Blazers Down Red-Hot Mavs
The best road team in the NBA came into the Rose Garden on Tuesday night, shot 60 percent from the field, got 28 points from its star player, and lost.
The Dallas Mavericks rode into this game winners of 20 of their last 24 games (three of those four losses in that stretch were decided by one point). They came in with a 23-9 mark away from Dallas. They had been 36-3 on the season when scoring 100 points or more. They were 38-8 on the season when shooting just 45 percent or better, 21-4 when shooting 50 percent or better, and 34-7 when leading at halftime. Those are some crazy numbers, and the Trail Blazers didn't pay them any mind.
We previewed this game as a possible first-round playoff preview. If that ends up being the case, we're like in for one heck of a series. The Mavericks won the first meeting between these teams, in Dallas, 103-98. They closed the second meeting on a 12-4 run and won it 84-81. On this night, the Trail Blazers absorbed an incredible offensive night by the Mavericks, essentially taking their best shot, and beat them.
This one will no doubt linger in the minds of the Dallas players. They hit their first 11 shots of the game, and shot 73 percent in the first quarter. Yet, despite all of that, they led by only three after the first. That was a sign of things to come. They cooled off only a little bit after that, and could never put any distance between themselves and the Blazers.
The Rose Garden just wasn't having it on this night.
The Blazers have now beaten the best two road teams in the NBA at the RG (San Antonio being the other).
Dirk Nowitzki was brilliant on this night, scoring 28 points on 9 of 14 shooting. He grabbed 11 rebounds, and was 9 for 9 at the free-throw line. He had a chance to send the game to overtime in the closing seconds, but missed.
It was a great start to a vital three-game home stand for the Trail Blazers, who were coming off a very odd road trip. They put together those wins at Orlando and Miami, and then lost at Charlotte and Atlanta. Everyone was wondering if they'd be able to rebuild their confidence against one of the NBA's best.
LaMarcus Aldridge probably wouldn't mind seeing Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. He had 35 and 10 in the first meeting, 28 and 10 in the second, and in this game had 30 points and 8 rebounds. And, he got some big-time help from an old friend.
Brandon Roy was spectacular in the second half, and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. He hit a buzzer-beating shot to end the third, and then started the fourth with an ankle-breaking crossover on Dallas' Ian Mahinmi. Roy also buried two clutch free throws to help the Blazers hold off the Mavs in the final minute.
Brandon scored 21 points in the game, and showed the explosiveness that has been absent from his game since returning from knee surgery. We don't know if that'll be there every night, but it's clearly still possible. He's clearly still a big weapon in crunch time, and wants the opportunity to take clutch shots.
It was more than just Aldridge and Roy, however. Rudy Fernandez, who's trying to dig out of a shooting slump, had a huge steal late in this game and dished to Aldridge for a jam. Wesley Matthews, who kept the Blazers in it early with four three pointers, also had a key steal in the final two minutes. Marcus Camby had a massive tip in at the offensive end in the closing minutes, and Gerald Wallace was big in his first start as a Blazer.
This was a fantastic NBA game, and thank goodness for the DVR. This one is worthy of replay after replay.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
If the wins at Orlando and Miami made it possible for the Blazers to absorb losses at Charlotte and Atlanta, this win put them back ahead in the momentum catagory. And, with as tight as this race in the west is, these are the kind of wins you remember in April.
The Blazers have probably learned their lesson about the dangers of emotional let downs after huge wins, so the Cleveland Cavaliers probably won't have that working in their favor on Thursday night. But, you better believe it's a factor.
It's Cleveland Thursday, Philadelphia on Saturday, and then a potentially huge game against the Lakers in L.A. on Sunday.
For now, it's okay to take a few moments to simply enjoy this one.