Tag:Brandon Roy
Posted on: June 3, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Blazers GM: Can Brandon Roy play 82 games?

Portland Trail Blazers acting GM Chad Buchanan wonders whether guard Brandon Roy can play 82 games next season. Posted by Ben Golliver. brandon-roy-point

The last few months have been nothing short of disorienting for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The team was bounced out of the first round of the playoffs for the third season in a row by the Western Conference's eventual champion: the Dallas Mavericks. The loss was not unexpected, but it was still frustrating, as owner Paul Allen and coach Nate McMillan both seemed dead set on making further progress in the postseason this year.

If the playoffs were frustrating, than the offseason, so far, has been perplexing. GM Rich Cho, on the job for less than a year, was fired without warning. President Larry Miller shifted some deck chairs around, naming director of college scouting Chad Buchanan as Acting GM.

There's no bigger issue facing Buchanan and the Blazers than guard Brandon Roy. Roy went through dual knee surgeries last season and missed a good chunk of the season while rehabbing. But no one, not even Buchanan, apparently, knows what to expect from Roy in the future. 

In an interview with 750 AM in Portland, Buchanan admitted that he wasn't certain Roy can make it through an entire season.
We all recognize -- if you watch Game 3 and Game 4 of our playoff series -- that Brandon Roy has still got some game. We are very conscious of that. People have counted him out, but I think we all recognize that Brandon can play at a high level. Whether it's for 82 games or not? I think that's something that Brandon is still trying to figure out with his body and where he's at. I think, for our coaches and for Nate, we're trying to figure out best how to utilize him knowing his health. I think we're both asking: How is this going to work moving forward?

Brandon Roy has meant the world to this organization, he's helped resurrect our franchise, we're very appreciative of that. We have not had any discussions with Brandon about anything since the season ended. We let our guys decompress and get away from the game. We'll start to re-engage with Brandon here, making sure that he's on course for this summer to do the things he needs to do to be ready for next season.

With most players in his physical condition, the best course would simply be the patient one: wait and see what he can handle and how he performs, manage his minutes and keep a careful eye on his progress.

The Blazers owe Roy more than $68 million over the next four seasons, so there is a clear urgency factor at play, especially among fans. With starters Marcus Camby and Andre Miller winding down, and new arrival Gerald Wallace with just a few more years of prime play, the feeling is that the Blazers need a lot more from Roy than he's capable of giving.

Given his health and contract, though, he's essentially untradeable. The Blazers have another capable two guard on the roster in Wesley Matthews, but he lacks Roy's starpower. The Blazers don't have many other choices. If there's an amnesty clause they'll likely consider using it on Roy, but the temptation to hang on and hope will be very strong because of the lack of other options. Roy is committed to continuing his career, so retirement and medical retirement are out of the question.

Buchanan's honesty here reveals just how directionless this team is right now. Roy was once the pillar of the franchise, a perennial All-Star who could be counted on for consistent, reliable production. Now, even those with the most to gain for hyping him up, are taking a very cautious approach.

Reading between the lines, it could be tough times ahead for Blazers fans.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Rich Cho pushed for suspension of Brandon Roy

Posted by Royce Young

Two days ago, the seemingly minor story about the Blazers front office pushing for a suspension of Brandon Roy wasn't nearly as interesting. Because two days ago, Rich Cho was still the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Via The Oregonian, Cho wanted to suspend Roy for public comments he made about playing time. Roy said after a game he played only eight minutes, "There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking 'You better not cry.' I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can't be sorry for yourself. I'm a grown man, but there was a moment there that I felt sorry for myself. Especially when I think I can still help."

The comments look harmless enough to me. But Cho didn't take them that way. Cho wanted to suspend Roy. Earlier in the season Cho had warned the outspoken Roy about making his case for more time through the media after he indicated he and teammate Andre Miller couldn't co-exist.

Cho must've seen these comments as the last straw. After discussions with Nate McMillan and owner Paul Allen, the decision was that Roy would apologize for his comments to the team. Which he did.

Roy responded by scoring 16 points in Game 3 and then 18 points in an all-time Game 4 which featured a crazy 23-point comeback from Portland. While Cho wanted to send a message I guess, Roy had a huge hand in extending the series to six games.

Here's the interesting part of the story though, especially because again, this is two days before Cho and the Blazers parted ways.
Pushing for a suspension was a bold play by Cho. Especially given that the last general manager, Kevin Pritchard, lost his job for thinking on his own. And even though I stone-cold disagree with the idea of suspending Roy for telling the world how he felt, I appreciate that Cho is trying to assert himself in a place that mostly deters it.

The well-placed source said Cho was talked off his initial position by McMillan and owner Paul Allen, who were in agreement that a suspension was neither warranted, nor a welcome distraction for a team down 0-2 to the Mavericks.

