Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trail Blazers at Mavericks: Game 30

The Trail Blazers (17-12) travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks (20-8) as part of their first step of the Texas Two-Step. To say playing in Dallas has been a nightmare for the Trail Blazers is an understatement. Since the 1999-2000 season, Portland is 1-17 in Dallas during regular season games. I think it's safe to say, Dallas is the biggest "House of Horrors" for the Trail Blazers. Coincidentally, 99-00 was Dirk's 2nd NBA season, so ever since the Mavericks drafted the 7 foot German, it has been nearly impossible to win in Big D. The 10 prior years, spanning from 89/90-98-99, Portland was a sizzling 16-4 in Dallas. Maybe the difficulties of playing in Dallas are not so much the arena or city, but Dirk Nowitzki.
This matchup is a difficult one to analyze with the most important player's status up in the air after getting multiple teeth, courtesy of Carl Landry, stuck in his elbow. He missed the Mavericks last game against the Cavaliers and is listed as day-to-day. With Dirk out, Portland's chances increase drastically as it forces the Mavs to become more perimeter oriented and gives the Blazers a huge mismatch down on the blocks with Aldridge on Tim Thomas. Speaking of Tim Thomas, if there was a dictionary definition of "Blazer Killer", there would be a photo of Tim Thomas' mug right there. His 15.3 ppg and 55.6% shooting from 3 against Portland are the highest amongst any other opponent.
On the plus side, there is no more Brandon Bass for the Blazers to deal with. All Blazer fans remember getting their Christmas night ruined last year as images of Brandon Bass outworking out team for offensive rebounds stumble in our heads. Like Thomas, Bass was another "Blazer Killer" who's average of 10.9 ppg was highest against any opponent while his 58.8% was 2nd highest against any team. Although there is no Bass, there is JJ Barea and Jason Terry who just love running the pick and roll against us. Dallas showed that even without Nowitzki, they can be tough on any given night by smacking around the Cavaliers 102-95 this past Sunday.
For Portland to walk away with the most unlikeliest of wins, they have to have a similar game plan and mindset as they had in Miami. Go into Aldridge early and often, especially if Dirk is a no-go, as he'll have a little extra to prove tonight by playing in front of his hometown friends and family. Teams know Brandon is our team and if he isn't getting any help, they will throw their entire defense at him and make our other players beat them. Portland is going to need good games from Webster, Bayless, and Miller to get the job done tonight. Jerryd needs to match Terry's offensive energy off of the bench, Webster is going to need to keep Marion honest from the perimeter so he isn't able to double down on Roy or Aldridge, and Miller needs to make Kidd work on defense.
When you are trying to get a win in a place that hasn't been kind to you over the years, so many factors are taken into consideration if a win is the end result, but there is one main key. The Trail Blazers need to win the rebounding battle tonight, in particular by keeping the Mavs off of the offensive glass. They have a lot of 3 point shooters and scorers in general, so the less attempts we give them, the better. Dallas is 3rd in the league in rebounds per game at 43.64 led by Dampier's 9.6 a night, so hopefully Joel can extend his double-digit rebound streak.
With or without Dirk, the Blazers just do not play well enough in Dallas for me to even remotely think we will get a win. It's not even the fact we can't seem to play well there, because on top of it all, they are actually a great team as shown by their current second seed status in the West. Outside of Roy, the team is just too inconsistent and you never know what some guys are going to bring. This is definitely a winnable game (if Dirk is out), but I don't see it happening tonight unfortunately as Kidd, Howard, Terry, and Marion will be too much to handle.
Game 30 Prediction: Trail Blazers 93 Mavericks 102
Post-Game Thoughts
Brandon Roy summed it up best after the game, "These wins are starting to become bittersweet." Not only did Joel Przybilla, Portland's rock, go down with a ruptured right patella tendon and patella dislocation or in lamen's terms: Worse than Greg's injury. Way worse. It is now being reported that Brandon Roy will have an MRI on his shoulder after injuring it fighting for a loose ball late in the 4th quarter.
Doom and gloom aside, how about those Trail Blazers? They showed resiliency by jumping out to an 11 point halftime lead right after Joel went down and fighting back from being outscored 32-14 in the 3rd quarter. This all happened against the current 2nd seed in the West and in an arena where the franchise had one just 1 regular season game in since the 99-00 season. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of issues holding this team back this year, but if there is one thing you can say about this team is that when the chips are down, they rise to the occasion stronger than ever. Outside of climbing back from the 0-3 deficit against Dallas in the 03 playoffs, I don't think I have been more proud of a Blazer team since that moment.
Was it great Blazer defense or just a cold shooting performance from Dallas that enabled Portland to hold the high-octane Mavs to a mere 81 points, 21 below their season average. Outside of Dirk (27 points, 10-13 shooting) and JJ Barea (22 points, 9-16 shooting), the rest of the Maverick players shot a combined 12-51 (23.5%) from the field for a total of 32 points. I think it was a combination of defense and cold shooting, because outside of Barea, I didn't see many open shots being taken by other Maverick player. Marion was forcing it early to the tune of back to back air balls en route to 0-7 from the floor. Jason Terry looked like he was impatient as he shot a lot of shots early in the shot clock and it showed with his 2-13 performance.
LaMarcus carried us in the 1st half with his 17 points and Brandon was the 4th quarter closer as usual, but the player who made the under the radar, critical plays was Jerryd Bayless. He nailed a corner 3 to give Portland back their lead in the 4th quarter at 72-70 and took the ball at the top of the key, with the shot clock winding down, and darted to the hoop for a lay-in. Maybe more important than either of those two buckets were his two defensive steals on back to back possessions. He realized Dirk had it dialed in and he threw a couple of different double team looks at him which resulted in steals and allowed the Blazer lead to get all the way up to 8 in the closing minutes, just enough to hold off a furious Dallas comeback attempt.
Box Score

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