Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:50 pm
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Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:45 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 10:29 pm
Posted by EOB staff
Player reactions from the Blazers' epic 23-point comeback/Mavericks' epic 23-point collapse in Game 4 of the Portland-Dallas first round series. Brandon Roy scores 18 in the fourth quarter to lead the Trail Blazers back and tie the series 2-2.
Blazer quotes courtesy of our own Ben Golliver:
What he said: "Tonight was the Brandon Roy of old. He took the game on his shoulders." -- Nate McMillanWhat he meant: "And by Brandon Roy of old, I mean Brandon Roy of three years ago. And I say shoulders because 'took the game on his knees' sounds bad."
What he said: "Brandon doesn't talk much, but you could see it in his eyes. He was going to control this game." -- Nate McMillanWhat he meant: "And it's a good thing he did, because had he not done so, it would have been the saddest thing ever. Also, when I say he doesn't talk much, I mean he doesn't talk unless he's telling reporters he wants more playing time."
What he said: "That's the greatest comeback I've ever seen." -- Rich ChoWhat he meant: "That's the greatest comeback I've ever seen." (Seriously, we agree with him, how are we going to snark on that?)
What he said: "It still just doesn't feel real yet." -- Brandon RoyWhat he meant: "But I bet it feels pretty real to the Mavericks!"
What he said: "I'm not playing to be the old Brandon Roy or to change someone's opinion of me. Just to play." -- Brandon RoyWhat he meant: "See? I told you! I told you! What did I say? What did I say?! Ahem... I mean, it was a good game. Team effort."
What he said: " We feel like the pressure is off of us right now ... Our confidence is high." -- Wesley MatthewsWhat he meant: "It's hard to feel pressured when you see the other team de-evolving into primordial ooze. We're pretty confident Rick Carlisle's broken heart is still on the floor, in pieces."
What he said: "We believe in him, we believe in B. Roy." -- Nicolas BatumWhat he meant: "Nobody mention how the believing thing worked out for Harvey Dent."
What he said: "B. Roy, you're an All-Star, a 3-time All-Star. Take the ball. They can't stop you. You just have to believe in yourself." -- Nicolas BatumWhat he meant: "The Mavericks couldn't stop you with entire Texas border patrol."
Mavericks quotes courtesy of ESPN Dallas:
What he said: "We just couldn't get any stops. That's what the thing came down to. It's on us. Really starting at the end of the third we had a 20-point lead and they had a couple of layups there. We didn't run back in transition. Just gradually we couldn't get any stops. " -- Dirk NowitzkiWhat he meant: "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat glass and not read, watch, or listen to any communication device for the next two days."
What he said: "We let our guard down in the fourth quarter. We let one dude who didn't do anything the whole game beat us." -- Tyson ChandlerWhat he meant: "We got beat by a guy with no meniscus who shouldn't even be playing according to some doctors. This isn't the bottom, but you can see it from here."
What he said: "We can’t do that, man. This ain’t home court. This [arena] is rowdy as hell in here. You’ve got to know that. The crowd was quiet [when the Mavs were up 23], and this is one of the loudest arenas I’ve ever played in. They knew it. They could smell it. And we just quietly let the crowd get back into it and let [Portland] get back into it." -- Shawn MarionWhat he meant: "Have you BEEN to Portland?!"
What he said: "That's what happens." -- Shawn MarionWhat he meant: "It just did."
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 1:31 am
After taking a must-win Game 3, the Trail Blazers need to do it again in Game 4 to even their series with the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.
With the backs against the wall, The Portland Trail Blazers managed to hold off the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3. The Blazers overcame a hot night from Jason Terry thanks to an insane first half from Wesley Matthews, steady production from LaMarcus Aldridge and an energy boost from Brandon Roy, who made Portland's first significant contributions off the bench in the series. Roy's 16 points put to rest an emotional 72 hours, and left Roy looking relieved and perhaps rejuvenated.
The only problem for Portland? They rely heavily on their home crowd, and therefore need to get up for Game 4 as if it's another must-win. Should Dallas take a 3-1 series lead back to Texas -- where Portland didn't win in the regular season and struggled down the stretch in Games 1 and 2 -- this one would be all but over.
Statistically, the two teams were virtually even in Game 3, save Portland's dominance in turnover differential, where the Blazers forced 16 turnovers and cashed them in for 16 points. Portland had trouble generating enough offense to keep pace with Dirk Nowitzki and company in the series' first two games. By limiting Dallas's possessions and knocking down shots in transition, the Blazers solved that problem.