Being outranked by Allen is one thing. But the larger issue is whether the need for Allen to step in, and Roy’s subsequent performance, spells trouble for Cho in the big bossman’s eyes moving forward.
It's speculation, but the coincidence is hard to ignore. Cho might not have been doomed when he pushed for a suspension, but with the controlling manner the Blazers ownership runs things, I'm sure it didn't help.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Coach McMillan: Blazers need backcourt shake up

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan says his team has a lot of questions to address, starting with the backcourt. Posted by Ben Golliver. nate-mcmillan

The Portland Trail Blazers were bounced out of the NBA playoffs in the first round for the third year in a row, and coach Nate McMillan sounds like he is ready for something to change. Scratch that, a lot of things.

In an interview with Blazers Courtside on Monday night, McMillan said that his team has "a lot of questions that we have to answer" this offseason. His top priority? A backcourt shake-up.
"The first thing is to balance the roster. The combination of the twos that we have -- with Wesley [Matthews], Rudy [Fernandez] and Brandon [Roy] -- that combination is just... really... there's no way we can play the three of those guys.

"Our backup point guard, our guard position. I played Brandon at that spot most of the second half of the season. We've got to look at the point guard position."
McMillan also said that oft-injured center Greg Oden remains a question mark. "When will he be ready to go next season?" He wondered aloud.

His comment about the two guard spot is perhaps the most intriguing for two reasons. First, because Matthews was just signed to a five-year contract last summer and is the type of intense, two-way player that McMillan loves. He's also been mentioned as part of the team's core going forward. Second, because Roy is essentially untradeable because of the deteriorating condition of his knees.

Obviously, that leaves Fernandez as the odd man out. Fernandez is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal next season, set to make $2.2 million. While a fan favorite, Fernandez has been plagued by inconsistency and was virtually invisible in the playoffs, averaging just 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in the first round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Could Fernandez be headed out of Portland?

Whether it's Fernandez or someone else, McMillan noted that change could come as soon as draft night. "All of those things we will have to look at here before the draft and ... if it is possible to make some moves to improve the team, we've certainly got to do that."
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 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 26, 2011 2:53 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:24 am
 

Chandler's rebounding gives Mavs series lead

The Dallas Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead by dominating the boards in Game 5 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
tyson-chandler


Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy fell back to Earth after back-to-back sterling performances in Games 3 and 4, and his team didn't stand much of a chance in Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks. While Dallas's two go-to scorers -- Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry -- combined for 45 points, Game 5's hero was Tyson Chandler.

Entering the series, Chandler and his Portland counterpart, Marcus Camby, were viewed as essentially a toss-up. Both players are long, agile defense-first centers who concentrate on rebounding and generally provide scoring only in an auxiliary role. Through four games, Chandler was averaging 4.0 points and 7.5 rebounds with Camby averaging 3.8 points and 10.3 rebounds. Pretty similar, especially considering that Chandler was limited pretty severely by foul trouble in Game 3.

But Game 5 was a totally different beast, as Chandler finished with 14 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, including a whopping 13 offensive boards. (Camby finished with four points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.)  Aside from being an offensive threat by finishing around the rim and getting to the free throw line, Chandler's dominance of the offensive glass saved the Mavericks.

Mavs.com reported that Chandler's 13 offensive rebounds in a playoff game is the first time that mark has been reached in nearly 16 years; since Shaquille O'Neal had 14 way back in May 1995. How did he do it? He had more offensive rebounds than the entire Portland team, which is quite the accomplishment because the Blazers finished third in offensive rebound rate this season.

Chandler's big night wouldn't have been possible without some horrific outside shooting by his teammates. The Mavs shot 3-17 (17.6%!) from deep, tying a season-low for made three-pointers. In other words, there were plenty of opportunities.

Besides the prerequisites needed for a big rebounding night -- high energy level and plenty of minutes -- Chandler used his unique skillset to his full advantage. He relied on his rebounding intuition and versatility to track long rebounds off of missed jumpers, clear out to the free throw line in some cases, often batting the balls back to his teammates to extend the possession. He got physical with Portland's lithe bigs when necessary. 

Chandler also regularly fed off the home crowd while still playing within himself, careful not to ride too high on his success to the detriment of the team. The fact that he took just four shots -- missing only one -- on his way to 14 points is nearly as remarkable as his rebounding numbers. He resisted the temptation to go to far, to let his numbers go to his head, to do anything except what was needed of him on this night. 

Dallas was able to keep the turnover differential even in Game 5 -- a crucial factor in defeating the slow-down, ball-control Blazers -- and they shot 16 more free throws than Portland. Chandler's offensive rebounding helped the Mavericks win the second chance points battle 17-8. Had Chandler's teammates shot better from the field, that margin could have been much, much larger.

In the end, it didn't need to be. Chandler helped the Mavericks dictate their tempo, control the pace of the game, and force Portland to work longer and harder on defense than they are capable of. The result was a win that was even more dominant than the 11-point margin of victory suggests.
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.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com