Earl K. Sneed recaps the Mavericks' series-clinching win on Thursday night in Game 6 of their opening-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, as the Dallas team snatched a win at the Rose Garden to set up a Round 2 date with the two-time defending champion Lakers.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Bring on the defending champs.
The Dallas Mavericks headed into their Game 6 matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers very aware of the scenario. After watching the back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers dismantle the New Orleans Hornets, 98-80, in their Game 6 to advance to the second round, all the Mavericks had to do was follow suit and the two perennial powerhouses would meet up beginning next Monday night in L.A.
In order to ensure their Round 2 matchup with the reigning champs the Mavs first had to buck a trend, after both the Dallas squad and the Blazers had held serve on their home floors through the first five matchups with Game 6 coming in the Rose Garden.
But with an opportunity to close the Blazers out and end Portland’s season on its own home floor, the Mavericks saw fit to change that trend, avoiding a repeat of Game 4 in the series when the Dallas team fell after losing a big lead in the fourth quarter. And with the veteran core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd leading the way, the Mavericks booked their ticket to L.A., downing the Blazers with a hard-fought 103-96 win on the road to take the first-round series 4-2.
“We knew it was gonna be a brutally hard series, but we also knew it was what we needed,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the clinching win. “We also knew that we needed to beat them and do it in a way that was in character with a team that deserved to move on. And so, we don’t want anything coming our way easy, and coincidentally the next team we’re playing is not gonna be easy either.”
With the stakes high for his team heading into Thursday night, Carlisle pulled a wild card out of his pocket as the squad looked to close out its opening-round series on the road. The coach made a surprising move, taking second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois off the inactive list in favor of swingman Corey Brewer to add more firepower to Dallas’ lineup.
Beaubois, who had been inactive for the first five games of the series, was set to see his first game action since suffering a sprained left foot in the season finale against New Orleans on April 13. And with the potential X-factor at the coach’s disposal, the Mavericks entered Portland’s unfriendly confines looking to move one step closer in their championship chase.
But Beaubois would never be called into duty. And with the 23-year-old watching from the sideline, the Mavericks would find themselves on the downside of the scoreboard from the get-go, falling behind 19-7 from the opening tip after Gerald Wallace exploded with the Blazers’ first nine points. Nowitzki did his best to keep his team in the game, scoring six straight in an 8-0 Dallas run, but Wallace’s 13 points and six rebounds in the opening quarter would be enough to lead the Blazers to a 27-19 lead after one.
The Mavs shot just 8-of-23 in the period compared to Portland’s 11-of-20 from the floor at the other end.
“I thought the way the game started was tough, getting down 12 early. And that’s some real adversity. You’re looking at an opportunity to move on and those kinds of things, but everybody stuck together, nobody hung their heads, everybody kept encouraging each other and we had some guys start off shooting the ball cold, didn’t matter. We played possession by possession and as the game went on we gained momentum.”
“We talked about it before and during the game, we just had to just keep fighting,” Nowitzki added. “It wasn’t pretty there, they kept making shots, kept making plays.”
But the Blazers awakened a sleeping giant in the second stanza when Chris Johnson delivered a flagrant-one foul on Nowitzki while the two battled for a loose ball. With Wallace sidelined due to lower back tightness, Nowitzki scored nine straight points, until Dallas’ supporting cast rallied around the 7-footer to tie the game at 35-all with a 13-2 run.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by sharpshooters Peja Stojakovic and Terry gave the Mavs their first lead of the night, sparking another spurt. And in theatric fashion it all concluded with Terry draining another 3 at the first half buzzer, completing a 33-16 quarter, as the visiting team entered the halftime break with a 52-43 advantage even after the sluggish start.
Nowitzki’s 19 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting spawned the favorable margin at the midway mark, with Terry pitching in 10 points off the bench. Still, the Blazers managed to outshoot the Mavs after 24 minutes of play, 45.2 percent to 42.2 percent, despite Dallas’ 9-2 edge in fast-break points.
Like they did in the third quarter of Game 4, the Mavericks came out of the locker room strong, with forward Shawn Marion leading the offensive charge. But with Wallace back on the floor and once again combating Marion at the other end of the floor, the Blazers continued to hang tough after falling behind by 13.
Still, behind the inside scoring of Marion and center Tyson Chandler and three straight mid-range jumpers from Terry, the Mavs opened up a lead as large as 17, before taking an edge into the fourth quarter despite a scoreless Nowitzki and team foul trouble in the period.
But in shades of Game 4 when the Mavericks surrendered a 23-point lead to fall by two, the Blazers charged back into the game in the fourth, climbing to within three, 86-83, with 5:51 remaining after scores by big man LaMarcus Aldridge and frequent trips to the foul line to counter an onslaught of jumpers by Nowitzki.
