Tag:Jason Kidd
Posted on: May 2, 2011 1:51 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Mavericks-Lakers preview: The first time

A preview of the first round playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-kidd

I. Intro: No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. No. 2 seed Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)

For the first time in the Dirk Nowitzki era, these two long-time Western Conference powers will face off in the playoffs. The Mavericks arrive in the Western Conference semifinals after knocking out the Blazers in six games. The Lakers are here by virtue of dispatching the New Orleans Hornets in six games.  Both teams are among the oldest in the league, sporting cores that have been through playoff fires together. (Obviously the Mavericks have been burned a bit worse than the Lakers). 

The Lakers and Mavericks were similarly effective during the regular season, winning 57 games and putting up very, very similar efficiency numbers. The Lakers were No. 7 on offense and No. 6 on defense while the Mavericks were No. 8 on offense and No. 7 on defense. The teams even played exactly the same pace during the regular season, slightly below league average.

The Lakers, however, were a marginally better rebounding team and a significantly better team when it comes to taking care of the ball. Dallas enjoyed one major advantage: they lead the league in assist rate, meaning that no one scores a greater percentage of their points directly from passes. That offensive balance is key as the Mavericks generally have four scoring options on the court at all times and do a nice job of maximizing those players' skills. 

The difference between these two even-on-paper teams could very well wind up being L.A.'s star talent. The combination of Kobe Bryant / Pau Gasol / Andrew Bynum / Lamar Odom is a vicious four-headed monster for Nowitzki to fight off with a supporting cast that is a fairly motley crew at this stage of their careers.  

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Lakers took the season series, 2-1, with all three games taking place since New Year's Day. Both Lakers victories came in March. The most recent one was a chippy 110-82 blowout victory at Staples Center that saw multiple ejections, including forward Matt Barnes for throwing Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts to the ground. 

The teams split in Texas, where Dallas took a high-scoring 109-100 affair in January while the Lakers won a March grinder, 96-91.

L.A.'s homecourt advantage is a factor here, but both teams are equally capable of stealing a game in this series. Not only did these teams have identical regular season records, they were also very similar in their home/road split. The Lakers were 30-11 at home and 27-14 on the road; The Mavericks were 29-12 at home and a league-best 28-13 on the road. Both teams won on the road at least once during their first round series, including dual Game 6 close-out victories on the road. 

III. Secret of the Series: Foul trouble

A critical determining factor in this series could be foul trouble, as the Lakers succeeded in pounding the paint over the course of their first round series against the Hornets. While Dallas has better bigs than New Orleans by a long shot, they aren't particularly deep in the front court. Center Tyson Chandler was regularly in foul trouble against Portland, a factor the Blazers weren't able to fully exploit because their own front court lacks depth and size. 

The Lakers, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to making Chandler pay if he gets two or three quick ones. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are all capable scorers and Bryant can get into the paint when necessary too. If Chandler is able to stay on the court, the Mavericks stand a chance. If not, they'll be hard-pressed to rebound on both ends and prevent second chance points, and it will put an even greater burden on Nowitzki. Expect the Lakers to attack this positional weakness much more aggressively and directly than they did in round one.  

IV. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: Jason Kidd's three-point shooting and overall offensive orchestry was a major difference-maker in Dallas' series victory over Portland. Derek Fisher will gladly serve as the underdog in this match-up as long as he doesn't have to guard Hornets point guard Chris Paul again. Advantage: Mavericks. 

SG: Despite all the talk about his ankle, Kobe Bryant surely looks healthy enough to enjoy great success here. The Mavericks are extremely weak at the two-guard spot, something they did well to overcome in their opening round series. DeShawn Stevenson and a ready-to-go Roddy Beaubois will set the table for sixth man Jason Terry, who came on strong late in the Portland series, but none are equipped to defend Bryant. Huge advantage: Lakers. 

