Earl K. Sneed recaps Saturday's Game 4 between the Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers, as the Dallas team failed to hold on to a 23-point lead only to fall after a monster fourth quarter by former All-Star Brandon Roy.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is not a believer in the old adage that a playoff series doesn’t begin until one team wins on the other squad’s home floor.
Still, even the coach had to admit that the landscape of his team’s first-round series would change if the Mavericks could have successfully gone into the Rose Garden on Saturday and come out with a Game 4 win over the Portland Trail Blazers before heading back to Dallas with a 3-1 edge and a chance to close things out on Monday night at home.
“It becomes a little different when somebody gets beat on their home floor,” Carlisle said before the game, referencing the fact that the home team had held serve through three meetings. “I mean, that changes the dynamic of the series in terms of the home court. So, that’s something that’s always gonna be in play, but we’re just concentrating on the first possession of the game and we’re going possession by possession.”
With that said, the Mavericks took the court Saturday looking not only to snatch the first road win in the series but also hoping to end a trend, after all four matchups in the regular season between the two teams went to the hosting squad as well.
But the Mavericks were just 12 minutes away from accomplishing their goal, up by 18 entering the final period, when three-time All-Star Brandon Roy exploded for 18 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth to lead the Blazers to a come-from-behind 84-82 win to tie the series before it shifts back to Dallas.
And after the Blazers led for a grand total of 66 seconds in their second win, the best-of-seven series immediately became simply a race to two victories with three possible showdowns still left to be played.
“It’s definitely a tough one to sit on,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said after the loss. “Now, we’ve gotta fly home for four hours on that one. Frustration is definitely at a high level, but good thing is we’ve got to win two out of three now and we’ve got two at home.”
The Mavericks struck first, however, coming out of the gate in a slow start for both teams and easing their way to a 5-0 edge. Behind swingman DeShawn Stevenson’s pair of 3-point shots the Mavericks continued to hold an early advantage. But the Blazers came roaring back with their backcourt duo of Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews leading the way, while Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd was forced to sit with two early fouls.
Still, the Mavs managed to regain the lead with a suffocating defensive effort, taking a 16-11 margin into the second stanza after outshooting the Blazers in the opening period, 31.6 percent to 25.0 percent, thanks to 4-for-7 shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
“The focus that we had today, I think our defense was really good,” Nowitzki said of the defensive effort early on.
With Kidd on the bench, the Mavericks increased the lead behind the undersized backcourt of backup point guard J.J. Barea and sixth man Jason Terry. Meanwhile, the game’s physicality level picked up, with both teams exchanging hard fouls after the Mavs’ advantage reached nine.
Kidd then returned to the floor in time to help engineer a double-figure lead for his team, as both the Mavs’ floor general and Nowitzki found success feeding center Tyson Chandler inside. Chandler would then find himself in the middle of a scrum with the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge, leading to a double-technical foul call on both big men.
Despite the whistle, tempers would remain heated with pushing matches continuing between both teams. And after the Blazers rallied with a 12-4 run to creep to within two of Dallas’ lead, 37-35, the Mavs headed into the locker room at the half nursing a slight edge on the scoreboard.
Both teams struggled to find the bottom of the nets with regularity in the first 24 minutes of play, with Dallas’ 38.1 percent shooting just bettering Portland’s 35.5 percent. And although Nowitzki tried to keep pace with Miller, scoring nine points to lead the Mavs while the Blazers’ point guard led all scorers at the midway mark with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, Portland’s 8-0 edge in fast-break points and 12-of-12 from the foul line — compared to zero attempts at the charity stripe for Dallas — powered the home team back into the game.
It was the first time the Mavericks haven’t attempted a free throw during a half in the playoffs since the 2002-03 postseason run.
Dallas ran into more foul trouble early in the third quarter, with Kidd collecting his fourth while the Blazers incurred the same problem with big man Marcus Camby. But the Mavericks would be just fine thanks to the offense of versatile forward Shawn Marion, whose low-post moves and ability to score in an assortment of ways lifted his team to a comfortable margin, before Kidd’s 3-pointer again put Dallas ahead by double digits.
Despite three fouls on Chandler in the quarter, the Mavericks continued to control the pace of the game, as Marion’s inside scoring barrage was bolstered by Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic from the outside to build a lead as large as 23. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense stifled the Blazers at the other end of the floor, forcing 15 straight misses for Portland to begin the quarter en route to a 30-14 period and a 67-49 lead in the Mavs’ favor.
But there would be a complete change of fortunes just a quarter later.
“The two quarters were diametric opposites,” Carlisle would later say when comparing the third and fourth periods.
