Tomorrow night the Dallas Mavericks will invade the Rose Garden, looking to win their fourth game of the series and eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers. The last time the Mavs were there, they blew a historic 23 point lead as they lost by 2 points, allowing the Blazers to even the series. Can the Mavs win the clinching game on the road or will they once again open the door that allows the Blazers the opportunity for the upset?
At the beginning of this series, I predicted that the Mavs would win it in six games, and I am going to stand by that prediction. Yes I know that the Mavs are 0-4 in Portland this season, playoffs included. This team showed some toughness in Game 5, a toughness that many critics doubted they possessed. They showed energy and passion, knowing that Game 5 was an important game, possibly the decisive game.
Not only that, but Rick Carlisle decided to change things up a bit, switching to more of a zone defense than playing man-to-man. Defense will continue to play an important factor tomorrow night. The Mavs have been unable to find a way to slow down Brandon Roy while in Portland. Roy is a completely different player at home than on the road.
In Dallas, Roy has scored a total of 7 points in three games. 7 points! At home, Roy has scored a total of 40 points in two games. Why is this? Does Roy have trouble sleeping in Dallas? Is he allergic to the water? Is he afraid of snakes? Whatever the reason, the Mavs need to find a way to neutralize him if they are going to finish off the Blazers tomorrow night. I suggest continuing the zone defense while working Corey Brewer into the rotation.
Brewer gives the Mavs the size and energy that they will need to keep Roy from going off. Of course it will also help if Chandler plays like he did on Monday. Nowitzki will need to continue to be aggressive, driving to the basket, and drawing fouls. An off night by Dirk will most likely result in a loss.
The Mavs cannot afford to let this go seven games. Not only can anything happen, but they need this win to set themselves up for the Lakers. A win gives the team two days to rest and gameplan for the two-time defending champs. A loss, and the rest is gone, even if they defeat the Blazers in game 7. This isn’t just about getting past the first round, but making a deep run and winning a championship.
Frankly the series should already be over. The Mavs cannot afford to let this opportunity get away. If they want to be champions, it must start now. They must put the Blazers away and get ready for Kobe and company. And they will.