Many of Dallas's turnovers were mental errors, though, and those aren't particularly likely to happen again in such volume in Game 4. That will put added pressure on Portland's defense to get stops down the stretch. Game 4 could easily hinge on whether or not the Blazers are able to sustain their defensive energy late into the game.
The strategic and match-up adjustments figure to be minor by this point in the series, although one player will certainly need to make some changes: Tyson Chandler. Much to the dismay of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the Dallas coaching staff, the central spoke of their team defense was only able to stay on the court for 15 minutes before fouling out in Game 3. Chandler was dinged with cheap calls almost as soon as he stepped on the court, and, multiple times, he was visibly upset during the game. Smartly, though, he no-commented after the game. Setting moving high screens was a specific problem area that should be fairly easily eliminated, but the Blazers figure to feed LaMarcus Aldridge early and often. Chandler will need to respond with textbook defense, as the boisterous Rose Garden crowd is known for its ability to lean on officials. Brendan Haywood doesn't stand much chance in this series, so Chandler's ability to stay on the floor is critical.
While various role players have stepped up for both teams through three games -- Roy and Peja Stojakovic being the two prime examples -- Game 4 goes back to the superstars, especially Dirk Nowitzki. The big German has been pretty unstoppable in all three games, but he left some points on the table on Thursday, shooting 10-21, and uncharacteristically missing three free throws. Aldridge has drawn primary defensive responsibility on him and he's done a nice job, but Nowitzki can certainly exploit Portland's other defenders to a greater degree than he did in Game 3. He also figures to get to the free throw line more than seven times in Game 4.
The Sticking Point:
In his post-game comments Thursday, Nowitzki said he felt like the Mavericks had taken Portland's best shot without being phased. He may very well be right, as Portland will need some serious luck if they hope to repeat their 8-14 performance from deep. The Blazers are a band of streak shooters and, finally, they were hitting. Wesley Matthews seemingly couldn't miss in the first half; knocking down four early three-pointers to get Portland's home crowd going, and helping push the Blazers to an early lead.
Dallas will surely adjust to that success by crowding and harassing Matthews as much as possible, and if you take away Matthews' huge night, Portland's shooting numbers fall back to earth pretty quickly. Someone else will need to step up -- Roy or forward Nicolas Batum -- to stretch the floor and create room for Aldridge and forward Gerald Wallace. If not, the Blazers risk reverting to their struggles in Games 1 and 2.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:51 pm
Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy apologized for emotional comments about his playing time following Game 2. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Following Portland's Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy expressed some frustration with his playing time, telling reporters that he nearly cried during the game because he only played eight minutes. Roy questioned why he was being subbed in after fellow reserves Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills and said his pride was hurt by the treatment.
On Wednesday, Blazers coach Nate McMillan did his best to stomp out the drama. "As I said to Brandon, there is nobody in this state, including Brandon, that [wants] Brandon on the floor as much as I do," McMillan told reporters at the team's Practice Facility. "[Tuesday] night was a rotation that I felt we wanted to get back to our first unit and I went to that rotation. Bottom line is making decisions on substitutions is going to be me making those decisions as far as what's best for the team."
At Thursday morning's shootaround, Roy apologized for his remarks, which drew a large outcry among Portland's fanbase. "Frustrations, emotions, I'm sitting there, whenever your team loses, I get upset," Roy said during an interview videotaped by OregonLive.com . "It was something that shouldn't have been said but I can't go back on it now. The biggest thing is, if I offended anybody by those comments, I apologize. It was just out of wanting to be out there and being down 0-2 leaving Dallas. It was hard."
Roy said that he had met with McMillan but that the two hadn't spoken specifically about his comments. "Me and coach spoke. We'll be fine. It's the NBA, sometimes you have outbursts, you have to overcome those things and come together."
The issue also apparently hadn't been discussed among the Blazers as a whole. "We haven't talked about it," Roy explained. "The guys, we came in and watched film yesterday, I think everybody's focus is how can we beat Dallas. This is a minor distraction. We've got to get ready to beat Dallas and not make any excuses."
The former All-Star guard backed off his statements concerning the rotation, saying that those decisions are McMillan's to make. "I think he should go with what he feels is going to be right," Roy said. "If he's comfortable with a lineup being out there, I'm ok with having to be on the bench. I was just emotional last time and maybe I shouldn't have said nothing. But if that happens tonight then I won't be complaining about it."
