Tag:2011 First Round
Posted on: April 26, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Can the Bulls finally play a good game?

Posted by Royce Young



There's one lingering question hanging over the Bulls-Pacers series. Well, I guess it's really two but they're related. How is Derrick Rose and can the Bulls finally play a good game?

Rose is "questionable" (the quotes are there for a reason) but he'll most definitely play. The Bulls though have played pretty questionable the first four games of this series. They've allowed a lesser Indiana team to basically win 90 percent of the first four games. It's an "if" and if's are stupid, but if the Pacers had finished just one of those three games a bit better, we'd be looking at a real deal series here.

But this is an opportunity for the Bulls. They're returning home and have a chance to correct some of the issues plaguing them in the first four games. Rose needs to find a better rhythm. Chicago needs someone that can create a shot on his own. The Bulls need Carlos Boozer to wake up. Defensively, they've been their normal selves. Not that they were great on the offensive side during the season, but they've been fairly brutal so far.

It's become way to obvious that this team has to have Rose scoring 30 points in order to succeed. Where's Luol Deng? Where's Boozer? Where's Keith Bogans (just kidding). Kyle Korver is basically the only player providing some consistent scoring punch alongside Rose.

The Bulls are taking way too many jumpers and surviving because of rebounding and free throws. Those two things weren't there in Game 4 and guess what? They lost.

I wrote about it after the Game 4 loss that really, the Bulls haven't played one good game yet this postseason. Rose was pretty stellar in Game 1, good in Game 2 and then average to almost bad in 3 and 4. The Pacers are rolling out a pretty good blueprint for everyone to see. Here's how you beat Chicago everyone. Challenge Rose and force their other guys to beat you. Hang in there on the glass, keep them off the line and present yourself a chance in the last five minutes and dare them to execute.

It's worked all four games for the Pacers except they didn't hold up their end by closing in the first three. The Bulls needed a bit of a wake up call and maybe it came in Game 4. It's time for them to prove a little something and get right in Game 5.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 11:40 am
 

O.J. Mayo's goggles and guns motion

Mayo makes goggles into guns as he shoots down Spurs in Game 4. 
Posted by Matt Moore

O.J. Mayo, after nailing a huge 3-pointer in the Grizzlies' huge Game 4 win Monday night, decided to have some fun with the "3 goggles" trend sweeping the league (started in Portland):



The question is if that constituted a "threatening gesture" or not.  If you'll remember, the NBA fined DeShawn Stevenson for making a "throat slash" gesture , and Paul Pierce was fined for something even more innocuous. Since Mayo's technically imitating guns, the NBA in its notorious sensitivity could wind up taking a glance at this. 

We hope not, since this was a pretty innovative approach to the "3-goggles" gesture started in Portland and sweeping the NBA. It's good to see Mayo with his swagger back after what has been a pretty disruptive season.

(Via John C. Townsend on Twitter .)
Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 1:55 pm
 

So, what got into Russell Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young



There were a lot of stories to come out of Monday night's 104-101 Denver win over Oklahoma City. The fact the Thunder didn't close the series. The fact the Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak to OKC. The fact Denver finally found some of that scary scoring balance again.

But the angle that has a lot of people talking? Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder's All-Star point guard scored 30 points, had five assists and six rebounds against Denver Monday. If you changed his name to Derrick Rose, everyone would promptly freak out. The catch here is two-fold: Westbrook took 30 shots and he also has this dude named Kevin Durant on his team.

Two plays stick out to a lot of people from Monday's game. With 30 seconds left and OKC trailing 98-96, Westbrook wasn't able to get the ball to Durant on the wing so with the shot clock winding down, Westbrook fired a 3. It rimmed out. Then with the Thunder down 101-98 and needing a 3 to tie with 10 seconds left, Westbrook took the ball on his own and airballed a 3-pointer with six seconds left as Durant stood waiting by the arc.

