Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trail Blazers @ Mavericks: Game 49

Portland (27-21) heads to Dallas (30-16) to finish their quick two-game road trip before heading back home to the Rose City. The Trail Blazers have spoiled us fans recently and this three-game losing streak is uncharted territory for both us and the players. Portland is in danger of losing their 4th in a row for the first time since April 2008. Even without Batum, Outlaw, Przybilla, and Oden, Portland bucked the recent trend by winning in Big D, 85-81, back on December 22nd. The Blazers do have Batum this time around, but one major piece of the puzzle is absent tonight, Brandon Roy. For Portland to have a shot at another win over Dallas, they must ugly the game up, just as they did prior and not allow Dallas to score over 100 points.
Porland's .133 winning percentage when the opponent score over 100 points is 4th worst in the NBA, and without Brandon Roy's offensive firepower, if Dallas his 100, its over. A major key to the December win in Dallas was holding Terry, Kid, Gooden, and Marion to 5-33 shooting from the field. Now, I doubt we hold them to that poor of a shooting night again, but with Batum back in the mix and Martell playing the best defense of his life, it's not out of the realm to quiet them again. Outside of Dirk, who you will not stop, Portland needs to stick to JJ Barea like glue. He had 22 points (9-16) and 5 assists last meeting and like Brooks, he is a little waterbug out there on the floor, changing directions every which way, which causes our defenses fits. I hope we decide to put Bayless on him as he is too quick for our other guards to stay with.
Portland could luck out tonight and have Erik Dampier miss the game. He is listed as day-to-day with a sore knee after injuring it in Thursday's loss in Phoenix. For whatever reason, Dampier always plays like its his last game against the Blazers and the last matchup was no different as he scored 8 and gobbled up 15 rebounds without Joel in the middle to disturb him. If Dampier can't go or isn't 100%, the Trail Blazers must take initiative and attack the hoop. Do not settle for jump shots. Be the aggressors and get to the foul line. Portland is 3rd in the NBA in free throw shooting at 78.8%, so there is an easy way to get points and get players into their rhythms. The team must be careful to not be overly aggressive on the defensive end, because if you get into the penalty on Dallas early, they will make you pay as they are #1 in the league at over 80% from the charity stripe.
The X-Factor tonight for Portland will be LaMarcus Aldridge as well as the player movement surrounding him. In Houston last night, he had it going early and often in the 1st half. Immediately after halftime, Rick Adleman made adjustments to double LaMarcus and Portland failed to re-adjust after that. There were multiple lanes down the middle of the hoop where Blazer players could have cut down the middle for two, such as the Hornets and Jazz did to us the prior two games. But the team decided to stand and watch LMA get double teamed. Coach Nate needs to draw up some back cuts or send players down the middle to attack the rim. If Aldridge can get it going and force a double, Portland must take advantage and move without the ball. Do not be content with simply shooting jump shots.
With the recent play of the Trail Blazers without Brandon Roy, they haven't gave me any reason to believe they can beat a plus .500 basketball team. There has been no 4th quarter offense and it seems like the guys get somewhat flustered out there at times without Roy's leadership. Again, this is not a knock on the current squad, more of a representation of just how important Roy is to this team. Along with Barea and Dirk, Jason Terry will rebound from a poor shooting game last time to lead Dallas to a double digit victory. Portland will keep it within 7-8 points throughout the game, but never able to break through to get the score any closer.
Game 49 Prediction: Trail Blazers 89 Mavericks 102
Post-Game Thoughts
There is no better feeling than having the Blazers prove me wrong. I fully expected them to get beat handily, lose their 4th straight, and head home with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. If you would have told me the Mavericks would have scored 112 points, I would never have believed this team could have won a game on the road while giving up 100+ points. In fact, this was just Portland's third win while allowing 100+ points in 16 attempts.
A lot of players factored into this win, but make no mistakes about it, it was Dre day in Dallas. Andre had a career-high 52 points on 22-31 shooting and 7-8 from the charity stripe. The 52 points ties Brandon Roy for the 2nd most points in franchise history behind Damon Stoudamire's 54 against New Orleans back in the 04-05 season and the 22 made field goals is a new franchise record. Dallas tried anyone and everyone on him but to no avail. You knew it was just his night when the running hook shot hits the rim three or four times before bouncing in to send the game into overtime. It was a performance for the ages that soon won't be forgotten.
"I've had a few heated nights in my career, but I think this was one of those nights where I just didn't stop shooting," Miller said. "The other nights when I was hot, I stopped myself from shooting the ball. ...Tonight was the night where I just kept doing it. I just didn't settle."
"He got going early," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had some blown coverages that enabled him to get open. We tried a lot of different guys on him. We had Shawn Marion guard him for a lot of the fourth and overtime. He backed up and hit a three on him. He played a phenomenal game."
They are calling it one of the best 2 point, 3 rebound, and 1 assist games ever played. That stat line was from none other than Nicolas Batum and if you had just read the box score and not watched the game, you would have no clue what kind of impact he brought to the team tonight. Prior to the last shot of regulation, Dirk had it flowing, stuck on automatic to say, as he was 9-15 from the floor and 10-10 from the foul line as he posted a team-high 28 points, before Batum took the challenge of defending him. From the last shot in regulation to the potential game tying shot in overtime, Dirk took four difficult shots, made so by Batum, who stuck to his every turn, hitch, pump fake, and fade like glue. The result was four consecutive misses in crunch time from one of the best clutch shooters in NBA history and arguably one of the toughest covers in league history. With our centers out, the interior could be tough to defend, but at least our perimeter defense got a huge boost with the arrival of Batum who has the makings of an All-NBA Defense team staple for years to come.
"I studied tapes and knew that he always dribbled left, left, pump fake, spin," Batum said. "Every time. So I just watched the ball -- not him at all, just the ball -- and when he shot I raised my hands, because there is no way you can block him."
With the imminent return of Roy either Wednesday or Thursday, Portland will have their full array of guards at Coach McMillan's disposal, which begs the question, which player gets their minutes cut? Only Nate knows that answer and likely won't know until we cross that bridge, but it should not be Jerryd Bayless. He quietly had the 2nd best Blazer performance of the night and his +/- rating of +20 was the highest of anyone on either side of the court. He had another incredibly efficient night, going for 17 points on 7-11 shooting, 3-4 from the line, and doing so while only committing one turnover. As the season progresses, the maturation of Bayless has also taken shape. The more time he gets, the less reckless he becomes. The decision making improves as he knows when to attack and when to pass. Outside of Miller's soaring hook shot to tie the game in the 4th, the biggest play of the game came right after Jerryd was subbed back into the game. Dallas secured all of the momentum with a four point lead with only two minutes left. Bayless had fresher legs than Andre and took the ball right to the hole off of a curl and got to the hoop which allowed momentum and the crowd to rile down while he nailed two free throws as the clock stopped. It allowed Portland's defense to settle in and make key stops.
Words can't express how huge this win was for the team. They failed to fall four straight times for the first time in nearly two years and kept themselves afloat in the playoff chase. Now, there are six teams with 21 losses, so every game is now like a playoff game, fighting and jockeying for position. Also, with this unexpected win, it gives Portland another chance to weather this 10-game storm and if they just handle business at home could end up going 5-5 in that stretch.
Box Score


  1. Next year, hopefully at full strength, I REALLY like this team.

  2. I do too. A lot depends on Oden's health and KP's ability to make a great consolidation trade.