For his part, McMillan said the comments and ensuing reaction won't affect his rotation decisions or his handling of Roy. "He's going to play his role which is coming off the bench and we will see," McMillan said. "There wasn't any minutes promised or anything like that. All of our guys want to play minutes. Like I said, I'm trying to put this team in position, and I've talked to the team about that, to win games."
Roy's focus for Game 3 is on making the most out of his playing time regardless of how many minutes he is given. "I've got to try to produce a little bit faster," Roy said. "I've always been somewhat of a slow starter in my career, I usually start off slow and pick it up. I've got to change that tonight, start off a little faster, be a little more aggressive and then if I don't play that much, I've got to be OK with it and then I'll always continue to support my teammates if I am on the sideline."
Roy is averaging one point, one rebound and 1.5 assists in 17 minutes per game in the playoff series. Dallas leads Portland, 2-0.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:31 pm
The Trail Blazers hope to avoid going down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks as the series shifts to Portland. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Dirk Nowitzki did it again in Game 2, scoring the last 11 Mavericks points as Dallas blew the Portland Trail Blazers out of the water down the stretch for the second time in as many games. Portland's defense was a step slow or a step out of place all night, and Dallas carved it up late, scoring 28 points in the final period. Dallas's depth advantage was crucial, as Portland played a six-man rotation (plus 19 combined minutes for Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez) while Dallas got minutes and contributions from nine guys. As a result, the veteran Mavericks have looked more cohesive and more energetic on both ends, and have simply dominated the late-game scenarios.
Portland is reeling: trailing 0-2 in the series, trying to tamp down drama caused by an emotional and frustrated Roy and, more than anything, still searching for a way to stop Nowitzki with the game on the line. The Blazers walked off the court following Game 2 with an air of frustration and exhaustion. Will they show up re-energized for Game 3? If not, the prospect of an embarrassing and unexpected sweep lingers. That would represent a step backwards for this club, and could lead to some serious roster re-tooling over the next 12 months. In other words, everyone currently on the team that wants to remain on this team should have a bit of extra motivation.
Portland's hopes for turning things around and avoiding what would be an insurmountable 0-3 deficit start with their return to the Rose Garden. The Blazers were 30-11 at home this year, including two wins over the Mavericks. They swept their last seven home games against Western Conference playoff teams (Nuggets, Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder, Mavericks, Lakers, Grizzlies). Many of the wins featured strong late-game play, particularly on the defensive end, something the Blazers haven't yet shown in this series.
The buzzword is energy, though, the kind Portland brought early in Game 2 but which disappeared in the second half. Forward Gerald Wallace, guard Wesley Matthews and reserve forward Nicolas Batum all have shown the ability to up their game by feeding off the home crowd. They'll need to, as none of those guys has convincingly won their match-ups yet in this series.
As mentioned, the Blazers went 7-0 in their final seven home games against Western Conference playoff teams. In those games, Portland won by an average margin of five points, yet shot the same field goal percentage (46%) as their opponents, shot worse from the three-point line (35.8% to 38.5%) and averaged just two more trips to the free throw line. Was this a matter of Portland's vaunted offensive rebounding carrying the day? Nope. The Blazers were out-rebounded, on average, 41-38 and gave up more offensive rebounds than they corralled.
So if the Blazers were shooting worse, rebounding less and getting to the free throw line just two extra times per game, how did they manage to win all seven games by such a wide margin? Turnovers.
Portland's slow-down pace and focus on ball control gave Portland a +2.6 turnover differential on the season (Portland averaged 12.4 turnovers while its opponents averaged 15.0). During the closing 7-0 stretch, that already strong differential doubled to +5.2 (Portland averaged 9.4 turnovers while its opponents averaged 14.6).
Blazers coach Nate McMillan likes to call possessions "bullets". Dallas tied its season-low by committing just six turnovers in Game 2. The best way for Portland to keep pace with Dallas's offensive-efficiency machine is to have a significantly larger magazine in Game 3 -- just as they did to close the season against the West's best teams.
One player who is both capable of creating turnovers and cashing in on them is Fernandez, who has done nothing of note yet in this series, averaging 3.5 points and making just one three-pointer over the first two games. Fernandez, frankly, has been a disappointment in his third season. Other than selling a few t-shirts with his inane three-goggles routine, it's been all bad. His outside shooting has fallen off a cliff (a career-low 32.1% from deep) and he's failed to show any meaningful progression in other aspects of his offensive game.