Curious, indeed.

Westbrook was 12-30 from the field while Durant was 8-18. Russell Westbrook took 12 more shots than the two-time scoring champion.

Curious, indeed.

However, having watched Westbrook a lot of this season, I can't bag on him too much for it. That's the player he is. If you want the All-Star Good Russell Westbrook, sometimes you have to live with the do-it-myself Bad Russell Westbrook.

I think a big reason behind Westbrook's ball-hogging was he sensed what I was seeing. The Thunder didn’t look comfortable in their own offensive skin. They were throwing the ball away, taking dumb shots, forcing things and not moving off the ball. So he tried to take over a bit. A lot of the stagnant offense is probably the fault of the point guard, but Westbrook is the new hybrid point like Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. He looks for his own as much as he looks for others.

And it’s difficult for Westbrook to turn it on in spurts. That’s would be the ideal Westbrook. The guy that can sense that moment where his team needs his offensive spark and give it for a few minutes and then turn the game back over to the natural rhythm and flow. But he’s not there yet. He’s just 22 and he’s still figuring all that out.

Thing is, to get Good Russ, sometimes you live with Bad Russ. He’s not a perfect player. He’s still developing. This wasn’t his finest hour but he was trying to win the game. That’s what he had on his mind. Did Durant need a few more touches? Absolutely. Does Westbrook deserve a bit of guff for what went down in Game 4? Definitely. But this isn't something to really get too worked over about. Yeah he took some questionable shots but that's Westbrook. He desperately wants to be the guy taking those shots. He's hit a bunch of big ones for the Thunder this season and I can promise you, every Thunder fan thought his 3 with 30 seconds left was about to drop through the bottom of the net.

In the same ways you can say Westbrook lost Game 4 for the Thunder, he almost won it for them as well. That's life in the Russell Lane. There are things he definitely should've done different. If Scott Brooks could transfer five of those bad Westbrook shots to Durant, the Thunder probably win the game. Can't deny that.

Westbrook is the ultimate "No No No Yes Yes Yes!" player. He takes a bunch of shots that while in flight you're saying are horrible but then you're clapping as it swishes through. And in those big moments, he lives to take big shots. The problem with that is, he has Kevin Durant standing on the wing waiting for the ball as well.

With Westbrook, it's all about accepting what he is. It's like the scene in Band of Brothers when Speirs tells that one guy crying in the foxhole, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function." Westbrook isn't a "true" point guard. He never will be. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you'll be able to appreciate what he is. A darn good basketball player that still has some room to grow.
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 26, 2011 2:44 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:00 am
 

Denver steps up and holds OKC off for a night

Posted by Royce Young



Closing, it's hard to do.

That's the lesson for the young Thunder. A lesson they get a day to think about while they get ready for Game 5 in Oklahoma City Wednesday.

Oklahoma City saved its most erratic, incomplete game for Monday night, which of course was the first opportunity to finish off the Nuggets and move on to the next challenge. That sounds like I'm taking something away from the Nuggets, which I don't intend to. But I think we've gotten to the point where it's understood that the Thunder are the better team. On Monday, Denver finally found a bit of a groove and the Thunder lost theirs.

The Nuggets got a bunch of big contributions from Danilo Gallinari, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Ty Lawson -- you know, that formula that worked so well after the Melo trade -- to take down OKC 104-101 and force a Game 5. They talked about not wanting to let OKC dance on their home court Monday night. And they played like it. 

The game was close throughout, and while the Thunder piled up stops, they never took advantage and stretched out to a lead of much more than four or five points. OKC played with fire the entire night, eventually letting the Nuggets turn on the propane with an 11-0 run to end the third and start the fourth quarter. Denver led through the fourth, with the difference swelling to as much as 10 with two minutes left. The Thunder wouldn’t die easily, though, with Kevin Durant dropping a couple 3s, Russell Westbrook scoring on a drive and Serge Ibaka hitting a late jumper. But the hole was too big for the Thunder to climb out of.