“We gave up14 points and that’s what we want to do, get stops. And then I think that sets our flow game up. We don’t have to call a million plays, we can just play off transition, get the ball to Kidd, run some transition screen-and-rolls and just play off of that. When we have to take the ball out we’re in trouble, and that’s what happened in the fourth,” Nowitzki added.
Stojakovic took control of the Mavericks’ offense early in the fourth period, with the Blazers attacking back and trying to rally in front of their hometown fans. And while the Mavericks’ offense became stagnant, the Portland squad continued to climb to within single digits, with Roy and Aldridge powering the comeback attempt.
“We let up with our aggression,” Chandler said of his team’s play in the fourth. “For the first three quarters we controlled them, we were up, we were pressuring them … and that was a game-changer. Fourth quarter came, we let them roll the ball up the court, walk it up, get to their sweet spot and good players are gonna make plays when you do that.”
“We lost a little bit of our aggression,” Carlisle echoed. “I thought the way we finished the third quarter was poor. They were on a 5-0 run, and NBA games are long, you’ve gotta keep playing. What got us the lead was stops and scores, and what lost the lead was when we went eight straight times without scoring and that fueled their offense.”
Although Terry’s corner 3 with 3:33 left briefly kept the Blazers at bay, Roy’s driving floater — after running a series of isolation plays from the top of the key — made it just an 80-74 margin in Dallas’ favor with 2:32 remaining.
“[Roy] got on a roll in the fourth and made some things happen, and I’m gonna take the blame for a lot of that. There are some different things defensively we could have done, but we should have done some different things,” Carlisle explained.
Nowitzki immediately tried to answer, driving to the basket for a scoring attempt, but his lay-in was called off due to an offensive foul with 2:16 left for the home team to keep hacking away at its deficit.
An Aldridge score and a Dallas turnover allowed the Blazers to close to within two after Roy connected on another perimeter jumper. But the former All-Star wasn’t done, draining a shot from behind the arc, plus the foul on Marion for the four-point play, and bringing the game to an 82-all tie with 1:06 left.
“When somebody gets going it’s hard to shut them down,” Marion said after watching Roy take over the final quarter. “They got hot and they were hitting everything they shot.”
“Once you’re hot, stuff just happens,” Nowitzki added.
After a controversial out-of-bounds call was reviewed and awarded to the Blazers with 49.4 seconds left, Roy stepped into another jumper and swished it with ease, lifting his team to a two-point edge with 39.2 ticks still on the clock for the Mavs to respond.
In response, the ball worked its way to Kidd, but his 3-pointer overshot the rim and landed in the Blazers’ possession. However, the Dallas defense proved to be up to the challenge at the other end, forcing a Roy miss on a step-back 3 with Kidd grabbing the rebound and outletting the ball out to Terry. But the sharpshooter’s desperation 3 at the buzzer hit off the back of the rim, securing the comeback win for the Blazers and sending the series back to Dallas knotted at 2-2.
“I thought I was gonna make that one, but it just didn’t go,” Terry said of the final shot.
Nowitzki led three Mavericks in double figures with 20 points in a losing effort, hitting on 7-of-17 from the floor. Off the bench, Terry added 13 points while Marion pitched in 12 in the first unit.
Spawned by his big fourth quarter, Roy was the high-point man off the Blazers’ bench, hitting on 9-of-13 to lead five players in double figures. The Blazers also finished the night outshooting the Mavs, 42.0 percent to 40.8 percent, in addition to a 12-0 advantage in fast-break points.
And albeit in a loss, the Mavs did conclude the game with a 37-34 rebounding edge and a 14-2 margin in second-chance points.
After suffering the heart-breaking loss the Mavericks immediately boarded a flight back to Dallas to prepare for Game 5 at the American Airlines Center on Monday night. And now the Mavs will try to extend the same trend they hoped to end before the game, looking for a third home win and a 3-2 edge in the series before a Game 6 on Thursday night back at the Rose Garden.
“It’s one game, they won two games at home. Obviously, we feel like we should have won this one, but we didn’t. So, let’s go back home and we’ve gotta get a win. …Go back home and it’s must-win time for us,” Terry concluded.
“We came all the way up here and didn’t get a win,” Marion added. “We’ve just gotta go back home and defend home court now.”
Note: In a matchup that will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, Game 5 will air locally on TXA 21 and nationally on NBA TV. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
The first-round series between the two teams continues as follows:
Game 5 * Mon April 25 Portland at Dallas TBD 7:30 p.m. CT TXA 21/ NBA TV
Game 6 * Thu April 28 Dallas at Portland TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat April 30 Portland at Dallas TBD TBD TNT
Playoff tickets for Game 5 against the Blazers are on sale now! Tickets can be purchased online at Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS. Game 5 will be played on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. CT. For details, visit Mavs.com. Be There! Rowdy, Proud and Loud!