Still, while he's not blowing anyone away this season, Fernandez does play significantly better at home, where he averages 10.0 points, shoots 39.3% from the field and 35.1% from deep. On the road, those numbers slide to 7.2 points, 34.6% from the field and 28.9% from three-point range. He also plays five more minutes a game at home, a sign that his energy level and impact is greater, as Blazers coach Nate McMillan is a bit of a juggler when it comes to managing his second unit.
Dallas's bench outscored Portland's 39-11 in Game 2, and most of the talk surrounding those numbers has centered on Roy, who brought it upon himself by expressing dismay at his lack of playing time in Game 2. But Roy represents only one-half of Portland's bench problem. Fernandez, obviously, is the other. To win Game 3, the Blazers will need Fernandez to help put a dent in that bench scoring differential, or they are left to pray for a monster night from Roy. The dream scenario is for both to happen on the same night.
The Sticking Point:
Portland faces such an uphill battle because Dallas's scoring balance has stretched Portland past its breaking point. With Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic providing more than enough from the outside to complement Dirk Nowitzki, the Blazers defense has looked a bit like someone playing wack-a-mole for the first time. The sleeping giant remains guard Jason Terry, who has taken on more of a play-making role while averaging 10 points per game in the series, six below his season average. If Portland begins to throw more double teams at Nowitzki -- which would make sense, given his dominance -- Terry is the likely No. 2 man to step up late for Dallas. And he's more than capable of winning a tight game with his jumper.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 4:10 am
Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy says he nearly cried during a Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy showed up to training camp a lesser player, no longer as explosive as he had been in back-to-back-to-back All-Star seasons. After two midseason knee surgeries, he's been even more limited, shifting from his starting two guard spot to a reserve role during the playoff drive and struggling through the least productive month of his NBA career.
During a Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Roy and the rest of Portland's bench struggled badly to produce. Roy saw his minutes cut from 26 in Game 1, in which he played virtually all of the fourth quarter, to just eight in Game 2, where he sat for the entire third quarter and the final 9:42 of the fourth. Roy finished with 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals and one turnover.
After the game, Roy told The Oregonian that he nearly cried during the game because he wasn't getting much run.
“There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking 'You better not cry,''' Roy said. “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.''
Roy was one of the first players to leave the locker room, but when he was stopped in the hallway, the hurt and confusion were still evident.
“I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little hurt, or disappointed,'' Roy said. “But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it's tough man. I just …. I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me.''Roy has maintained for the last month that his struggles are mental and that his knees feel fine after arthroscopic surgery earlier this season. He's also talked at length, since before the surgeries, about his need to adjust his game to accomodate his physical changes.
There is a clear disconnect for Roy. While his knees feel good that doesn't necessarily mean that he's the player he once was, nor even a productive player. A lack of swelling or pain doesn't equal 25 points a night, or 10 points a night. Or, even, a single point on Tuesday night. Playing without pain doesn't mean he's playing well. Those two have long gone hand in hand for Roy in the past, but that simply hasn't been the case for months now.
When Roy says his struggles are purely mental, he's either kidding himself or he hasn't fully come to terms with his current abilities. Scouts, former players, media observers and fans see a player whose quickness and power off the dribble have disappeared, a player whose ball fake and dribble combinations no longer mesmerize, a player whose lift is gone, a player who has been a defensive liability -- slow laterally, slow to rotate, slow to close out -- for the entire season, and a player whose confidence is clearly shaken.
Is it possible that Roy regains his form in the future? Absolutely. Is McMillan correct to pin Roy to the bench during the playoffs right now? Absolutely.
No one wants Roy to succeed more than McMillan. The two share a bond, having literally turned a franchise around together. Few coaches would have let him play 26 ineffective minutes in Game 1 -- Roy shot 1-7, scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and dished three assists -- before pulling the plug. McMillan arguably gave Roy more power and offensive control than he should have for the better part of three seasons, and he unfailingly backed Roy as the team's best option no matter the results. McMillan wants Roy to be able to play well as much as anyone besides Roy himself and Roy's immediate family members.
Seen in that context, it's clearly no easy decision for McMillan to sit Roy. But it is the right one. Roy, who has been honest to a fault since he entered the NBA, isn't expected to be happy about that. With that said, a level of composure is required, especially during the middle of a playoff series. The last thing the Blazers need -- down 0-2 to a deeper and more talented Dallas team -- is a distraction.