SF: Shawn Marion was perhaps Dallas' most pleasant surprise in round one as he neutralized Portland's potential X-factor, Gerald Wallace, while also chipping in on the boards and with some scoring production. Ron Artest probably hasn't hit his stride yet but we're entering the part of the calendar when he is at his best, making everyone's life miserable and making heady hustle plays. Marion was good for 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in round one; Artest put up 11.8 and 5.0. Artest could very well end up winning out. For now, call this one a push. 

PF: Just as Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the must-watch first round matchups, so too will be Nowitzki vs. Pau Gasol. There's no question about who played better in round one. Nowitzki carried the Mavericks by averaging 27.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while Gasol once again warded off criticism for his passive play. If there's a silver lining for Gasol, it's that he will have plenty of help from Artest, Lamar Odom and company in defending Nowitzki. Still, he will have his hands full. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: The Lakers should win the pivot. Andrew Bynum was dominant against the Hornets, putting up 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds while also blocking nearly two shots per game. Tyson Chandler isn't asked to score much, but he did rebound effectively against the Blazers, including a monster 20-rebound performance to help secure a Game 5 victory.  The key issue, as mentioned above, will be his ability to stay out of foul trouble. His back-up, Brendan Haywood, doesn't stand a chance in this series. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench: This match-up pits this year's Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, versus a perennial candidate for that award, in Terry. Both present defensive problems for their opponents but Odom is a particularly tough cover for the Mavericks. The burden will likely fall to Marion, who will have to wrestle with Artest and then track Odom all over the court. That's a lot for one man to bear. Dallas' reserves don't stand much of a chance of helping ease that load, either. The Lakers will continue to use Shannon Brown and Steve Blake to make life easier for Derek Fisher while the return of Beaubois could provide a much-needed athleticism and energy spark off of Dallas' bench, as J.J. Barea didn't get much done in round one. Terry aside, L.A.'s backcourt is a touch more proven and cohesive. Overall, slight advantage: Lakers.

Coach: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did an excellent job of making the necessary adjustments in round one but he had the deeper and more talented team on both sides of the ball. He will be on the other side of that equation in round two and that will make his life, and the adjustments, significantly more difficult. Meanwhile, Lakers coach Phil Jackson still has more rings than anyone can count and was able to pull L.A. through some stretches of sporadic play to knock off a feisty Hornets team. He's still got it. Advantage: Lakers.

V. Conclusion

The Lakers aren't playing perfectly but, in sum, are simply a cut above the Mavericks from a talent perspective. They've got multiple options to throw at Nowitzki, no other clear match-up disadvantages, multiple stars in Bryant and Odom that should be able to operate with impunity and a third in Bynum who could swing the series if he continues to show the unstoppable size/skill combination that he flashed in round one. The Mavericks are confident, capable of getting hot and smartly get to the line late in games, especially at home. Ultimately, that probably won't be enough. Prediction: Lakers in 6.

Posted on: April 30, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 7:48 pm
 

Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant's ankle still an issue

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson says All-Star guard Kobe Bryant is still suffering from a sprained ankle. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant turned his ankle in Game 4 of Los Angeles' first round series with the New Orleans Hornets. Even though he was able to play in Games 5 and 6 -- scoring 19 points and 24 points in the back-to-back wins -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson told the Los Angeles Times that the ankle will still be an issue heading into the team's second round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Game 1 against Dallas is set for Monday.
"It still affects him a lot," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant, who sat out of Saturday's practice. "This is not going to go away anytime soon so we're just going to have to be close to what he's doing and monitor it a lot. He'll have a limited amount of practice time and it's something he'll have to do."
""It's tender to the touch still," Jackson said of Bryant. "He's still limping when he walks. It's a limied amount of improvement."
Bryant, for his part, maintains that he is "fine".

The good news for Bryant and the Lakers is that the Mavericks do not have a dynamic, athletic presence in their starting backcourt. Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson just aren't the type of players who can regularly exploit Bryant in his limited capacity by beating him off the dribble or pushing the tempo hard. 

If there is a concern, it will likely be Mavericks reserve guard Jason Terry, who is significantly shorter than Bryant and quick off the dribble. Terry is an all-around offensive threat and will continue to serve as Dallas' closer. He will represent a tough cover for either Bryant or veteran point guard Derek Fisher

Here's video of Bryant's injury. 

