson had more spring in their steps in this game than they have the entire series. But between missed shots and turnovers the Dallas end of the scoreboard read only 16 after one. Despite that, the Blazers looked like they were in more trouble than the 11 point performance indicated. They were as crisp as corn flakes in the bathtub, turning the ball over 6 times in the period, nullifying exactly the turnovers they forced from Dallas (and relied on). Something had to change in the second.
To their credit, the Blazers did get a little more aggressive in the second quarter, drawing fouls and scoring from the line when their shots still sprayed everywhere but through the net. After a 6-point barrage by Dallas in the opening 1:45 the Blazers' defense also cracked down, likely because being down by 9 already a double-digit deficit wasn't something they wanted to mess with. Gerald Wallace and Andre Miller got aggressive in spurts but for much of the period the Blazers avoided the lane like they were Willie Nelson and the paint was the IRS. This was unfortunate as a Miller 17-footer with 3:20 left just about TRIPLED the length of their next closest successful shot. Nobody was hitting an outside shot to save their lives. Again the defense was decent, but now the Blazers started looking at rebounds like you used to look at your sister when your mom told you to put your arm around her for the family photo. The ball would come off the rim after a Dallas shot and Portland would say, "Ewww...no thanks!" Dallas would finish the half with a dozen-point edge in second-chance points...a sure means of getting Portland fans to scream "What is WRONG with you?!?" at their television sets. Then at the 3:20 mark Tyson Chandler swung a wide arm on under the bucket, catching LaMarcus Aldridge in the face. Aldridge got up in Chandler's grill and double-technicals were assessed after the teams separated the combatants. A minute later Miller got tangled up with Nowitzki and fell to the floor after earning a jump ball, promptly tripping Dirk right after. The release of emotion seemed to spur Portland as they went on a semi-ferocious late-quarter run, closing the lead to 2 by the final horn. Dallas led 37-35 going into the half.
Everybody in the joint knew that the third quarter would be pivotal. Both teams would come out of the locker room loaded for bear. But the Blazers apparently didn't get the memo. Dallas came out loaded for bear. The Blazers came out loaded for hamster. Very small, dead hamster. Actually, it may have just been a decent-sized lint ball from the team laundry. And they still missed it. Portland reverted to their jumper-shooting form and missed shots like Barack Obama misses 2008. The first half offense was bad but at least there were sparks of life. In the third period the Blazers didn't make a field goal until Aldridge connected with 1:31 left in the stanza. Up to that point they subsisted on 7 made free throws. Dallas, meanwhile, was intent on showing one of the key differences between the teams. Remember when the Blazers held the Mavs without a field goal for 11 straight minutes in the second half of Game 1? Portland ended up ahead by, like, 5. When Aldridge hit his Mighty Shot the Mavericks were up 20. The margin would go to 23 as Peja Stojakovic connected with a three on the next play. Forget sparks of life. The Mavericks had stuffed the Blazers, and probably the series, in a tomb and rolled a huge stone in front of it. The Rose Garden was as silent as a funeral. Aldridge would connect off a pass from Brandon Roy and Roy himself would hit a three with 1 second left to give the announcers some faint grounds to beg viewers to stay, but Portland still trailed 18 going into the fourth, 67-49.
The beginning of the fourth period saw the Blazers, sadly and ironically at that point, turn on the afterburners. They scored on their first six possessions of the fourth: three layups/dunks, a 5-footer, 2 free throws, and a three. You'll notice that most of those attempts came shockingly close to the rim. It's as if the Blazers remembered that, hey...Dallas doesn't always defend the paint well. Add up the distance of all of those shots combined and they probably wouldn't equal the distance of any two random shots taken from the third period. Dallas made a couple of J's but also turned the ball over twice and missed a couple of long shots. Portland was within 11 with 8:26 left. The teams would revert to their earlier miss-everything ways over the next four minutes and Portland still trailed 11 with 4:45 left. Then Miller and Roy hit twin 13-footers to pull the Blazers within 7, but Jason Terry hit a three with 3:30 remaining to push it back to 10 and place a little Superglue on that huge stone at the tomb entry.
That's when Brandon Roy showed up. Yes, that Brandon Roy. First he hits Wesley Matthews for a driving layup. 1 assist, Blazers down 8. Then he drove the heart of the lane for his own layup. 2 points, 1 assist, Blazers down 6. He ran a nice little pick play and hit Aldridge for a 10-footer. 2 points, 2 assists, Blazers down 4, 2:03 left. Then he hit a 21-footer off of a Wallace pass. 4 points, 2 assists, Blazers down 2 with 1:36 left. Then Shawn Marion hit a jumper to push the Mavs back up by 4 with 1:19 left. Darn it! Everything has to go exactly right in a comeback like this. So...Roy catches Marion on him defensively. Blazers down 4. Roy's at the three-point arc. Blazers down 4. Marion's on him. Three-point arc. Blazers down 4. Roy rises... Tweet! Whistle blows. Ball sails...sails...sails...DING DING DING DING DING DING DING!!! Three-pointer goes IN, AND ONE! Roy sinks the free throw. 8 points, 2 assists, GAME TIED with 1:06 left. Blazers fans are approaching the tomb.