And Roy's comments will surely become exactly that.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:33 am
The Dallas Mavericks held serve at home, and head to Portland with a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver.
We said it in the series preview, and we noted it again in Tuesday's reset : the Portland Trail Blazers are not the team many thought they were and they're not the team they were as recently as a year or two ago. They're simply not deep. That point was made abundantly clear during Portland's 101-89 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
Depth in the NBA can vanish in the blink of an eye, and the Blazers represent that truism to the fullest. Over the last 18 months, Portland has: watched Greg Oden, Jeff Pendergraph and Elliot Williams go down to season-ending knee injuries; traded Martell Webster for a draft pick that became unused rookie Luke Babbitt; traded Jerryd Bayless for a draft pick; traded two rotations players in Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw in a consolidation trade for Marcus Camby; and traded two rotation players in Dante Cunningham and Joel Przybilla for Gerald Wallace.
Add that up: eight players that saw minutes, plus Williams, are out with just two players coming back in return. That's six lost bodies -- players whose roster spots have been filled by unused rookies (Babbitt and Armon Johnson), D-Leaguers (Earl Barron and Chris Johnson) and one free agent signing (Wesley Matthews). That qualifies as an overhaul.
Portland's management can still argue that the trades improved Portland's top-end talent. Indeed, Camby and Wallace have been mainstays down the stretch for Portland, while Matthews has been a valued addition. All three are playoff starters. But the series of moves and the injuries -- including dual knee surgeries for Brandon Roy -- have decimated Portland's depth, leaving coach Nate McMillan with just one reserve player that he can regularly turn to and expect meaningful contributions from: Nicolas Batum.
During Game 2, Portland's lack of depth was so tragic that it was almost comical. Aside from Batum's 10 points in 25 minutes, Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills combined to shoot 0-4 in 23 minutes, scoring just one combined point, grabbing four combined rebounds and dishing three combined assists. This on a night when aging Mavericks forward Peja Stojakovic outscored Portland's entire bench (including Batum) by himself and added five rebounds to boot. The falloff from starters to second unit for Portland was like a Mt. Hood cliff rather than a Pacific Ocean sand dune.
The lack of bench production -- and, frankly, energy and confidence -- led McMillan to play starters LaMarcus Aldridge (44 minutes), Marcus Camby (36 minutes), Andre Miller (39 minutes) and Wesley Matthews (36 minutes) more minutes than they played in Game 1, while the only starter who didn't take on extra burn was Gerald Wallace, who still played 38 minutes (down from 39). Before the game we wondered when in this series Portland's rotation would tighten even further than it already had. Immediately was the answer.
While the Blazers didn't look tired down the stretch, they certainly weren't the aggressors and often looked overwhelmed. With the score 90-84 with 3:57 to go in the game, Dallas began an 11-5 run. Scratch that: Dirk Nowitzki began an 11-5 run, as he scored Dallas's last 11 points after Stojakovich's outside shooting and J.J. Barea's forays into the paint destroyed Portland's defensive confidence and shape earlier in the final period.
All Portland had to show in response to Nowitzki's barrage, which included a dagger jumper and a boatload of free throws, was a pair of Andre Miller free throws and a desperation Miller three-pointer. Aldridge, who had been beaten up all night by Dallas's interior defenders, scored his last point with 5:53 left in the game, a sure sign that Portland did not do what it needed to do from a late-game execution perspective.
McMillan corrected his one big rotation error from Game 1 -- overplaying Roy, especially in the fourth quarter -- but the result was ultimately the same. His team was badly outplayed in the final six minutes. His starters looked overwhelmed and a half-step late on defense, and alternated between "unsure" and "forcing it" on offense. That's generally what happens when a team with eight or nine quality, productive players faces a team with six or seven.
The eternal optimists in Portland -- and there are many -- can take solace in the fact that Fernandez, Mills and Roy may get a boost from the Rose Garden crowd during Games 3 and 4. Fernandez, in particular, is notorious for playing better and more energetically at home. On the season, he averaged 10 points per game, shot 39.3% from the field and 35.1% from three-point land at home. Meanwhile, he averaged 7.2 points, shot 34.6% from the field and shot 28.9% from deep on the road.
The pessimists, though, will say that Portland's bench simply can't play worse than it did Tuesday.
The realists will conclude that Portland's bench will likely play better -- because it can't play any worse -- but that it must play much, much better if Portland is to stand a chance at making this a true series against a deep, talented, balanced and motivated Mavericks squad.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:27 pm
We reset the Blazers-Mavericks series with Game 2 ready to tip Tuesday night. Can Portland bounce back in the Big D? Posted by Ben Golliver.
