You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- One game removed from one of their best team performances of the season, the Mavericks turned in one of their worst. As disappointing as the final minutes of this game were, the far more significant failing came in the third quarter. The Mavericks played their worst 12 minutes of the season, and turned a 12-point lead into an eight-point deficit. In every basketball sense, the seemingly unending third quarter was a complete and total disaster. Ball movement was nonexistent, the effectiveness of the Mavericks’ pick-and-roll was completely neutralized, and the Mavericks’ interior defense was porous, if present at all. It was the best possible representation of this team’s seasonal inconsistency from game-to-game and quarter-to-quarter — two strong opening quarters fully erased by 12 minutes of uninspired, directionless play. The Mavericks played three fairly strong quarters on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. Of course, Raymond Felton’s sudden offensive explosion (30 points, 12-18 FG, seven rebounds, six assists) didn’t help the Mavericks’ chances, but a good portion of his success stemmed from gifted wide-open jumpers and easy layups. The Mavericks fought back impressively from the unlikely Felton-led third quarter charge once the fourth quarter began, as they are wont to do, and forced overtime. After minutes of neutral overtime play, the game remained tied in the final seconds.
- And so we arrive at the final two possessions of the game. The first possession, however, was hardly a possession at all. It was tragically brief. It began with a Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 9-16 FG, 14 rebounds) rebound, and ended almost instantly with a pass sailing out of bounds. Dirk’s attempted pass to a streaking Shawn Marion (6-11 FG, 12 points, 11 rebounds) can’t be faulted on a decision-making level. It was the right play, and one that would have given the Mavericks a two-point lead if executed correctly. Unfortunately, the pass missed its mark by a good margin, and the Blazers were given a final possession in a tie game. On that climactic possession, the Mavericks played beautiful defense, until only 3.7 seconds remained. Jason Terry (7-14 FG, 18 points) began the possession fronting LaMarcus Aldridge (11-24 FG, 25 points, 12 rebounds) in conjunction with Brendan Haywood (1-5 FG, two points, six rebounds), but Aldridge was able to break free when Terry turned to chase a sprinting Nicolas Batum (3-9 FG, six points, nine rebounds, five assists). This left Haywood solely covering Aldridge, meaning a star post player was now in impeccable, isolated post position as the final few seconds ticked down to zero. I don’t tend to like the idea of Haywood covering Aldridge, as Haywood’s simply not quick enough to cover the sudden, instant movements of a power forward like Aldridge. Aldridge used that speed disparity to his advantage, along with a sneakily placed forearm push, and created enough space for an open jumper. The final shot fell as the buzzer sounded, and the Mavericks were dealt their 25th loss to a thoroughly scattered, average Blazers’ team.