The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 103, Portland Trailblazers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 29, 2011 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-04-29 at 12.29.04 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas82.0125.653.824.431.611.0
Portland117.147.526.635.78.5

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • It’s hard to be too shocked over the Mavs’ Game 6 victory given the way they’ve performed in this series, but relief certainly seems apt at this point. Kindly disregard the “playoff demons” pseudo story; that relief has nothing to do with 2006 or 2007, doesn’t feature the word “finally,” and honestly has nothing to do with anything save for this year’s Mavericks and this year’s Blazers. Brandon Roy’s emergence as a factor in this series was rather unlikely to begin with, but his supernatural effectiveness on his home court did introduce some reason for uncertainty. Dallas’ general reluctance to work through Shawn Marion as much as they should have (particularly when Gerald Wallace was off the floor or matched up with someone else) had the potential to create problems if Jasons Kidd and Terry had coinciding poor performances. Dirk Nowitzki’s slightly low shooting percentages in the majority this series weren’t a problem, per se, but could have been. I saw all of these things — along with an evaporating lead, stints of fantastic team defense followed by lackluster stretches, LaMarcus Aldridge facing up and attacking Brendan Haywood, Gerald Wallace being, frankly, dominant in Game 6 — and wondered if Dallas and Portland weren’t due for a Game 7. Apparently they weren’t. The Mavs got the stops they needed (though they essentially played chicken with Wesley Matthews’ three-point stroke to do so –  it’s not a strategy I’d necessarily recommend), and got huge buckets from Kidd, Terry, Marion, and naturally, Dirk. The stars didn’t align to extend the series, the better team did what was necessary and took the ball out of the hands of Portland’s most capable scorers as much as they could, and things unfolded in the manner the first five games of the series predicted they would. It’s great to be wrong.
  • Nowitzki’s point total had the benefit of some late-game padding, but he was sensationally effective in the first half, and…oddly unneeded for most of the second. Nowitzki didn’t score a single point during the Mavs’ third quarter run, as Kidd played a masterful 12 minutes (four points, 2-3 FG, four assists), Terry scored eight points in just over six minutes, Marion cleaned up where he could, and Chandler finished inside. The franchise centerpiece functioned as an effective decoy, as the Mavs managed to build a 17-point lead without Dirk having to lift a finger on offense. There was some good semi-transition action to facilitate Dallas’ flow, but even their halfcourt play during the third quarter gives reason for optimism in the second round; the Mavs need those multiple points of attack if they’re going to hang with the Lakers.
  • The zone is still looking strong. It didn’t “stop” the Blazers’ offense, but it did generate empty possessions. Portland had a lot of trouble hitting any of their jumpers against the zone, and though Dallas naturally went back to their man-to-man coverage, Portland never could find their rhythm against the zone. The shift to man defense came of the Mavs’ own volition, a fact which shouldn’t be overlooked; Dallas was able to control the game with their choice of defensive strategy.
  • Tyson Chandler (nine points, seven rebounds, one block) and Brendan Haywood (zero points, three offensive boards, four total rebounds) again defended LaMarcus Aldridge effectively in the post. Aldridge eventually established a good offensive rhythm by facing up against the Maverick bigs on the wing, but those jumpers and drives are shots Dallas could — and did — live with. Obviously one would prefer that Chandler and Haywood contest those attempts as best they could, but the fact that Dallas almost completely removed Aldridge from the game as a post-threat was, and is, pretty significant.
  • Gerald Wallace (32 points, 10-17 FG, 12 rebounds, one turnover) played a tremendous game, and I’m curious how Dallas would have fared had Wallace been available in the second quarter. Wallace’s back seized up after his initial run, and he retired to the locker room for the duration of the second frame. He returned, naturally (I’ve never known mortal injury to even deter Wallace), but not before the Mavs had outscored his Blazers 33-16 in the second. Wallace had 16 points and six rebounds in the first quarter, seven points and four rebounds in the third, and 12 points and two rebounds in the fourth. Considering how poorly Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez played and have played in this series, Wallace’s 12-minute unavailability could be seen as a back-breaking moment for Portland. Dallas fully recovered from their early deficit during that crucial second quarter, and established the momentum they carried through the third. Playoff “what ifs” are a futile exercise to a degree, but Wallace’s absence was conspicuous, and his production (not to mention his defense) sorely missed.
  • If you’re of the opinion that J.J. Barea may have played a bit too much, I’d encourage you to reconsider. He did introduce some defensive difficulties at times (the Mavs were forced to double down when Barea was being attacked in the post, for example) but he had productive stints in the second and fourth quarters. Seven points, four rebounds, and four assists without a turnover is pretty solid production in a game of this pace, and the quality of looks he generated — particularly in the second quarter — was impressive. Regardless, I’m sure his minutes will dip a bit as Rodrigue Beaubois is reintegrated into the rotation.
  • Pour one out for Portland — the Blazers are a fine team, a well-run organization, and an opponent worthy of respect. They didn’t quite have the depth nor the defense (What on earth happened to the Blazers’ turnover-inducing ways?) to extend the series, but this was a hell of a way to kick off the playoffs, regardless of the outcome. LaMarcus Aldridge is a legitimate star, and taps into the basic basketball desire for a do-it-all big man. Brandon Roy provided the postseason’s best individual narrative blip, and turned in as dominant of a fourth quarter showing as I’ve seen. Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews are the kinds of entertaining, effective, and relentless players that any team would be lucky to have. Andre Miller and Marcus Camby are somehow still criminally underrated, and managed to fly under the radar in this series despite making a genuine impact. It’s been another long, trying season for Portland, but for us basketball fans enjoying from afar, it’s been a treat to watch the franchise-wide resilience. Keep on keepin’ on, BlazerNation.
  • Dr. Clarkus

