Game 4 was going to be Brandon Roy's night, win or lose. Had the Mavericks held on, or even if Jason Terry had hit that three pointer with time expiring, everyone would be talking about how the Mavericks survived a near-miraculous comeback. That's just how it works -- people love the underdog stories where a team surmounts impossible odds to make a game close.
As a result of Roy's incredible night, a lot of the factors which allowed Portland to make the comeback in the first play are being overlooked. Here, we take a look at five key plays which no one seems to be talking about.
1) Jason Terry takes a contested three pointer at 0:50 in the 4th quarter
This play led to the Chandler/Aldridge out of bounds review, which registers as the most baffling play of the night. It's extremely hard to tell how the referees saw that replay and could definitively overrule the original call to say it was Portland ball. However, its the play before that which was even more ridiculous. After some meandering around, possibly an attempt to drain a little time, Terry curled from one side of the court, by the baseline, to the other. He catches with 14 on the shot clock. Dirk is there with him, presumably for a Terry-Nowitzki pick and roll that is so deadly. However, the JET declines the screen, takes a couple dribbles so he's even with the three point line, then pulls it with 11 seconds left on the shot clock. It was a terrible shot decision, and there never should have been an out of bounds review for the referees to botch, nor should there ever be a game where Dirk does not shoot the clutch shots late.
2) Brandon Roy hits a three pointer to end the 3rd quarter
It rolled around for several seconds, seemingly hitting every part of the rim and then the backboard for good measure, before falling in. The three itself was, at the time, not that big of a deal. Dallas was still up by 18. However, as nearly the entire sports-aware universe knows now, it was a huge omen for things to come. That three pointer seemed to pump Brandon Roy up even more, and brought the crowd back just a little bit after a funeral-worthy silence in the 3rd quarter. No one knows whether or not that was the spark Roy needed to drop 18 in the following quarter, but a shot that was centimeter away from falling off the rim several times certainly did not hurt his performance.
3) Tyson Chandler is called for a phantom foul, giving him his 5th and costing the Mavericks two points.
The review was baffling because they even had a chance to look at it again, but the loose ball foul on Tyson with 6:40 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter was simply bogus. Nicolas Batum went up for a rebound, snared it, and then lost his balance when he came down. There was just the slightest amount of contact when Batum was in the air, but the whistle was actually blown a couple seconds later, when Batum fell and the ball was loose. If the play had stayed live, Chandler could have picked up the ball and appeared to have been able to easily dunk the ball -- every other Blazer were already sprinting back on offense. Even the TNT announcers felt for Tyson Chandler when they saw the replay, as Chandler had also been the victim of another questionable (and very late) whistle in the 3rd quarter. Worse, Tyson was forced to play the rest of the game with five fouls, making him play passively and allowing Roy and Wesley Matthews to easily slice the hole twice.
4) Jason Terry misses a long, contested transition jumper, which leads to Kidd's 3rd foul.
We've stayed in the second half so far; let's head back to the first half. There were times where the Mavericks looked like they would pull away. This was one of them. The Mavericks had scored on four straight possessions and seemed to finally be clicking to perfection after a miserable offensive first quarter. After Jason Kidd gets a steal, he bullets it ahead to Terry. Now, the Mavericks appear okay with transition jumpers, and the JET is one of the biggest believers in it. However, a contested jumper 20 feet away from the basket is not what they had in mind. With the offense on the roll it was, there's no doubt that if Terry had pulled it out, or at least tried to attack and maybe find a trailing player or a diving Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks would have been able to get a better shot. Instead, the miss leads to an Andre Miller post up on the other end, and Jason Kidd is hit with his 3rd foul, forcing him to sit the rest of the 2nd quarter. Kidd had hit a contested three literally without even grazing the rim just two possessions before, and appeared to be hot again, like Games 1 and 2. Instead of helping the Mavericks possibly run away with the game early, he sat and watched Portland close to within two points.
5) Jason Kidd misses an open three, then lets Roy score easily in the post
This sequence was huge. Kidd had been 3/3 before taking that shot. It'd be silly to expect him to make every shot, but with the way he'd been shooting this series it would not have been too unusual for him to go 4/4. The Blazers had hit four consecutive shots to start the quarter, and Kidd's three would have been a silencer. Kidd missed, though, and on the other end was matched up against Roy in the post. With four fouls, Kidd barely objected when Roy backed him to the post then rose up and put the ball in the hoop from just a couple feet away. It was the smart veteran thing to do, to not risk picking up a fifth foul, but each easy bucket just raised Roy's confidence more and more, and when it was finally time to close the game, he believed every shot was going in. He wasn't too far off....