Westbrook had a chance to tie with 3.5 seconds left, but his desperation heave didn't fall. And finally, after five tries, the Nuggets beat the Thunder. Once again OKC's defense held Denver in check (the Nuggets shot just 38.6 percent) and the Nuggets struggled at the line. But between taking care of the ball and a couple big shots from Smith and Gallinari, Denver built up a lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in the series.

OKC almost looked like it was taking a win for granted early on. The intensity and razor sharp focus was missing in the first half, and the Thunder missed about 15 opportunities to stretch the game out to double-digits. They were getting the stops they needed, but just couldn't convert. Fifteen turnovers, bad shots and forced offense really ended up doing OKC in.

But again, this was new territory for them. That decisive closing game is the toughest to win because you're playing a desperate opponent. And OKC couldn't make enough plays to get it done. 

The Nuggets did just enough to hang on and get a little of their mojo back. Is it enough to bring the series back to the Rockies? Eh, probably not. But it's at least a start. You can't be the first team to ever come back from 3-0 if you don't win Game 4. That would be step one. And the Nuggets took it Monday.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 11:55 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 12:30 am
 

NBA Playoffs Grizzlies-Spurs: Blues City rising

Memphis takes 3-1 series lead over Spurs in stunning fashion: a blowout. 
Posted by Matt Moore




If you're the type of person who believes one game can save, or change the course of a franchise, then this game may end up as one that lives forever in the history of the Memphis Grizzlies

If you're the type of person who believes one game can end a dynasty, then this game may live in infamy in the history of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Regardless of what kind of person you are, the result is the same. 104-86. The 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies now hold a 3-1 advantage over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. And the score isn't even indicative of how much of a runaway it was in the second half. The odds of the Spurs coming back to win this series are now somewhere between terrible and nonexistent. A team lead by Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan is as capable as any of coming out and staging the comeback against an inexperienced Memphis squad who may be feeling too good about themselves, though. There's still a heartbeat in San Antonio.

But it sure wasn't there in the second half. Mostly because the Grizzlies came out and put them into cardiac arrest. The cool, calm composure we've seen from San Antonio so many times in years past? Gone, in a flash of panicked scrambling for loose balls that time and time again proved unsuccessful. The Grizzlies scrapped for every loose ball...

You know what? Let's pause right there. 

In basketball, saying you scrapped for loose balls is often synonymous with the college athlete diving out of bounds to try and save a possession. That that so rarely happens in the NBA is due to the gap in athleticism and ability. Players can much more easily swoop in and collect the ball, springing the outlet pass and scoring, rather than needlessly diving. This is mistaken for a lack of effort in the NBA but in reality, it's just a knowledge of what you can and cannot collect. What the Grizzlies have done in this series is not that. They have actually scrapped for every loose ball, in the sense that in that moment, that rare time span in between the release and catch of the ball, the Grizzlies attacked every single one. The Grizzlies dove into passing lanes, swiped at the catch to prevent possession (negating the foul), then immediately hawked. In the NBA you can defend the possession or you can defend the ball. The great defenses in the league typically defend the position, moving in for charges, cutting off driving lanes, and forcing low efficiency shots. The Grizzlies are the rare great defense that attacks the ball. That 3-pointer we talked about so much in the preview? The Spurs wound up 5-18, because every good look they got was attacked by a swiping hand, forcing it just a bit off to create enough time for the shooter to close. The Spurs wound up with a 19.5 turnover ratio. So on two of every ten Spurs possessions, they simply gave it to the Grizzlies. Seven of their 17 turnovers came in the third quarter, which saw Memphis simply blow the doors off. 

