Wesley Matthews was feeling a bit shortchanged going into Thursday night's Game 3 against the Mavericks. Early foul trouble in Game 1 and a head-to-head collision with Jason Terry in Game 2 robbed Matthews of his chance to find any kind of rhythm in Dallas. So when asked at Thursday morning's shootaround if he had put together a complete game in either Game 1 or 2, the second-year guard out of Marquette opted to look forward rather than look back.
"Not yet," said Matthews, "but that's the great thing about the NBA is you always have another opportunity. Ours is tonight. We've got to take care of business at home."
Which is exactly what Wesley and the rest of the Trail Blazers did in Game 3. Inspired by his first playoff game at the Rose Garden, Matthews three-goggled his way to 16 first quarter points before finishing the contest with a playoff career-high tying 25 to go along with three assists, two steals and two rebounds in Portland's 97-92 victory against the Mavericks.
“Just a sense of desperation---I don’t want to say desperation, I’ll say urgency," said Matthews of what spurred his yeoman-like effort. "That came from everybody. It really started when we took the court. The crowd was amazing. It was everything they said it would be. We just got fired up and it was a must-win for us and we took care of it."
While Matthews 25 points were very necessary for a Trail Blazers squad that was largely devoid of a second offensive option behind LaMarcus Aldridge, but his defense on Jason Kidd, who had scored 42 points through the first two games of the series, that might have ultimately made the difference. Kidd turned the ball over five times on Thursday night, four more turnovers than he had committed through the first two games combined, and much of the credit for that goes to Matthews.
"I though he got a little tired last game against Dallas, picking up the ball," said Nate McMillan. "But tonight, for the most part, he did a good job of just making Kidd work and not allowing him to just walk them into their offense. We disrupted a little bit with his defense. When he locks in defensively and allows the game to come to him offensively, he has been really good this year."
Matthews was certainly locked in early, hitting six of his first seven shots and four of his first five three-pointers. He was feeding off the energy so much that after his third three-point make, he briefly mimicked Jason Terry's soaring airplane celebration.
"It just happened," said Matthews, who has seen a few opposing players pantomime the three goggles. "I didn't go into the game thinking I was going to do that. Just moment, emotion. Glad we got a win out of it though."
He cooled down from the field as the game progressed, but the full-court pressure he applied to Kidd, along with the spot defensive minutes he played on Dirk Nowitzki, Juan Jose Barea and Jason Terry, never relented.
"We want to try to pressure Kidd as much as possible cause he's a hall of fame point guard," said Matthews. "He can make plays happen and if you give him space, give him time, he's going to pick you apart. Trying to work him. They tried to work us in the fourth quarter, and like I said, it's not about X's and O's; it's who wants it more, who's going to go the extra mile to get the win."