Happy Easter! Happy was not the word I would have used to describe my mood after the fourth quarter collapse of the Mavericks in yesterday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Mavs had a commanding 67-44 lead with 1:15 left in the third quarter. Portland couldn’t buy a bucket and the Mavs continued to add to their lead. But a 35-15 fourth quarter deficit led to a stunning Dallas loss, 84-82.
Both teams started the game ice-cold. The Mavs led 16-11 after the first quarter. Then both teams started to come out of their funk, with the Mavs leading 37-35 at the half. I know, no one was reminded of the Showtime Lakers here. But the Mavs were doing what was necessary to maintain their lead.
The Mavericks were containing LaMarcus Aldridge, thanks in large part to Tyson Chandler, holding Aldridge to an abyssmal 1-of-7 shooting performance. Yes the Blazers closed the half on a 12-4 run but they had the lead nonetheless. This despite the fact that the Mavs did not go to the free-throw line once. You read that right, not one free-throw the first 24 minutes of the game. The Blazers had 12. Despite this, the Mavs clung to their lead.
To start the second half, the Mavs came out on fire! Jason Kidd hit a huge three-pointer to start a huge 16-4 run early in the third quarter. It also didn’t hurt that the Blazers missed their first 15 field goal attempts in the quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Mavs had outscored the Blazers 30-14. And this is when Brandon Roy took over, and the Mavs fell apart.
Roy scored 16 of his 24 points in the final quarter, with his bank shot with 39 seconds left giving the Blazers the win. The Mavs were unable to convert on their final two possessions, missing both three-point attempts. The series is now tied at two games apiece. The fact that both teams have won their home games comes as no surprise. Both teams split the season series, with the home team winning each of the four games.
But how the Mavericks lost this game, and how they respond tomorrow, may determine who wins this series. A loss like that, one of the best comebacks in NBA playoff history, can crush a team’s psyche. It will be interesting to see how the Mavs respond. Will they demonstrate the mental toughness and persistence that Rick Carlisle has been preaching or will they fold their tents and make yet another first round exit?
If the Mavs are going to bounce back, I would once again suggest that getting Corey Brewer into the lineup would help make that happen. Am I missing something or does Carlisle just not like this guy? He played fairly well at the end of the regular season on both ends of the court. With Roddy Beaubois out, they could use some more depth at guard. While DeShawn Stevenson played better with more minutes, scoring 8 points in 16 minutes, he is not the answer.
It made matters worse when Jason Terry struggled from the field, going 5-for-16 from the field, scoring 13 points. Not a great night. Perhaps Terry is feeling some fatigue from all the minutes he has been logging. He played almost the entire game in Game three. Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki were the only other players to hit double-digit points, scoring 12 and 20 points respectively. Marion had a very good game, grabbing 11 rebounds and 2 assists.
Jason Kidd made the poor guard play even worse, scoring only 9 points and 4 assists. It looks like the veteran could be starting to fatigue again. The size and physicality of the Blazer guards could be starting to wear on the smaller Mavericks unit. Which makes giving Brewer some playing time even more imperative. He has the size to match the Blazers, while giving the other guards a few more minutes of rest.
The team is playing well defensively in the paint. They also scored 24 points in the paint. But they must find an answer for Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, and Wesley Matthews. It seems that one of those guys kills the Mavs each night. Maybe Corey Brewer could help here. If I am starting to sound like a broken record, good! The refusal to play him makes no sense. In a tight series that has been close every night, playing Brewer could mean the difference.
I just hope Rick Carlisle comes to his senses before it’s too late. I also hope that this team has more toughness and tenacity that anyone is giving them credit for. We shall see tomorrow when the Mavs return to Dallas to try and win Game 5. Whoever wins this game will most likely win the series. It’s time for the Mavericks to come up big in Big D!