As for the offense? The Grizzlies may never see that kind of lofty shooting again. 53.7 effective field goal percentage for Memphis, which factors their 41 percent 3-point shooting, this for a team that shot a 49 effective field goal percentage in the regular season and averaged hitting just 3.8 out of 11.3 3-pointers per game. They had everything working. The Grizz started working the pick and roll early, driving and kicking. They worked the ball inside, made great interior passes, and routed the Spurs by attacking, getting into the bonus early. By the fourth quarter, they nailed two more threes. The big difference maker offensively was representative of these upstart Grizzlies. Darrell Arthur. Arthur wound up with 14 points off 7-10 shooting. The Spurs dared him to hit from mid-range, obviously not having scouted that that's what Arthur does. 

Earlier this season I visited Memphis and asked to speak with Arthur pre-game about his improvement. The P.R. staff told me he wouldn't be available until right before gametime. Not unusual, a lot of players don't talk pre-game. But the staff told me it was because since no one usually wanted to talk to him, he would shoot right up until the last minute when he had to head to the locker room. Sure enough, there was Arthur, working the mid-range jumper relentlessly with two-ball boys. I found out he does that nearly every game. Arthur punished the Spurs in the third quarter. Then in the fourth, Arthur came over on a huge block, then immediately sprinted ahead of the Spurs' slow, plodding defense. An alley-oop later, and the Grizzlies lead was 16, less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. 

Gregg Popovich capitulated early in the fourth quarter, pulling his reserves and submitting that the game was over, something he's done often in the regular season when defeat seems certain. But down 2-1, to pull the best players that have helped win you four championships? That's daring, even for Pop. 

Memphis hit an emotional high Monday night, while the Spurs may never have been lower. This series isn't over, no series is over until that fourth win is cemented. But you got the feeling amid a raucous crowd in a city that's had so many years of disappointment and so many low attendance nights, with the Spurs a victim of poor defense and reliance on perimeter shooting after a decade of pounding the rock, that maybe Game 4 was more than just another chapter. 

Maybe it was history. 
Posted on: April 25, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Series reset: Spurs backed into a corner

The Grizzlies lead the series 2-1. But surely the Spurs respond like they always have... except, they've never done it in this specific situation before. 
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative: Alright, it's been fun, Memphis.  You've made some noise. But this is where champions come out and take care of business. This is what the Spurs do. They right the ship and take care of this thing... 

Except the Spurs haven't done this before. Ever. The Duncan-era Spurs have never won a series, down 2-1 when they have surrendered homecourt advantage.  In the Duncan era, San Antonio has been down 2-1 seven times. They've come back to win once, in 2008 against the New Orleans Hornets, when they did not have homecourt advantage to begin with. You can easily argue that it only proves they've overcome tougher circumstances than this. However, it does not change the fact that, when they have surrendered homecourt advantage in two of the first three games, they are oh-fer. In 2009, the Dallas Mavericks stunned the Spurs in the first round, taking two of the first three games and losing in five. In 2006, the Spurs lost two of the first three, again to the Mavericks, losing in seven after a furious comeback. In 2001, they were swept by the Lakers when they possessed homecourt. And, in 2000, they lost a best-of-five series against the Suns after losing two of the first three. 

This isn't to say the Spurs can't do it. In fact, you could just argue this is one more thing to mark off their impressive checklist. After all, the biggest reason there are so few of these situations for them is because the Spurs also won four championships in the Duncan era. But the fact remains they are trying to do something they've never done. 

The way this series has gone is also different. In the 2008 comeback series against the Hornets, they lost the first two in New Orleans, then homecourt held for both teams until Game 7. A stout defensive performance (typical for those Spurs) and a bad shooting night for New Orleans (typical for that city's luck) lead to the Spurs advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, who had homecourt advantage. Most notably, though? These are not the Spurs of old. The cast of characters at the front of the bill is, but the way they're trying to win is not. 

