The Dallas Mavericks went into Portland last night, seeking to put the Blazers down three game to none. But this time, in another close game, the Mavs came up a bit short, losing 97-92. The Blazers came out swinging, racing to a quick 10-2 lead. The opening flurry reminded me of a boxing match from the Rocky movies. The Blazers came out with a wicked flurry, hitting each shot, putting the Mavs on their heels. And just like those movies, the Mavs were able to withstand the initial assault and came storming back.
Wesley Matthews came out of the shoot on fire, hitting four three-pointers and scoring 14 points mid-way through the first quarter. He did slow down, but still had a great night, finishing with 25 points. But Matthews was not the story tonight. He was not the reason that the Mavs were unable to secure their third win of the series.
No the Mavericks lost because of three main problems. First, the Mavs had only two players reach double-figures. Jason Terry finally woke up and an exceptional night, going 10-13 from the field, including a scorching 5-for-7 from downtown, had 29 points and 7 assists. Dirk Nowitzki was the only other offensive force for the Mavs, scoring 25 points, going 10-for-21 from the field. This was an improvement for the Franchise.
But the Mavs are at their best when the scoring is spread around. Jason Kidd had only 8 points. Shawn Marion added only 9. Peja Stoyakovic had only 7. This is not the Mavs formula for success! Kidd and J.J. Barea need to get the rest of the team involved. They need to make that extra pass.
Lack of balanced scoring was one reason the Mavs lost but not the only one. Poor free-throw shooting also contributed to the defeat. The Mavs had a healthy 23 foul shots in this game, 2 more than the Blazers. But they hit only 13 of them! For all you number-crunchers, that comes out to a 56.5% from the line. They shot 51.5% from the field! The team lost by five points and missed ten free-throws. Ouch! Even Dirk Nowitzki, who is one of the league’s best at shooting from the stripe, went only 4-for-7.
The final nail in the coffin for the Mavs was their old nemesis, poor defense and too many turnovers. The Mavs had 16 turnovers, many of which came in the opening minutes, as the ball looked like a greased pig when in Maverick hands. These turnovers led to 16 points for Portland. Tyson Chandler was not the dominating force that led to his finishing third in defensive player of the year voting. Foul trouble once again led to his ineffectiveness.
I maybe a little biased here but it looks like Chandler is being called for a lot of questionable calls. This is the playoffs man! Let the guy play! The Mavs are criticized as being “soft” and yet, when Chandler plays with some physicality, he gets whistled for it. Come on man! It cannot be a good sign when your point guard outrebounds your center (6-to-4) and has more blocked shots (1-to-0). Chandler will need to adjust his game to the way the refs are calling it and stay in the game.
The lack of Chandler’s presence in the middle, coupled with the inability to slow the Portland guards, was too much for the Mavs to overcome. Wesley Matthews, Brandon Roy, and Andre Miller combined to score 57 of the Blazers 97 points. Which leads me to wonder, knowing that the Mavs have a serious size disparity there, why is Corey Brewer getting no minutes? Didn’t the Mavs sign the guy because he is a defensive guard who is also 6-9? Did Cuban and Carlisle add this guy mid-season, and convince him that Dallas was the place to be, just to sit him on the bench?
Roddy Beaubois is still on the bench with a sprained foot (and may stay there when healthy). DeShawn Stevenson got the start once again, played the opening four minutes, scoring no points and was not seen again! Why? Was he injured? If Stevenson is not the answer, and Beaubois is not the answer, why not give Brewer some quality minutes? He has the size and the ability to disrupt the Blazer guards. With Marion, Nowitzki, Terry, Kidd, and Stoyakovic, Brewer shouldn’t need to light it up on offense to have a significant impact on the final score.
I cannot help but wonder if he may have been able to slow down Matthews and prevent him from getting off to such a fast start. If so, the tone of the game would have been different and the Mavs would not have had to play catchup for much of the game. We will see if Carlisle makes the adjustment and gives Brewer the opportunity to contribute.
The Mavs have the day off today. The series resumes tomorrow in Portland. If the Mavs don’t do a better job of moving and protecting the ball, hit their foul shots, or slow down the Blazers guards, the series will be tied heading back to Dallas. We can only hope that Carlisle comes to his senses, inserts Corey Brewer into the starting lineup, and gives the team a better chance to win.