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Tag:LaMarcus Aldridge
Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:18 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 4:18 pm
 

Aldridge is fine missing the 2011-12 season

Posted by Royce Young

Ask a player, owner, commissioner or anyone affiliated with the NBA about the status of the 2011-12 season and you're going to get differing levels of optimism and pessimism. David Stern is optimistic. Dwyane Wade is optimistic.

But LaMarcus Aldridge? He's on the other end. Not just pessimistic, but extremely pessimistic. He told The Oregonian he doesn't see the 2011-12 starting on time and even worse, is completely willing to sit out the season to get a fair deal.

Aldridge, who is the Blazers’ player representative in the NBA Player’s Union, said he does not expect the season to start on time but does believe there will be a season eventually. That said, he is prepared to sit out all of 2011-12 if necessary.

“If that’s what it takes to get a fair deal done, then yes,” Aldridge said.

Bad news: In order to get what you think might be "fair," you're probably going to have to sit out 2011-12, LaMarcus. Because the owners seem pretty dug in.

As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported recently, a new bargaining session is on the way in September and that one will go a long way in determining whether or not this season will start on time. If things go well and there's a little movement, then it's entirely possible that a deal could be struck in time for the season.

If not, then that's when you can start reconsidering those season tickets.

Thing is, every time I start feeling better about things, along comes someone like Aldridge to make me feel bad. It just seems like the two sides have to get a deal done. Too much is at stake right now. But if a lot of players are like-minded with Aldridge, then it could be a long winter.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 9:36 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100: 11-20: The power of forwards



By Matt Moore

This is the eighth segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21


Try ranking just the best power forwards in the league in your head. Really. Now go back and look at their numbers. Then go back and rerank them. Then factor in their team success. Then look at their ages and upside. 

The point is, this is not easy, and that's before you try and stick them in among the best players in the league at all the other positions. Power forwards are elite right now in this league. Trying to determine who's better is nearly impossible. But that's what we've tried to do in this list and this section gets to the hardest part. Zach Randolph dominated the playoffs. Tim Duncan is a Hall of Famer. LaMarcus Aldridge was just brilliant. Amar'e Stoudemire was an MVP candidate for a brief time. 

What do you do? 

In between we've got Steve Nash, one of the best point guards ever, Deron Williams who's at the top of his game, Russell Westbrook who everyone loves and hates at the same time, and you know, Melo. 


20. Steve Nash, G, age 37, Phoenix Suns
2011 Stats: 14.7 points, 11.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 49.2 FG%, 20.81 PER, 53.1 AST%
Composite rankings (random order): 25, 16, 18

The guy's 37. Thir-tee-sev-en. And yet last season Steve Nash averaged more assists per 36 minutes than he has in his career. He posted 53 percent of the Suns' assists. Which means if there was a bucket off a pass on the floor, more often than not it was Steve Nash making it. That's crazy production for his age. Nash continues to be a lightning rod as the Suns fall further and further away from contention. His defense has never been good due to a combination of physical limitations and a back condition that has forced him for years to lay flat on his stomach on the sideline. But his offense is showing signs of slowing down, despite all the slinging. Nash finally posted under 50 percent field goal shooting for the first time since he came to Phoenix last year, and shot under 40 percent from three for the first time since 1999. So he's "only" a 49 percent shooter, 39 percent 3-point shooter. But the bigger point is that Nash is starting to slip. 

This is why so many want Nash traded. His time is running out to be effective, though with his conditioning, it's easy to see him playing till he's 40. But for him to be effective as a starter, to hold a shred of "Nashness" in him, he's got to get moved to a contender soon. But if he doesn't, it wouldn't shock anyone to see him make a comeback year next season. 

19. Manu Ginobili, G, age 34, San Antonio Spurs
2011 Stats: 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 43.3 FG%, 21.78 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 20, 15, 20

Manu Ginobili was a legit MVP candidate the first two months of the season. Being a legit MVP candidate for even a week should probably earn you a higher ranking than this, but such is the cost of a perceived slip as the season went on. At his best, Ginobili is a game-changer and one of the most reliable clutch performers in the game. His step-back elbow jumper is still deadly, and if that doesn't get you, the pump-fake will. Ginobili at full-health would probably have made a big difference in the Spurs' round-one loss to Memphis. (But given that he couldn't guard Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, probably not enough of one.)

Ginobili's slide will only continue as age and injury slow him down. He says he has a few more years left in the league. But his craftiness will only take him so far, which is why he isn't higher on this list. But given how many years he's been near the top of this list, that's not a bad career. And in the meantime, he'll keep drawing fouls and hitting big shots as the Spurs continue to try and suck the life out of the remainder of their contending years. 

18. Kevin Love, F, age 22, Minnesota Timberwolves
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 47.0 FG%, 24.39 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 15, 24, 13

Hello, power forwards. Kevin Love broke the record for consecutive double-doubles, had the first 30-30 game, showed terrific offensive range, dominated the glass, out-rebounded Dwight Howard and became an All-Star. And he's only the 18th best player on this list, and the fifth best power forward in this section!