Posted on: April 29, 2011 5:12 am
 

Grading the series: Mavericks top Blazers in 6

Grades for the key players in the first round NBA playoff series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.
dirk-roy

The Dallas Mavericks finished off the Portland Trail Blazers 103-96 in Game 6 in Portland's Rose Garden. Here are grades for both the Mavericks and Blazers.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas' All-Star forward didn't shoot all that well from the field, but Portland still never found an answer for him. Why? Because he lived on the free throw line, particularly late in games, averaging 10.5 free throw attempts over the six games. All those freebies bolstered his scoring number: a dominant 27.3 points per game in a slow-down series. He was the clear winner of his match-up with LaMarcus Aldridge and he was huge in Dallas' fourth quarter close out on the road in Game 6. He will need to shoot better from the field for the Mavericks to upset the Lakers, but he was money when it mattered in round one.

Grade: A-

Jason Terry: Like Nowitzki, there's room for improvement for guard Jason Terry, who started slowly in the series as guard Jason Kidd and wing Peja Stojakovic both handled the early secondary scoring burden for the Mavericks. But, also like Nowitzki, Terry was big when it mattered most, finishing with 22 points in Game 6, including a number of huge shots, and playing excellent defense as well. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle singled him out for praise for the job he did containing and pressuring Brandon Roy, who was a virtual non-factor in the deciding game after carrying Portland to its two victories in the series. Terry knows he will need to get off to better starts against the Lakers but he sounded amped for the next round to begin.

Grade: B+

Rick Carlisle: His team was favored heading into the series so Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn't likely to be showered in praise. He should be, though, as his team made all the necessary adjustments as this series unfolded. The Mavericks eliminated easys buckets for LaMarcus Aldridge, forced the Blazers to hit three-pointers, limited their turnovers and remembered to run their offense late. He threw wrinkles at the Blazers by mixing up his defensive assignments and was able to get production from his bench even though J.J. Barea had a forgettable series and Terry was a bit up and down. Most of all, he kept things together after a giant momentum swing following Portland's dramatic come-from-behind Game 4 win. A much bigger test awaits in Los Angeles, but he aced this one.

Grade: A

Overall grade: The Mavericks could very easily have won both of the games they lost and they were dominant at times during all four of their wins. The Rose Garden is a tough environment to steal a road win, though, and the third time was the charm. Their offensive balance and efficiency were excellent throughout and they exceeded expectations defensively and on the boards. They did it all against an inferior opponent, though, so there's a chance the ease of victory was simply fool's good. They won't have the luxury of letting wins slip through their fingers against Los Angeles.

Grade: B+

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

LaMarcus Aldridge: Portland's emerging leader and All-Star candidate played well and extremely consistently, but he was unable to dominate after strong showings in Games 1 and 2. Part of that was systemic: the Blazers turned to Brandon Roy more heavily, which tends to reduce Aldridge's touches and opportunities. But part of it was also Dallas' defense, which took away his lob plays, banged him up a little bit and succeeded in turning him into a jump shooter at times. The Blazers needed an over-the-top performance from Aldridge to overcome their lack of depth and poor outside shooting. He wasn't able to deliver. That fact shouldn't mar what was an excellent season for Aldridge but it will linger on his resume until he delivers a playoff series win.

Grade: B

Brandon Roy: It was a season to forget for Brandon Roy, who underwent dual knee surgeries and missed nearly half the year. Roy played better in the playoffs than he did down the stretch, rediscovering his clutch game and shot-making abilities in both Games 3 and 4. His fourth quarter in Game 4 will remain the stuff of legend for years in Portland. Over the course of the series, though, his limitations stuck out. His three-point shooting (38.6%) was abysmal, his struggles to play team defense remain a major liability and he wasn't able to get to the free throw line with any regularity. His 9.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists made him Portland's best bench player, but the Blazers needed him to step up as a true No. 2 option given Gerald Wallace's struggles. He wasn't able to do that, but it's understandable given the circumstances.