The Hook: Read Spurs blogs, listen to their broadcasters, listen to analysts. The message remains the same. The Spurs aren't going to get where they want to go in this series by playing gritty, hard-nosed defense. Instead, they have to rely on the perimeter shot. The Spurs are shooting 32 percent from the arc in this series versus 39 percent in the regular season. You can chalk that up to misses, but they're also taking six fewer shots from deep. (Stats courtesy of NBA StatsCube.)  The Spurs are playing better defense than they did in the regular season, both overall and in the four meetings with the Grizzlies, holding them to 98 defensive efficiency. But their offense has struggled as well and the result is two losses in three games. 

The Spurs shot an average of eight 3-pointers from the corner in the regular season. Against the Grizzlies, they're averaging just five. They're hitting at 47 percent, but the reason for the drop isn't systemic, it's based off the work of the Grizzlies defensively. The Grizzlies' best defensive attribute is disrupting passing lanes. They are great at anticipating and reacting to passes, particularly the drive and kick, which is a huge element in the Spurs' offense. Their help defense on penetration is their weakest asset, but their ability to jump passing lanes is their strongest. Even if they're not intercepting the pass to the corner three or wing, they're causing enough havoc to make the pass just a little harder to make, just a little harder to catch, and that disrupts timing and forces the Spurs to reset. If the Spurs cause enough damage inside on drives to force the Grizzlies to collapse harder, those perimeter threes open up, and San Antonio's success compounds itself. That's what's deciding this series so far. 

The Adjustment: In Game 1, the Grizzlies pounded the ball inside relentlessly. In Game 2, the Spurs responded by jamming the lane and collapsing on any ball-handler who entered, risking the kick-out to shooters. In Game 3, the Grizzlies spread their bigs more evenly, creating more space in the passing lanes within the paint. That helped with dishing to cutters, which forced the Spurs to not double over-aggressively, which created more room for the Memphis bigs. Again, the problem compounds itself. The Spurs in Game 4 will likely counter that by bringing doubles even faster and risking the Grizzlies having driving lanes. No Memphis wing has proven they can effectively slice through the offense other than Mike Conley. And if Mike Conley beats you, you just have to live with it if you're the Spurs. At some point, down 2-1, you have to pick your poison. They don't want to pick getting huge contributions from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

The X-Factor: Matt Bonner can kill the Spurs or the Grizzlies. It's going to be one or the other. Offensively, Bonner is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. He's phenomenal. He's an abject terror on the catch and shoot. With a tall frame, high release, and consistent form, Bonner daggered the Grizzlies in Game 2 and can do it again in Game 3 if left open. On the other hand, Bonner is a defensive nightmare... for San Antonio. The Grizzlies have started actually isolating Bonner at the elbow with either Darrel Arthur or Marc Gasol (the Spurs don't let Bonner see much time on Zach Randolph, and if they do, they double immediately). And nearly every time it results in a foul or points. Bonner has over a 109 defensive efficiency. That is awful. He can't handle Marc Gasol's girth, Randolph's moves, Arthur's speed, cover rotations or contribute in any way outside of the perimeter shot. But when he hits, it's a key element. That's why he keeps getting time. If the Spurs can find a way to cover for his defensive malfunctions while allowing the Bonner-Bot 2000 to just shoot 3-pointers, they'll be in good shape to tie the series. 

The Sticking Point: Memphis has played what could be arguably better basketball in likely 10 of the past 12 quarters of this series. But the Spurs lost by a Shane Battier 3-pointer in Game 1, and a clinching Zach Randolph 3-pointer (!) in Game 3, and still had a chance to tie that game. Memphis can't rely on San Antonio failing to call a timeout in Game 4. The Spurs, a championship quality team, is backed into a corner. They're going to respond. The big question tonight is how far the Grizzlies really want to go. Are they happy to get their first two playoff wins in franchise history and their first home playoff win ever, or do they really want to shock the world and complete a huge upset of an 8 seed over 1. Game 3 is likely going to be the game that decides that.

It's a must-win. For both teams. 


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