According to many of the experts, this was not suppose to happen. Clearly, they sorely underestimated just what these scraggly old veterans could do if they set their mind to it.
The Mavericks close out their series with Portland, in Portland. Despite losing there twice in Games 3 and 4, the latter in stunning fashion, the Mavericks seemed to be unaffected by the noise or hostile environment. Instead of folding once the Trail Blazers strung several baskets together, someone would step up and hit a crowd-silencing basket. It was a veteran group doing what veterans do; ignoring the distractions, and simply getting done what needed to be done.
The most important of these veterans was Dirk Nowitzki. Surprise, I know. Dirk scored 33 points on just 17 shot attempts, and grabbed 11 rebound. His passing out of traps and doubles led to four assists, his aggressive defense got him five fouls but also helped the Mavericks get several key stops, and his four turnovers were hardly noticeable in his overall body of work. Despite his fantastic play so far in this series, there still had not been a classic Dirk game, with incredibly efficient shooting and ridiculous shot making...until now.
The game did not start off as promising as it finished, though. A 9-0 Gerald Wallace run to begin the game led to a quick Carlisle timeout with just three and a half minutes played, and after dropping down 19-7, he took another. From there, Dallas was finally able to turn it around. Marion scored in close, followed by a quick six points for Dirk, capped off by a hook shoot from the right block.
Still trailing by eight at the end of the first, the Mavericks came out blazing the 2nd quarter. They scored over twice as many points as Portland did, 33-16, led by 13 for the sweet shooting German, who topped the infrequent hook shot with a two handed throw down on the fast break. The end of the quarter was punctuated by a Jason Terry three pointer as time expired, moving the Maverick led to nine.
The Mavericks played a well-balanced third quarter, one in which Dirk did not score a single point yet the Mavericks still outscored Portland by four. Terry led the show with his hot shooting, but the shot of the quarter (and, for that matter, the game) was a long fadeaway two pointer with the shot clock expiring that appeared to graze the sky before sliding through the bucket without a sound. Of course, any fan of the Mavericks knows that the thirteen point lead was not safe at all, and the Blazers scored on eight of their first nine possessions in that quarter. If not for Dirk answering back and a huge Jose Barea three pointer, the game could have become much closer. Without that, the closest Portland got was one point, a lead that was immediately expanded by a Jason Kidd three. A quick Marion post up on Roy netted a hook shot, and then Terry hit a driving pull up that all but sealed the deal.
Here Lies the Victory
- Jason Terry really played excellent. We'll save his turnovers for a little bit later, and focus on his efficient 22 points on sixteen shots. Despite his jumper falling steadily, Terry rarely settled, attacking the hole and getting better shots. His penetration also led to eight assists.
- Shawn Marion started off a little slow, missing his first five shots. However, he was able to start taking his shots, and finished with 16 and 6.
- JJ Barea, despised as he is, hit his first three pointer of the season at a great time. He played just 14 minutes, but his four assists and seven points were a solid spark from the bench. He played his role great tonight.
- Tyson Chandler. Only 9 and 7, but what a defensive force he is. He limited his fouling to just one for the game, and as a result was much more active.
- The Mavericks defense was not always perfect, but it stepped up just when it needed to, halting a crowd-fueled Blazers run that threatened the team lead or leading to easy scores on the fast break. Its not the elite defense that was hoped for early in the year, but it still has the ability to suffocate the opposing team from possession to possession.
Needs a Tune Up Before Facing the Lakers
- Only nine turnovers is a great stat, but several were unforced. Those types of errors are simply not permissible if the series with the Lakers is going to be any bit as tough as it sounds.
- Peja hit just one three, and was 1-7 overall. When playing like this, he is a big lump of nothing on the court. It is important that he hit his threes, because otherwise this is a chronically 33% shooting team.
- Brenden Haywood must improve his play to match Bynum, Gasol, and Odom. Haywood's lack of mobility allowed Aldridge to get several great looks and forced Carlisle's hand to put Chandler back in.