Grade: B

Rudy Fernandez: At the top of the blame game chart in Portland will be reserve guard Rudy Fernandez, who has cultivated a reputation for being soft and coming up small in big moments for years now. Fernandez was a total non-factor in the series, averaging just 2.8 points in 13.5 minutes and struggling to stay in McMillan's playoff rotation after playing 23.3 minutes per game during the regular season. Fernandez shot the ball without confidence and it showed in the numbers: 22.2% from the field, 30.0% from deep. He wasn't able to make plays with his passing or his defense, either. Blazers coach Nate McMillan singled him out for praise for his ability to handle Barea, but it seemed like he was just trying to be nice and/or build Fernandez's confidence. This series was a mess for Fernandez and it leaves his future in Portland very much in question.

Grade: D

Overall Grade: The Blazers desperately wanted to take a step forward in the playoffs this year and committed big money to Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace to make that happen. Instead, they go home at the same spot they did last season, losing a Game 6 at home in the first round. Portland showed heart and competitiveness at times during the series but their execution on both ends of the court was lacking for huge stretches. GM Rich Cho has a lot of decisions to make this offseason. Unless the Blazers get Greg Oden back healthy or Roy makes a meaningful recovery of skill, it's difficult to see this core group advancing further in next year's postseason.

Grade: C
Posted on: April 28, 2011 8:52 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 5:44 pm
 

Playoff Fix: Blazers-Mavericks Game 6

The Dallas Mavericks have their first chance to close out the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday during Game 6. Posted by Ben Golliver.
dirk-blazers

One Big Thing: The Dallas Mavericks, up 3-2 over the Blazers in the series, look to be in full command. The last time we said that, though, Brandon Roy turned everything upside down by exploding for a miraculous fourth quarter in Game 4. Portland doesn't necessarily need another miracle, some consistent scoring from the backcourt would do just fine. Dallas, meanwhile, has been efficient offensively this series, even if it hasn't led to huge point totals, but it must find a way to get to the free throw line on the road. Their Game 3 effort (23 attempts) was much better than Game 4 (10 attempts). DallasNews.com notes that the Mavericks are 1-9 in Game 6s and 0-5 on the road. Continuing to contain Portland's backcourt while also getting to the free throw line is a solid formula for putting a dent in those numbers.

The X-Factor: The Blazers' offense has been anemic all series, cracking 90 points just once in five tries and shooting 25% or less from three-point land three times in the five games. The long ball, and the offensive balance it provides, is key: Portland's offense produced 97 points and looked best when guard Wesley Matthews caught fire early in Game 3. Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge is seeing increasing amounts of attention inside -- with his scoring production dipping every game so far -- and someone must step up to stretch the defense or it will be another long night. The candidates: Matthews, Roy, guard Rudy Fernandez and forward Nicolas Batum.

The Adjustment: The Mavericks haven't received enough praise for their ability to make the necessary defensive adjustments in this series. They've mostly shut down Portland's famous lob plays to Aldridge. They've crowded and frustrated Roy into a 2-7 shooting night in Game 5 following his Game 4 explosion. They've succeeded in containing Gerald Wallace throughout the series, more or less. The final necessary adjustment isn't about Xs and Os, it's more mental: they need to seal the deal on the road. To do that, the Mavericks need to protect the ball. Portland is now 9-0 in its last nine home games against Western Conference playoff opponents, winning the turnover differential battle by an average of 6.4 in those games. That's an astounding number, and it speaks to the Rose Garden's ability to rattle opponents and Portland's ability to step up its defense at home. Dallas was -7 in Game 3 and -4 in Game 4 on turnovers. They'll need to cut down on some of the sloppy, unforced errors if they way to erase the Blazers' dominant homecourt advantage.