Dirk Nowitzki's big fourth quarter -- including 13-13 from the free throw line -- did Portland in during Game 1. Blazers coach Nate McMillan was left to gripe about the officiating afterwards, earning himself a big fine from the league office. On Tuesday, though, it was Dallas's turn to be up in arms about the referees, as longtime franchise nemisis, Danny Crawford, is set to be the Game 2 crew chief. As ESPNDallas.com points out , the Mavericks are just 2-16 in playoff games that Crawford has officated. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has refused to comment (so far).
Game 1 did not play out as expected : Nowitzki struggled from the field, Jason Kidd exploded for a season-high and both Jason Terry and Gerald Wallace were virtually invisible. About the only things that went according to plan were LaMarcus Aldridge's continued dominance of his Mavs defenders (27 points and six rebounds) and the lackluster shooting from Portland's guards (Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez combined to shoot 4-13, and Portland shot 2-16 overall from three-point land). If there's a big concern for Portland, it's that shooting. The slow-tempo Blazers had to love that neither team cracked 90 points in Game 1, but desperately need a third scoring option to emerge to take pressure off of Aldridge and point guard Andre Miller.
That person figures to be Gerald Wallace, who was out-of-sync in Game 1, and had trouble finding space and touches as Dallas's defense packed it in. Wallace has talked about the need for upping the tempo , but what he really means is that Portland needs to win the turnover battle (each team had 13 in game one) and convert some easy buckets in transition. Wallace is a star in the open court and a few runouts off of steals or one-man fast breaks off of defensive rebounds can change momentum in a hurry.
The must-watch strategic decision will be how many minutes Blazers guard Brandon Roy plays. For most of the last month, Roy's playing time has hovered between 15 and 20 minutes as he's been tasked with being a facilitator off Portland's bench. In Game 1, though, McMillan chose to ride Roy for virtually all of the fourth quarter. The move didn't work. Roy's production -- 1-7 shooting -- was in line with his recent struggles (he shot 33% in April). Meanwhile, Portland's starting two guard, Wesley Matthews, sat watching on the bench without ever impacting the game. While Matthews is wise and mature beyond his years, he's still a second-year player with consistency issues; McMillan's Game 1 rotation sent a fairly clear message that he didn't feel that Matthews could be counted upon at that moment. Was that a one-time thing? If so, how will Matthews respond?
Does McMillan re-think that decision and go back to using Matthews down the stretch? It's something he's done for most of the spring and which has paid dividends in big games, like when Matthews picked Manu Ginobili to help set up a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Spurs in March. Or, does he decide to ride or die with Roy, a player who has had playoff success but who has also admitted that his struggles are "mental"? No one can know for certain, and it's unclear whether McMillan is planning that decision in advance or waiting to see how the early stages of Game 2 play out.
Terry, Dallas's second-leading scorer during the regular season at 15.8 points per game, continues his struggles against the Blazers. He reached his season average just once in four regular season games against Portland and scored just 10 points in Game 1, with five of those coming on late free throws. That Terry would only attempt five shots in 27 minutes is eye-opening, but it's also a product of Kidd frequently calling his own number. Kidd was red hot in Game 1 -- going off for six three-pointers and 24 points -- and that's not a performance we'll likely see in back-to-back games. With J.J. Barea also struggling and Rodrigue Beaubois set to be a game-time decision, Terry simply must produce for Dallas. Otherwise, the offense will be imbalanced and Nowitzki will be swarmed liked mad.
The Sticking Point:
With so many veterans playing big minutes and so little production coming from each team's bench in Game 1, a major sticking point to watch for the rest of the series is whether both coaches tighten their rotations, applying even more pressure on their stars and elder statesmen. McMillan is playing just eight guys while Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle played nine. How McMillan divvies up playing time for Aldridge (who played 41 minutes), center Marcus Camby (29 minutes) Andre Miller (34 minutes) and Gerald Wallace (39 minutes) will be the place to start. It's quite possible all four of those players see more time in Game 2, pending foul trouble of course. For Dallas, unless Barea steps up, the temptation will be to ride Nowitzki (39 minutes), Kidd (34 minutes) and Tyson Chandler (32 minutes) even harder as well.
Who, if anyone, breaks first under the strain of additional playing time? And at what point in the series does it happen?