Inside Report: No. 6 Blazers (1-2) vs. No. 3 Mavericks (2-1) — Game 3 recap
Inside Report: No. 6 Blazers (1-2) vs. No. 3 Mavericks (2-1) — Game 3 recap
PORTLAND, Ore. — Although a daunting task was awaiting his team coming into Thursday night's Game 3 matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle remained levelheaded, knowing that if his players remained focused then they could come out of the ruckus Rose Garden with a controlling edge in the first-round series.
Carlisle, whose team came into the night with a 2-0 series lead, expressed to his players before the game the importance of staying on task in a hostile environment, while also not concentrating on splitting either Games 3 or 4. And with the Mavericks trying to do what they failed to do during the regular season, after falling in both trips to Portland, the coach admitted that Thursday night was less about taking at least one out of two — or even sweeping — and more so about sticking to the process of playing winning basketball.
"We've got to work the game," Carlisle said. "And the second you start thinking ahead to something in the future you take your mind off what's important right now. And a 48-minute NBA game is an eternity, there's so much that could happen. There's over 200 plays offensively and defensively. So, you've got to work the game possession by possession and try to win segments from timeout to timeout, and then go from there."
But even after their head coach's encouraging words the Mavericks missed their first opportunity to put their clamps on the series, falling 97-92 in a 48-minute battle.
The Mavericks would struggle to disregard the chaotic crowd early on, missing five of their first six shots while the Blazers thrived in front of their hometown fans.
"I thought at the beginning off the game we got off to a very poor start and their aggressiveness put us on our heels," Carlisle explained.
But after falling into a 10-2 hole the Mavericks would respond, with sixth man Jason Terry leading the charge. Still, the Mavs never found an answer in the first period for Blazers guard Wesley Matthews and his perimeter shooting, as the second-year standout led Portland to a 28-23 edge after one quarter of play.
"You gotta expect them to be emotional at home, first playoff game in the series for them and we withstood their first punch. It was a heck of a run. I mean, that first quarter it seemed they could do no wrong," Terry explained. "Their energy was up, we turned the ball over and they were hitting 3's."
Matthews outscored Terry in the period, 16-10, connecting on 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
After the sluggish start the Mavericks found their stride in the second stanza, with the trio of Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. With Terry and Stojakovic finding success on the perimeter, Nowitzki concentrated on scoring with mid-range jumpers and from down low, boosting the Mavs to a 14-4 run to take the lead early in the second quarter.
But the Blazers stormed back into the game behind former All-Star Brandon Roy, while Mavericks center Tyson Chandler was forced to sit after picking up his third foul in the first half. Meanwhile, the Mavs' inability to protect the ball played into the Blazers' hands, as Portland escaped into the locker room with a 54-52 edge at the halftime intermission.
Matthews led all scorers at the midway mark, producing 22 first-half points to better Terry's 17 through two quarters. But although the Mavs outshot the Blazers, 60 percent to 57.5 percent, the Dallas team trailed in large part due to eight turnovers — four by point guard Jason Kidd — which led to 11 Portland points. At the same time, the Blazers committed just three giveaways, which Dallas turned into only five points.
"They're long, so they got their hands on balls and we were trying to make the right play. I came out and turned the ball over a couple of times, but that happens and we're down two on the road at halftime, and it's anybody's ballgame."
Looking for a spark, Carlisle began the second half with Terry on the floor in favor of DeShawn Stevenson at the shooting guard spot. The strategy worked immediately, as Terry continued to find success from long range. But the Blazers countered with a heavy dose of Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, closing the quarter with a late flurry to take a 75-72 edge into the final 12 minutes of play.
Again, Carlisle went in search of an offensive spark entering the fourth quarter, switching to a "small-ball" lineup of J.J. Barea, Terry, Stojakovic, Shawn Marion and Nowitzki. But the lineup could do little to keep the Blazers from sprinting to a 12-2 spurt to open up a 13-point lead two minutes into the game's final quarter.
Carlisle then switched to a three-guard lineup of Kidd, Barea and Terry, with Terry breaking the Blazers' momentum with a much-needed 3-pointer, but only to briefly stop the bleeding until Chandler fouled out with 7:20 remaining in the game.