Love's biggest liabilities are on the defensive end. He's still learning, so the hope is that he'll improve. Conditioning and health will both be important to that end with his frame, but neither are concerns with Love. With a coach that will hopefully appreciate him and a new system and point guard to work with, it's a good bet that Love will be in the top fifteen by the end of next season. His range makes him a versatile component, he's looking for his first big deal (good luck with that under the new CBA next season), and to boot, he's one of the most likeable players in the league. 

Odds are this is the last time he'll bethis low again. 

17. Tim Duncan, F, age 35, San Antonio Spurs
2011 Stats: 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 blocks, 50.0 FG%, 21.94 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 13, 19, 18

What loathesome thing age is, that robs us of our strength but not our integrity.  Tim Duncan wasn't the same player last year. I mean, he was, but he wasn't. This is the problem. For players of Duncan's greatness, there's no huge cliff they fall off, its'a slow decline. But they're also held to a different standard. And as a result, Duncan slides down this list. Most jarring was the absence of a dominant Duncan performance in the playoffs. The Grizzlies managed to harass, muscle, and frustrate Duncan to the point of limiting his effectiveness. And as Duncan goes, so do the Spurs. 

Duncan logged 76 games last season, missing just six games. The question is if he can have a bounce-back season after having a considerably healthy one in 2010-2011. The Spurs need a vintage Duncan performance all season long, but the reality may be that after so many playoff games early in his career, he may simply not have enough tread left on the tires. Why is he still this high? Because he's Tim Freaking Duncan, and he's earned the right for us to trust in him until the very end. 

16. Deron Williams, G, age 27, New Jersey Nets
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 10.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 43.9 FG%, 21.19 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 22, 18, 9

Deron Williams, Coach Killer? Didn't see that coming. 

Williams had a good season. He did. 20 points, 10 assists, good PER, solid defense. The Jazz had a pretty decent start before the wheels came off. Then, you know, Williams may or may not have been the driving point behind Jerry Sloan deciding to pack it up after 25 seasons with the Jazz. Then, you know, Williams was traded to the Nets before he could hold the Jazz hostage like Melo did the Nuggets. Then, you know, he was a Net. Which causes trouble. 

Williams turned 27 in June, so he can no longer be considered a "young" point guard. There's only so much room for improvement at this point. And he's still very good, and will fetch a huge price on the market. But you have to wonder if 2010-2011 was a career marker for Williams and if that will make an impact on where he ends up. The good news? He gets into free agency in 2012. Either the Nets will build around him with top talent, or he'll have a chance for a mulligan at 28. 

15. Carmelo Anthony, F, age 27, New York Knicks
2011 Stats: 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 45.5 FG%, 21.82 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 17, 17, 13

You want to rank Carmelo Anthony in the 20-30 range? Fine. 30-40? You're getting out there. 1-10? We're not going to riot. You can spot Melo anywhere, it just depends on where your priorities lie. 

Is Melo's defense lacking? Absolutely. Is he often-times too inefficient to the point that it hurts his effectiveness? Yes. Is his attitude sometimes an issue in terms of the superstar approach? Yes, but it never impacts his play (through everything in Denver, he never missed a game or gave a half-effort). The reality is this. 

Carmelo Anthony still nets you 26 points per game, seven rebounds per game, will hit you a game winner more often than not, and can help win you games. He is not the most effective, most efficient, or most versatile. There is a lot that he needs to improve. But Carmelo Anthony is still an elite player in this league, and he needs to be ranked accordingly. He's here for now. If the Knicks keep building around he and Amar'e and if the two start working together better, he'll be among the best of the best. For now, we leverage his upside, his production, his efficiency, and his record. 

Then we docked him five slots for his reality show.

14. Russell Westbrook, G, age 22, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011 Stats: 21.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 44.2 FG%, 23.63 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 16, 16, 11

I'd love to give you an in-depth analysis of Westbrook, but the polar opinions of him rend any attempt apart. 

Westbrook has a higher PER than Deron Williams. He's hyper-aggressive and can take games over. The comparison always made to him is Derrick Rose if he didn't have Kevin Durant needing the ball. But one, he's not as good as Derrick Rose, and two, he does have Kevin Durant needing the ball. Westbrook too often puts his head down and slams into the defender causing a turnover, too often is impatient with the offense and too often trusts his ability to dominate. Thing is, he can dominate more than half the time.

Westbrook's explosiveness and speed is top three in the league. His jumper's improved but hasn't made a phenomenal jump. The big question for next season will be what his role is with James Harden as more of a weapon and playmaker. Is Westbrook just a scoring point who can also provide some buckets, or can he use another weapon to be more efficient. It's a technical and mental adjustment that needs to be made. 

13. LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Portland Trail Blazers
2011 Stats: 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 50.0 FG%, 21.57 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 12, 14, 14

Aldridge was arguably more important to his team than any of the players 12-10. He was huge in 2011. Aldridge is also the most versatile of any power forward in the league. Yeah, there, I said it. He's tough defensively, he's brilliant in the post, he's got great pick-and-pop ability, is a good rebounder (though if we're saying that, so is Amar'e Stoudemire, who has a 12.7 TRB percentage to Aldridge's 13.5). 