“For the first six minutes [of the fourth] we were just trading baskets with them and it seemed like it was just the Dirk and LaMarcus Aldridge show,” Marion joked.
Wallace’s steal and breakaway dunk then trimmed the Dallas edge to just one, until Kidd immediately answered with a 3 followed by a jumper by Terry — after a steal by Kidd — to extend the lead to five with 4:04 still on the clock.
“We knew they were gonna make a run. We saw that in Game 4,” Kidd said. “But everybody kept their composure.”
“They made a run on us in the fourth. We’ve had teams make runs on us all year, but there wasn’t gonna be a miracle tonight,” Carlisle added. “And tonight Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry weren’t gonna let us lose the game. It was as simple as that.”
But the Blazers would have their opportunity to hack into the Dallas lead at the charity stripe, while Nowitzki picked up his fifth foul battling with Aldridge for a loose ball with 2:34 left. Again, however, Terry would respond with a jumper to keep the Blazers at bay, despite two backcourt violations in the period that continued to give the home team hope.
“Again, that’s part of the adversity throughout the game, where in years past maybe we lose the game because of that turnover,” Terry said.
After a Wallace miss with just 32.3 seconds left, Nowitzki calmly stepped to the line and nailed two to put his team up 97-89 with 30.3 seconds left. And after a 3 from Wesley Matthews, Nowitzki again went to the line and connected on a pair. But it wouldn’t be until his 2-for-2 trip at the line with just 16.6 seconds left to put the Mavs up 101-94 that the lead was safe, tacking on two more foul shots for good measure in the final seconds.
“Just didn’t want to give in to their run and refused to lose, that’s what this game came down to,” Nowitzki confidently said.
Hitting on 11-of-17 from the floor and 11-for-11 at the foul line, Nowitzki finished with a game-high 33 points to go with 11 rebounds. Off the bench, Terry pitched in 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Marion registered 16 in the first unit to give the Mavs three players in double figures.
Carrying his team all night was Wallace, who finished with 32 points on 10-of-17 shooting, pulling down 12 rebounds as well in a losing effort. Aldridge also collected a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Matthews was the only other Blazer in double figures with 19 points.
And after allowing Brandon Roy to score 18 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4, the Mavs held the former All-Star to just nine points off the bench on 4-of-6 from the floor back in front of his home crowd.
“The difference between tonight and the other night is the fourth quarter the other night we backed up,” Chandler explained. “We allowed them to roll the ball in, we allowed Brandon Roy to get to his sweet spot. Tonight, we started picking them up fullcourt.”
By night’s end, the Mavs had outshot the Blazers, 50 percent to 44 percent, overcoming Portland’s 41-39 rebounding edge and 22-11 advantage in second-chance points. Dallas also finished with a 44-42 edge in points in the paint, while surrendering only nine turnovers — compared to Portland’s seven giveaways — for 11 Blazers points.
The Mavs will now take the weekend to prepare for their second-round series with the Lakers, which will take place beginning on Monday night with the L.A. team owning the home-court advantage and hosting the two-versus-three, best-of-seven series. The Lakers won the regular-season series 2-1, including a 110-82 final on March 31 at the Staples Center.
“It’s one round, obviously, and we’re happy we won, but we’ve got bigger goals and aspirations. And, hey, when you’ve got the Lakers coming to town you have to really focus and shift your gears and be locked in,” Terry said while looking ahead.
“Not a lot of people picked us to win this series, not a lot people are gonna pick us to win the next series,” Nowitzki pointed out. “So, we’re just gonna go out there and keep competing, play smart, play off each other like we have all season and we’ll see what happens.”
Note: Game 1 of the Mavericks’ second-round series with the Lakers will tip off Monday night at 9:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT.
Tickets for the first two home games of the Second Round of the 2011 Playoffs will go on sale Saturday, April 30th at 10 a.m. CT.
Tickets are priced $19 and up for Round 2. Tickets will be available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX), the American Airlines Center® North Box Office* and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Simon Mall in Garland and Shops at Willow Bend).
*A lottery system will be in place for those fans that choose to purchase their tickets at American Airlines Center. Beginning at 8:30 a.m., a lottery number will be given to each fan. At approximately 9:30 a.m., there will be a drawing to determine the first person in line. All numbers sequentially following the drawn number will be the second, third, fourth, etc. in line.
Lottery numbers (at American Airlines Center) do not guarantee anyone the right to purchase game tickets. Tickets will be sold upon availability. American Airlines Center® policy prohibits camping out on the premises.
The first-round series between the two teams continues as follows:
Game 1 – Mon May 2 9:30 p.m. CT TNT
Game 2 – Wed May 4 9:30 p.m. CT TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 6 TBD ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 8 2:30 p.m. CT ABC
Game 5 * Tue May 10 TBD TNT
Game 6 * Thu May 12 TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sun May 15 2:30 p.m. CT ABC