The Sticking Point: We're just five games into the playoffs but Portland has already done its fair share of public complaining. Coach Nate McMillan questioned the officiating after Game 1. Aldridge has made mention of his fatigue multiple times. Matthews and guard Patty Mills took exception to a hard screen by Brian Cardinal during garbage time in Game 4. Aside from Roy's rally, the Blazers have appeared to be a very disjointed bunch on the court, and the talk off the court has given off the impression that perhaps they've bitten off more than they can chew mentally. Dallas, meanwhile, withstood the emotional Roy rollercoaster to dominate at home in Game 5. Portland has banded together multiple times this season -- in the wake of injuries to Roy and center Greg Oden, some early season road struggles, after the midseason trade for Gerald Wallace -- and they'll need to do it one more time if they hope to stave off elimination.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Series Reset: Mavericks back on home turf

The Mavericks look to regain control of the series in Dallas after the Trail Blazers escaped Portland with two wins. Posted by Ben Golliver.

roy-crowd

The Narrative: 

Brandon Roy and the Portland Trail Blazers left the Rose Garden court as heroes, having defeated the Dallas Mavericks in both Games 3 and 4, and evening their first-round playoff series at two games apiece. While Roy was able to breathe new life into Portland's season, which seemed on the brink after Games 1 and 2 in Dallas, his monumental fourth quarter explosion in Game 4 didn't change the fact that Portland still needs to steal a game in Dallas if they want to advance to the second round for the first time since 1999-2000.

The Hook: 

The eye-popping boxscore numbers from Game 4: 10 total free throw attempts for Dallas, four free throw attempts for Dirk Nowitzki, three fourth-quarter points for Nowitzki. You can be sure that all of those will look quite different in Game 5. The Mavericks inexplicably went away from their All-Star forward down the stretch and there's no way Nowitzki, who dominated the fourth quarters in Games 1 and 2, will let that happen again. 

The scary thing for Portland is that Nowitzki, despite leading Dallas with 26.5 points per game in the series, hasn't yet found his stroke. He's shooting just 41.3% from the field after shooting 51.7% on the season. Credit the Blazers defense for making him work but Nowitzki has also simply missed some shots. In a tipping-point Game 5, all eyes in Texas will be on Nowitzki to deliver his biggest performance of the series. 

The Adjustment: 

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle took the blame for the Game 4 loss, admitting that he didn't make the proper adjustments down the stretch to stop Roy's 18-point fourth quarter tear. Carlisle was content to let Roy operate in single-coverage and Shawn Marion didn't stand a chance. CSNNW.com thoughtfully argues that Roy can't expect that same treatment in Game 5.
But if I were coaching the Trail Blazers I'd be real sure I didn't even think about loading up on a bunch of Brandon Roy isolations for tonight. We've seen that in the playoffs before and it wasn't sustainable, even with Roy at his all-star best. 
That's what makes tonight's game so intriguing. I think Roy may have gotten enough confidence back to play well for the rest of the playoffs. But I'm also sure he's done enough now that Dallas will game-plan for him, which obviously, in spite of what they say, they had not been doing.
They will double-team him, pressure his ball-handling and get physical with him. He won't have it easy.
Portland has largely been carried by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, but they have also needed every last Roy basket in Games 3 and 4 to pull off the wins. Dallas has no choice but to adjust to better contain Roy. Which of Portland's auxiliary options -- Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews or Rudy Fernandez -- is ready to step up?

The X-Factor: 

This series will almost certainly be decided on turnovers. Prior to Game 3, we noted that the Portland Trail Blazers were 7-0 in their last seven games at home against Western Conference playoff teams and enjoyed a +5.2 turnover differential in those seven games. That number is now 9-0 following Games 3 and 4, in which the Blazers were +7 (16-9) in Game 3 and +4 (14-10) in Game 4.

Unfortunately for Portland, those numbers are flipped on the road in recent months. Going back to Jan. 1, 2011 (including Games 1 and 2), the Blazers are 1-7 against Western Conference playoff teams on the road, with the only win coming against the San Antonio Spurs when coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. In those games, Portland has been outscored by an average margin of 94-88. Portland has shot slightly worse from the field (45.9% to 45.0%) and from deep (35.4% to 32.8%) while keeping the rebounding battle even at 39 boards per game. However, the Blazers are -1 in these games when it comes to turnover differential, averaging 12.3 turnovers per game while their opponents committed just 11.3. 

