Mavs Recover in Game 5
There was so much talk, and so many questions and concern about how the Dallas Mavericks would rebound from their heartbreaking loss in Game 4 in Portland on Saturday. The team was beaten to a pulp by the Dallas media, and you could tell early in the game that the fans definitely had a wait-and-see attitude, as far as how involved they would get early in Game 5.
Even though the crowd was slow to come around, they finally came alive in the third quarter, about the time that the Mavericks did, and rolled the Blazers 93-82. They're now one win from advancing. The Blazers are one loss from vacation.
We talked all day about the importance of a good start for the Trail Blazers. Everyone figured that the lingering doubt in the back of the minds of the Mavs could turn into a landslide of unbelief if Portland could fly out of the gates and take control of the game. The Blazers certainly had their opportunities to do just that.
With the arena quiet, and the Mavericks spinning their wheels early, the Blazers were simply unable to get while the getting was good. Portland did manage to claim an eight-point lead in that first half, but it could have been so much more. That's what sticks out to me following yet another loss in Dallas.
Perhaps even a 15-point lead wouldn't have held in this one. The third quarter, which was so incredibly unkind to the Blazers in game 4, wasn't a day at the beach this time either. Dallas was fortunate to have a one-point lead at halftime, but exploded in the third. They outscored the Blazers 31-20 in the third, and took command of the game, and the series.
Trailing by 12 to start the fourth, the Mavs were obviously mindful of Portland's ability to mount a charge. When Brandon Roy hit the first shot of the fourth, in rhythm, I saw heads start to shake around the arena, as in "here we go again."
But, there would be no magical comeback this time.
If you watched the game, you know there were two catagories that absolutely killed Portland's chances to pull the upset in this game- free throw attemps, and offensive rebounds.
Most teams are more aggressive on their home courts. The one place this totally jumps off the stat page is in that catagory of free-throw attempts. In Game 4, the Mavericks were 10 for 10 at the line. In Game 5, they were 26 for 35. Yes, they get more calls to go their way at home. That's just the way it is in this league. But, they are also simply different at home.
Tyson Chandler was the reason they were so much better on this night. He played great defense on LaMarcus Aldridge, was the emotional leader of his team, and was all over the offensive glass. His energy at times seemed too much for Portland to handle. Dirk had 25 points, but the MVP, without question was Chandler. He scored 14 points, and grabbed 20 rebounds. Of his 20 rebounds, 13 were at the offensive end.
Offensive rebounds are funny at times. I've always felt that they do more damage emotionally, than damage that is actually tangible on the scoreboard. Dallas did lead in second-chance points 17 to 8, but it could have been so much worse. What the offensive rebounds did was wear Portland down. You play good defense for 20 seconds or so, force a bad shot, and then Chandler would grab the offensive board, the shot clock would reset, and you'd have to attempt to lock down on defense once again. It absolutely saps your energy.
Speaking of locking down, it's still amazing to me how much success Dallas has had defensively against Portland in this series. We knew this wasn't the same run-and-gun Mavs team that we've seen in years past. They know that doesn't lead to playoff success. To their credit, they've become a defensive team. They've held Portland to 81, 89, 97, 84, and 82 points in this series. Portland certainly isn't known for having a high-powered offense, but I didn't think their numbers would be this low in this series.
When you can't score it puts so much pressure on your defense. Being Dallas still has the ability to light up the scoreboard, especially at home, your margin for error is paper thin. When your opponent is getting to the foul line 35 times, you're dead meat.
The Blazers are 4-23 in Dallas the last 10 years. Dallas only has 18 wins in their history
in the city of Portland. So, should we be surprised that this thing is still on serve through five games? We knew road wins would be incredibly hard to come by for both teams in this series.
So, we're down to this now. If you're Portland, win another home game, and get one more shot to win in Dallas. Even though the Mavericks significantly rebuilt the faith they have in themselves with Monday night's win, they don't want to see a Game 7. As you've heard a million times, anything can happen in a game 7.
The two-day break between games 5 and 6 will benefit Portland, without a doubt. Even though these teams have played 9 times now this season, there is still time for a key adjustment here and there. There are x-factors that come into play.
Win your home game and live to fight another day.
The doubt that was lingering in the minds of the Dallas players has been tossed back to Portland's side. How will they handle it? We'll find out Thursday night.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, following game 5, click here