Run more, yes, but keys for Blazers are Wallace, Matthews
DALLAS - I was glad to hear Nate McMillan talk Monday about how the Trail Blazers need to run more in Tuesday's Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with Dallas.
I know, that's not the Blazers' game. Portland ranked next-to-last in the NBA in fastbreak points in the regular season with 10.2 per game.
But the Blazers create more opportunities to get easy baskets for Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews when they run the court instead of walk it up.
It's not the kind of series, as Dallas coach Rick Carlisle puts it, where we'll see a 'windshield wiper type of game,' with both teams racing up and down the court. This isn't New York vs. Miami.
But the Blazers struggle when a defense packs it in the halfcourt and dares them to shoot from the outside. They won't always go 2 for 16 from 3-point range, as they did in Saturday's 89-81 opening loss, but they ranked 21st in the league for a reason.
The Blazers got out in transition in the second half Saturday, scoring all 13 of their fastbreak points on the night.
It got Wallace - absolutely dormant in the first half - going a little bit.
Portland will need to get Wallace and Matthews going a lot more Tuesday night if it expects to even the series.
Wallace had no points and one rebound in the first half, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and three turnovers in 39 minutes.
'I just struggled, got off to a slow start,' Wallace said. 'Nothing was working. Bad game. Chalk it up as a lesson.'
Matthews picked up two fouls in the first 3 1/2 minutes and then got 'lost in rotation' by McMillan, finishing with two points, one rebound, no assists and three turnovers in 19 minutes.
'I never got into a rhythm,' Matthews said. 'You play a few minutes, sit, then you get back in, then you sit ... there was never really a rhythm for me to get into.'
'Wes was never really in sync,' said McMillan, who used Nicolas Batum and Brandon Roy in place of Matthews much of the time. 'But he's a big part of what we do. He needs to be out on the floor.'
When your No. 2 and 3 scorers combine for 10 points, chances are you're going to lose.
Part of what happened Saturday can be attributed to Dallas' defense in the halfcourt. The Mavericks are one of the rare teams that can play LaMarcus Aldridge straight-up, using centers Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. That means they don't have to sacrifice another body to double-team.
That made it more difficult for Wallace and Matthews, who are most effective slashing to the basket either in transition or when their man helps on Aldridge in a halfcourt set. On Saturday, the Mavericks would often bluff a double-team, they stay with their man.
'A lot of the stuff Gerald and Wesley normally get is off the double-team,' Portland assistant coach Bob Ociepka said. 'Since (the Mavericks) are mostly doing a bluff, we have to be more in attack mode and read the situation better. When they bluff at L.A., Gerald has opportunities to cut to the open area. When he reads his guy turn and start to bluff or help, go. He has to make (Shawn) Marion defend, keep him from bluffing and helping clog the lane.'
The Blazer coaches think Wallace can take Marion off the dribble, but Chandlers' presence as a help defender makes it a little more dicey.
'They play great team defense,' said Wallace, a teammate of Chandlers in Charlotte last season. 'It's easier for them with Tyson back there. He presents problems when you get to the basket.'
The 6-5 Matthews led NBA second-year players by shooting .407 from 3-point range during the regular season, but he is also effective in transition and in cutting to the basket in the halfcourt. Dallas starts with 6-5 DeShawn Stevenson guarding him, but when 6-2 Jason Terry comes in, Blazer coaches want Matthews to post him up.
'With Wes, he got taken out of it by early foul trouble (in Game 1), and that affected him the rest of the way,' Ociepka said. 'He didn't play his normal game. He'll get some of those same opportunities as Gerald, and he has to make Terry defend him. We like the Terry matchup on Wes. We think we can attack him.'
Ociepka puts some of it on Aldridge, too.
'If L.A. attacks the bluffs, (the Mavericks) are going to have to come with help,' Ociepka said. 'That will create more for those other guys.'
Wallace was 0 for 5 from the field in the first half and grew timid to shoot from the perimeter.
'Gerald passed up some shots,' McMillan said. 'He needs to take his shots. (The Mavs) were packing it in on us and making us shoot from the perimeter. We have to take those shots when they're there.
'There are opportunities to drive, but at times we forced it as opposed to taking the shot that was out there for us.'
Better defense and rebounding will get the Blazers into transition more often.
'It's harder to get into the open court when they're making shots,' Wallace said. 'That first half, they took away some of the things we want to do.
'We can't allow them to do that. We have to do what we're supposed to do. We have to pick up our intensity on defense and guard the ball. Too many times, we got beat on dribble penetration. And when we did, we made silly fouls and put them on the free-throw line.'
McMillan said Monday the pressure is on the Blazers since they lost the opener. I'm not so sure. Dallas doesn't want to go to Portland for Games 3 and 4 with a 1-1 split.
'The only thing they did was hold serve on their homecourt,' Portland center Marcus Camby said. 'We still feel confident about the series. We let one get away. We know we can't hang our heads and let it carry over to Game 2.'
Both teams left a lot of room for improvement.
'We didn't shoot the ball particularly well and didn't play particularly well, and we still won,' Carlisle said. 'But I'm sure (the Blazers) are encouraged that they were so close to winning the game, and their situation is similar.'
If Wallace and Matthews come to the party Tuesday night, it should be a happy flight home for the Blazers.