That represents a six-turnover swing in differential from Portland's success at home. It's difficult to see Portland winning on the road unless that trend can be halted.

The Sticking Point: 

Are there fissures developing in the Big D? Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called on his fans to step up. Mavericks center called on Carlisle to step up his coaching game. At the end of the regular season, guards Jason Terry and J.J. Barea got into a bit of a sideline tiff. Terry also shoved down Lakers guard Steve Blake during a blowout loss, sparking a minor melee between the teams.

The question from all of that: Are these isolated incidents or evidence of some cracking under pressure, whether its from this series or the weight of previous failures? The final whistle following the Game 4 collapse had barely sounded before the "Same old Mavericks" line of thinking was circulating again. Despite the distractions, this remains a heady veteran group led by Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. Game 5 is the time for them to respond; the prospect of Portland playing a close-out Game 6 at the Rose Garden is surely daunting.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:50 pm
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Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:45 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 10:29 pm
 

NBA Playoffs: Blazers, Mavs react to Game 4

Posted by EOB staff


Player reactions from the Blazers' epic 23-point comeback/Mavericks' epic 23-point collapse in Game 4 of the Portland-Dallas first round series. Brandon Roy scores 18 in the fourth quarter to lead the Trail Blazers back and tie the series 2-2. 


Blazer quotes courtesy of our own Ben Golliver


What he said: "Tonight was the Brandon Roy of old. He took the game on his shoulders." -- Nate McMillan 
What he meant: "And by Brandon Roy of old, I mean Brandon Roy of three years ago. And I say shoulders because 'took the game on his knees' sounds bad." 
-----------------------------------
What he said: "Brandon doesn't talk much, but you could see it in his eyes. He was going to control this game." -- Nate McMillan
What he meant: "And it's a good thing he did, because had he not done so, it would have been the saddest thing ever. Also, when I say he doesn't talk much, I mean he doesn't talk unless he's telling reporters he wants more playing time."
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What he said: "That's the greatest comeback I've ever seen." -- Rich Cho
What he meant: "That's the greatest comeback I've ever seen." (Seriously, we agree with him, how are we going to snark on that?)
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What he said: "It still just doesn't feel real yet." -- Brandon Roy
What he meant:  "But I bet it feels pretty real to the Mavericks!" 
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What he said: "I'm not playing to be the old Brandon Roy or to change someone's opinion of me. Just to play." -- Brandon Roy
What he meant: "See? I told you! I told you! What did I say? What did I say?! Ahem... I mean, it was a good game. Team effort."

-----------------------------------
What he said: " We feel like the pressure is off of us right now ... Our confidence is high." -- Wesley Matthews
What he meant: "It's hard to feel pressured when you see the other team de-evolving into primordial ooze. We're pretty confident Rick Carlisle's broken heart is still on the floor, in pieces." 
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What he said: "We believe in him, we believe in B. Roy." -- Nicolas Batum
What he meant: "Nobody mention how the believing thing worked out for Harvey Dent." 

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What he said: "B. Roy, you're an All-Star, a 3-time All-Star. Take the ball. They can't stop you. You just have to believe in yourself." -- Nicolas Batum
What he meant: "The Mavericks couldn't stop you with entire Texas border patrol."




Mavericks quotes courtesy of ESPN Dallas

What he said: "We just couldn't get any stops. That's what the thing came down to. It's on us. Really starting at the end of the third we had a 20-point lead and they had a couple of layups there. We didn't run back in transition. Just gradually we couldn't get any stops. " -- Dirk Nowitzki
What he meant: "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat glass and not read, watch, or listen to any communication device for the next two days." 
-----------------------------------
What he said: "We let our guard down in the fourth quarter. We let one dude who didn't do anything the whole game beat us." -- Tyson Chandler
What he meant: "We got beat by a guy with no meniscus who shouldn't even be playing according to some doctors. This isn't the bottom, but you can see it from here."
-----------------------------------
What he said: "We can’t do that, man. This ain’t home court. This [arena] is rowdy as hell in here. You’ve got to know that. The crowd was quiet [when the Mavs were up 23], and this is one of the loudest arenas I’ve ever played in. They knew it. They could smell it. And we just quietly let the crowd get back into it and let [Portland] get back into it." -- Shawn Marion
What he meant: "Have you BEEN to Portland?!"
-----------------------------------
What he said: "That's what happens." -- Shawn Marion
What he meant: "It just did." 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 1:31 am
 