Aldridge was the anchor for the Blazers who kept them afloat among the injury sea they sailed last year. He's always been overlooked for Roy, but he's also never been a problem in the locker room. He plays smart, tough, and efficiently. Oh, and he plays defense. Nice rare quality in power forwards, that. 

12. Zach Randolph, F, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 50.3 FG%, 22.67 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 17, 11, 11

Dominates the glass, puts the team on his back, shoots better than 50 percent from the field, creates more possessions, and delivers when his team needs him. That's a franchise player. And as good as Rudy Gay is, that's what Zach Randolph has shown himself to be for Memphis. His performance in the playoffs is what lands him above Aldridge, Love, and Duncan. A stats-only loser for so many years, Randolph not only found the playoffs last season, but owned them. His performance in both Grizzlies' series was out of this world. If making the Finals weren't a prerequisite, Randolph was arguably the playoffs MVP behind Nowitzki (which is probably why Nowitzki won the title). 

Randolph's defense is not good, but just like his athleticism, he manages to hide it with savvy. He brings smart help, and communicates well. Randolph's intangibles are almost as great as his numbers. He's a consumate leader, always picking up guys who fall to the floor, and being the emotional rock for a pretty emotional team. As unlikely as it is, Randolph's as valuable as it gets to any single team. 

He's getting older, so this is probably the last time he'll be this high. But it's been a fun ride for Randolph with the Grizzlies and he deserves the respect. 

11. Amar’e Stoudemire, F, New York Knicks
2011 Stats: 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 blocks, 50.2 FG%, 22.78 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 14, 12, 10

We don't blame you for gawking at this. I scored him a 12, truth be told, and even I am sick just thinking about it. Stoudemire is a pretty solid help defender, except no one will believe that. That's where those 1.9 blocks come from. Again, not good, but solid. But man-up? Bad. Really bad. Not good. At all. Stoudemire will never be confused for a defensive stalwart. His rebounding is sub-par. He's got knee concerns and an eye condition following a pretty horrific injury that required surgery. On his eye. 

But he's at this spot because Stoudemire can kill you from the elbow, and if you crowd him, he's going to the rim. He plays aggressively, efficiently, and can deliver. He lost his former-MVP point guard and still produced 25 points per game, and that's even after Melo came in a-gunning. He produces a world of offense and that still counts. As much as the statistical revolution and advanced analysis emphasizes defense, it tends to overlook offense, especially from bigs. The Knicks will never hurt for inside scoring as long as Stoudemire is on the floor. That shouldn't be overlooked. Neither should his defensive liabilities, but his offense out-performs it enough to land him here.

We think.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:22 pm
 

Carl Landry sees himself as a fit in Portland

Posted by Royce Young

In an interview with SLAM, power forward Carl Landry, most recently with the Hornets, said he saw himself as a good fit with the Trail Blazers. His reasoning? They need his size.

“I think I can fit in with Portland," he said. “They’re in need of a big post presence down low. I’m not taking anything away from (Greg) Oden and (Marcus) Camby. I just know what I can provide. The Blazers are a good team and I know I can help.

“I really like Portland,” said Landry.” I’m good friends with Greg Oden, and Wes Matthews is from Wisconsin like me. There are a lot of ties there and I have no doubt that I would blend in fine.”

A quick note to Carl Landry: LaMarcus Aldridge plays for the Blazers too. In fact, he's their best player. In fact, he's one of the league's best players. I'm sure it was an oversight but when you say the Blazers need size because all they have is Oden and Camby, you might not want to leave out that 6-11 power forward that probably should've been on the All-Star team. Just a heads up.

But the point I think Landry is trying to make is that the team needs frontcourt depth. Landry's a bruiser. He's a guy that plays physical post defense, rebounds and scores a lot cleaning up inside. He's not going to be a starter, but in terms of having him to foul players like Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol hard, he's your guy. 

And do I really have to point out that the Blazers need every body they can get? Oden's not a guarantee to be back with the team anyway, but health seems to always be an issue with the Blazers. Camby's like 56 years old to start with, so having a quality post player like Landry certainly would help. Even though his reasoning might not be correct since he forgot Aldridge, I think I have to agree with Landry. He'd be a fit with the Blazers. 

Because here's what Landry says he brings: “I have an engine that doesn’t come in every car. Its’ a special engine like turbo and that’s something a coach can’t teach.”

You hear that Unknown Blazers General Manager? Sign this guy up!

Posted on: June 6, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 12:28 pm
 

NBA players play the newlywed game on Kimmel

Posted by Royce Young



How well do you know your teammate? A simple question, but when put in the format of the Jimmy Kimmel show, good results are sure to follow.

Kimmel asked Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge "newlywed game" type of questions. For instance, did you know Turner plays with his belly button during practice? Or that Oden's favorite thing about a woman is "that she's a woman." Deep, Greg.

(I think my favorite thing about this is Oden's face as he downs that ice cream sundae. Hilarious.)

Via Blazers Edge
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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