After a timeout the Mavericks find Jason Terry for a three...miss. 39 seconds left. Roy comes down...hits a 9-footer. 10 points, 2 assists in 2 minutes, 32 seconds. Blazers lead by 2 with 39 seconds left. Dallas calls their final timeout. Jason Kidd ends up with the ball at the left angle three-point arc, down by 2. Kidd at the arc. Down by 2. But instead of lofting up one of those sweet, arch-filled, rainbow, New-Kidd-on-the-Block threes he pushes an old-school-Kidd shot, sailing it a foot beyond the rim. Gerald Wallace rebounds. 5 seconds difference between the shot and game clock. Roy misses a three with and Dallas gets the ball with three seconds left...no timeouts. Terry races down the floor for a final three, the Mavs' bread and butter. NO! Despite their best efforts the Mavericks guards (Kidd and Terry and everyone defending Roy) fail to keep the tomb sealed. Blazers win 84-82. Series tied 2-2. Brandon Roy is near tears as his teammates surround him, jumping in a huddle and pointing their fingers at him as if to say, "Welcome back!"
In the game preview for this game I said the Blazers really needed a convincing win to turn the tide of this series. They didn't get that. But given Dallas' history they got something even better: a soul-crushing win that will put every single Maverick lead and shot in doubt until the final horn sounds on that final game. Dallas not only has to deal with the Blazers now, but their own ghosts as well. Coming back from 23 is the only kind of victory I can think of that would do the job better than outright winning by 23. That's not to say Dallas will lay down, but this series feels more even now than it would have been under any other outcome.
This game also resurrected the Blazers' confidence in themselves. It was at an all-time low after the first 35 minutes of abysmal ball.
I was heartened to the the Blazers show some (literal) fighting spirit in the second quarter. Normally it's not smart to have your #1 guy (Aldridge) tangling with their semi-thug (Chandler). In fact that's the outcome they want. But in this case, I'll take it. It was the first real "do anything" moment that we've seen in this series and it set the stage for the events later in the game. Next time it needs to be one of our players against Nowitzki, but if necessary I hope the Blazers will bring a next time. The TNT sideline reporter quoted Nate McMillan as saying he didn't like the chippy play, that he wanted his team to stay calm and poised. Calm and poised is Dallas' game. Against the Lakers I'd buy that. But the Blazers need to get less calm and more force-of-nature, knock-your-block-off emotional in this series to take it.
In the same preview I said that LaMarcus Aldridge had to come up big in this game. He did not. He missed 6 of his first 7 shots (all 6 jumpers) and would finish the day 6-16 for 18 points and 6 rebounds. To the good: he had 4 steals, he came through in crunch time, when a "bad" day for LMA equals 18 points you're doing well, he sparked with Chandler, and the Blazers showed they can win a game without him having his "A" game.
Check this: Brandon Roy played 24 minutes, hit 9-13 shots, 2-5 from distance, scored 24, had 5 assists and 4 rebounds. As we said after the last contest, if he's going to play let him try to be point-a-minute man while he's out there. Balance that out by not playing him as much maybe. He clearly, CLEARLY won this game for the Blazers in a performance every bit as impressive as any he's posted in his career.
Andre Miller went 5-10 for 14 points, scoring for the Blazers when nobody else could. He kept the deficit from becoming completely insurmountable. He had only 3 assists but none of his teammates could hit the broad side of a battleship.
Gerald Wallace was missing shots and opportunities on the offensive end, going 3-9 for the game and scoring 10, but he was the first Blazer player to really man up on the boards and stop that slow leak of Dallas offensive rebounds that was poisoning the team and the game. He ended up with 11 rebounds on the night. Make yourself valuable even when things aren't going right.
Wesley Matthews shot 4-10, 11 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal. It wasn't an impressive line but his defense on Jason Kidd late in the game made up for anything and everything else. This guy isn't really what you'd call clutch on offense but give me one or two plays in an important moment where I need someone to watch a guard and I will take Matthews without hesitation.
Nicolas Batum had 2 blocks in an otherwise anemic game but again gamely guarded Nowitzki when called upon.
Marcus Camby 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 19 minutes. He didn't play much because the Blazers weren't rebounding well even when he was in so Nate went with a smaller lineup that could at least generate some pressure and points. The Big Run happened with Roy, Aldridge, Wallace, and doses of Batum, Matthews, Miller, and Rudy Fernandez. That hand doesn't include room for a Camby.
Rudy Fernandez played 16 minutes and missed all 5 of his shots. He's in his own head now.
Chris Johnson got 2 minutes and zeroed the stat line.
Stats of the Night
- Series 2-2
- Blazers come back from 23 down
- Blazers 12-0 in fast break points
- Blazers 18-4 in points off of turnovers
- Blazers 34-24 in points in the paint
- Blazers 23-10 free throw attempts. Nowitzki attempts only 4.
- Threes finally turn into Fool's Gold for the Mavericks, at least down the stretch. They went 10-26 for the game, remarkable not so much for the percentage--a quite-good 38.5%--but for the frequency of the shot and the reliance upon it to save the game for them...which it didn't.
Odd Notes and Links
If you're going to woot, woot now. I can't think of a better occasion.
I am eager to see how they describe this one at Mavs Moneyball. I imagine it feels like 23,000 gum wrappers thrown at your head. But I'm just guessing there.
I imagine you'll want to check out the second half of the Blazersedge Gameday Thread to read live fan reaction to the proceedings.
Jersey Contest Playoff Scoreboard. Next form will be up by tomorrow.