Blazers Blow Past Dallas
If you're one of the many Blazer fans who think Dallas would be a favorable first-round playoff opponent for Portland, I don't imagine your opinion changed after what happened Sunday night at the Rose Garden.
The Trail Blazers took an early seven-point lead, and then recorded their best second quarter of the season, and took total control. In the second, the Blazers shot 12 for 15 from the field (80 percent), outscoring the Maveircks 38-29, and took at 15-point lead to the half.
The Mavericks put together a couple of very solid second-half runs, but this thing was never in doubt after the second quarter. Portland led by as many as 21, and they beat the team with the best road record in the NBA, 104-96. This is one of those games where you can say the final score wasn't indicative of how lopsided this game truly was.
If the playoffs started today, it would indeed be the Blazers and Mavericks in the first round. By saying Dallas would be the best first-round opponent for Portland doesn't imply it would be easy, of course. But, now that Gerald Wallace is on board, the matchups seem to perhaps favor the Blazers. Also, when you consider that Dallas has won only 18 times in Portland in their history, you'd have to like the odds that the Blazers could hold serve at home. The Blazers won twice in Dallas last season, and lost both games in Dallas earlier this season by a total of 7 points.
Now, just to get Dallas in the first round, a lot still has to happen. As I said after the loss in New Orleans last week, because of that loss, the chances to see the Mavericks in the first round took an enormous hit. Had they won that game, that would be the most likely scenario at this point. But now, I still have to hold to the prediction that Porltand ends up seventh or eighth. That's just taking into account remaining schedules and tie breakers.
I can't imagine the Mavericks want Portland in the first round, even if they'd never admit that. Gerald Wallace has changed everything. His energy, toughness, and defense, causes everyone problems. But, he really seems to bother Dallas.
Wallace led the Blazers with 19 points, and also grabbed 8 rebounds, had 3 assists, and 3 steals. It's amazing how consistent he is. I'm not just talking about how consistent he is with those numbers, but how much you can count on his effort on a nightly basis. He's just a pro, and doesn't take possessions, much less games, off.
He's allowed the Blazers to get their scoring balanced out, along with everything else he gives them. LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting now, and Portland doesn't lean on any one area like they did earlier in the season. Aldridge had 18 points and 8 rebounds against Dallas, by far his lowest output against the Mavs this season. Yet, it was the easiest win Portland has had over the Mavericks.
Nicolas Batum obviously isn't having any issues with coming off the bench. Since moving to the second unit he's put together two of his better games of the season. He had 19 points and 6 rebounds against OKC on Friday, and had 15 points and 4 assists in this one.
Also, even though he's not putting up numbers like he did in the past, you've got to like what Brandon Roy did against the Mavericks on Sunday. Playing the point with that second group, Roy sniffed out advantages, moved the offense, and got the ball where it needed to go. He can still collapse a defense, and still makes plays in the halfcourt. He had just 9 points in this game, but I thought he was much better than his stat line showed.
There are only five games to go now, and the Blazers sit 13 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season, at 45-32. They've just beaten the fourth, and third seeds in the west, and their confidence seems to be soaring right now.
Next up, it's Golden State. The Warriors aren't going anywhere, but Tuesday's game will test Portland. It's easy to get up against the Thunder and Mavericks. Now, can you keep that same edge against a Golden State team you should beat? They better. Despite the last two impressive wins, there's still not much margin for error.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments following the win over the Mavericks, click here.
It's Golden State, at Utah Thursday, the Lakers Friday at the Rose Garden, and then games against Memphis, and at Golden State to close it out. The magic number is down to one to clinch, and then we'll start worrying about who the Blazers get in the playoffs.