"Obviously, I was frustrated because I was on the sidelines because of it," Chandler said of his foul issues. "To be honest, a lot of my fouls, I don't even know if I got one on-the-ball foul as far as making a defensive effort. I might have gotten one, and the other five, I don't know how to avoid them."
The Mavericks' inability to connect on free throws would then slow their comeback attempts, never getting any closer than six — despite frequent trips to the charity stripe — until Nowitzki's bank-in with 42.8 seconds left made it a 95-90 score.
After a defensive stop, the Mavericks had a chance to creep closer and Kidd did the honors, draining a ruled and reviewed long two with a foot on the line to pull the Mavs to within three with 12.9 ticks remaining. But Andre Miller's pair of free throws with just 9.6 seconds left would seal the game for the Blazers, with the Mavericks out of time to muster up anymore of a comeback.
"We kept weathering the storm. I think that we kept hanging in there and gave ourselves a chance to hang around and at the end be in position to strike, but just weren't sharp enough," Nowitzki said. "I like the fight in us, we just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to win."
"It was a series of things that didn't go well for us. And again, their level of aggression was the biggest thing that influenced the game tonight," Carlisle added.
Producing a game-high 29 points off the bench on 10-of-13 shooting and 5-for-7 from deep, Terry led the way for the Mavericks in a losing cause. Nowitzki added 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go with nine rebounds, but the two sharpshooters were the only Mavericks in double figures.
"Well, we'd like to get more guys involved and able to score a few more points, but if you're not gonna have a balanced game you've got to have a couple of guys that go for big numbers. So, there's no set formula for us. We don't say that Dirk's got to be the first guy and JET [Terry] has to be the second guy. It just doesn't seem to work that way for us," Carlisle said.
Matthews connected on eight of his 12 shots including 4-for-6 from 3-point range to lead four Blazers in double figures. Meanwhile, Aldridge registered 20 points to go with 16 apiece for Miller and Roy.
Albeit in a loss, the Mavericks outshot the Blazers, 51.5 percent to 48.0 percent. But Dallas' 16 turnovers for 16 Blazers points proved to be the Mavs' undoing, while Portland surrendered 10 giveaways which translated into 11 points at the other end. The Mavs also finished the night hitting just 13-of-23 from the foul line, compared to the Blazers' 17-of-21 at the charity stripe.
"It's something we're gonna have to focus in a little bit more on. We missed 10 [free throws], very uncharacteristic of us. Again, free throws, turnovers, we hang our hat in those areas. Those are little things, but those are the little things that can come back and bite you in the end."
But the Mavericks will get their chance at retribution on Saturday, taking the floor in an early tip-off with a chance to seize a 3-1 advantage in the series before it shifts back to Dallas for Game 5.
"We feel like we took their best blow and we were right there, so we get another opportunity Saturday," Nowitzki said while looking ahead. "Obviously, we don't want to go home with a tied series, so we gotta come out and really go for it on Saturday, leave it all out there like we did tonight. ... They wanted it more. Sadly, it's gonna be a street fight, and let's see who wants it more on Saturday."
"We gotta go get the next game," Chandler added. "They won Game 3, we gotta go win Game 4."
Note: Game 4 of the opening-round matchup will tip off on Saturday at 4 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT and locally on TXA 21.
The Mavericks will now host Game 5 at the American Airlines Center next Monday night, in a game 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 4 - Sat. April 23 Dallas at Portland 4:00 p.m. CT TXA 21/ TNT
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
Visit mavs.com for up-to-date playoff coverage and ticket on-sales. Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
The Mavs will host FREE watch parties for fans at Hard Rock Cafe for the away games during the First Round of the 2011 Playoffs. Fans can join Mavs ManiAACs, Street Team. Fans will also have the chance to win Mavs autographed gear and Mavs playoff tickets. The first two watch parties are scheduled for Thursday, April 21st and Saturday, April 23rd with festivities kicking off an hour prior to tipoff. Tipoffs are at 9:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.