    Rob,

    I agree with your JJ assessment. I think he gets a little too much criticism from Dallas fans. He provides a nice spark off the bench and has shown the ability to carry the offense for stretches. However, I don't think Roddy's availability will affect this minutes. One, I'm not sure Rick trusts Roddy after inconsistent play down the stretch, and two, Roddy isn't going to be taking any PG minutes anyways.

    Love your work, as always.

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      Appreciated, Doc.

      You're right in that Barea will likely take all of the minutes behind Kidd, but I think Beaubois' return will likely cut into both Stevenson's playing time and the minutes that Barea plays alongside Kidd. The trust issue is definitely key, but I'm Beaubois will play at least some, and that PT has to come from somewhere.

      • Dr. Clarkus

        Good point. Stevenson really isn't bringing much right now. If he isn't hitting open shots, it's hard to justify his minutes. He has been ok on defense, but has turned into a fouling maching. Similar to what Roddy had become at the end of the year. I'd like to think Roddy would be an upgrade at this point, he just worries me. Maybe Caron comes and takes the minutes. Hard to count on that also, of course.

  • Netjunkie9

    I'd be shocked to see Roddy in anything short of a blowout. He's a turnover machine and seems to always be in the wrong spot on the defensive end. I hope to hell we don't need him but as the opponents get tougher who knows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajleff Andrew Leff

    The difference all series has gotta be Jason Terry. He averaged 15.8 in the regular season, 16.4 in the first five playoff games, and he poured in 22 points last night in Portland. He had a +17 +/- rating in last night's game, meaning that the Mavs were outscored by 10 when he was on the bench. Now tell me that doesn't mean he's valuable. Maybe even best Sixth Man this year? Check it out:

    http://bit.ly/l2wTeQ

  • AgustinAquino2

    I also agree with your JJ assessment. J.J. Barea give very valuable minutes. It should have be more on court. Don't you know that Aldridge attacked Tyson Chandler effectively in the post. Nobody says that Chandler is too small to defend. Barea has been many times a factor for Mavs rallys.
    Agustin Aquino