Series Reset: Another must-win for Portland

After taking a must-win Game 3, the Trail Blazers need to do it again in Game 4 to even their series with the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

mavs-whining

The Narrative: 

With the backs against the wall, The Portland Trail Blazers managed to hold off the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3. The Blazers overcame a hot night from Jason Terry thanks to an insane first half from Wesley Matthews, steady production from LaMarcus Aldridge and an energy boost from Brandon Roy, who made Portland's first significant contributions off the bench in the series. Roy's 16 points put to rest an emotional 72 hours, and left Roy looking relieved and perhaps rejuvenated.

The only problem for Portland? They rely heavily on their home crowd, and therefore need to get up for Game 4 as if it's another must-win. Should Dallas take a 3-1 series lead back to Texas -- where Portland didn't win in the regular season and struggled down the stretch in Games 1 and 2 -- this one would be all but over.

The Hook: 

Statistically, the two teams were virtually even in Game 3, save Portland's dominance in turnover differential, where the Blazers forced 16 turnovers and cashed them in for 16 points. Portland had trouble generating enough offense to keep pace with Dirk Nowitzki and company in the series' first two games. By limiting Dallas's possessions and knocking down shots in transition, the Blazers solved that problem.

Many of Dallas's turnovers were mental errors, though, and those aren't particularly likely to happen again in such volume in Game 4. That will put added pressure on Portland's defense to get stops down the stretch. Game 4 could easily hinge on whether or not the Blazers are able to sustain their defensive energy late into the game.

The Adjustment: 

The strategic and match-up adjustments figure to be minor by this point in the series, although one player will certainly need to make some changes: Tyson Chandler. Much to the dismay of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the Dallas coaching staff, the central spoke of their team defense was only able to stay on the court for 15 minutes before fouling out in Game 3. Chandler was dinged with cheap calls almost as soon as he stepped on the court, and, multiple times, he was visibly upset during the game. Smartly, though, he no-commented after the game. Setting moving high screens was a specific problem area that should be fairly easily eliminated, but the Blazers figure to feed LaMarcus Aldridge early and often. Chandler will need to respond with textbook defense, as the boisterous Rose Garden crowd is known for its ability to lean on officials. Brendan Haywood doesn't stand much chance in this series, so Chandler's ability to stay on the floor is critical.

The X-Factor: 

While various role players have stepped up for both teams through three games -- Roy and Peja Stojakovic being the two prime examples -- Game 4 goes back to the superstars, especially Dirk Nowitzki. The big German has been pretty unstoppable in all three games, but he left some points on the table on Thursday, shooting 10-21, and uncharacteristically missing three free throws. Aldridge has drawn primary defensive responsibility on him and he's done a nice job, but Nowitzki can certainly exploit Portland's other defenders to a greater degree than he did in Game 3. He also figures to get to the free throw line more than seven times in Game 4. 

The Sticking Point: 

In his post-game comments Thursday, Nowitzki said he felt like the Mavericks had taken Portland's best shot without being phased. He may very well be right, as Portland will need some serious luck if they hope to repeat their 8-14 performance from deep. The Blazers are a band of streak shooters and, finally, they were hitting. Wesley Matthews seemingly couldn't miss in the first half; knocking down four early three-pointers to get Portland's home crowd going, and helping push the Blazers to an early lead. 

Dallas will surely adjust to that success by crowding and harassing Matthews as much as possible, and if you take away Matthews' huge night, Portland's shooting numbers fall back to earth pretty quickly. Someone else will need to step up -- Roy or forward Nicolas Batum -- to stretch the floor and create room for Aldridge and forward Gerald Wallace. If not, the Blazers risk reverting to their struggles in Games 1 and 2. 
 
 
 
 
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