Adjustments, homecourt give Blazers hope
Rick Carlisle was winding up his postgame news conference after Dallas’ Game 2 victory over Portland Tuesday night at American Airlines Center when he made a remark that hit home with me. “A lot of this game comes down to the situations where you have seven or eight seconds on the clock and you have to make a play, or you have to get a stop while the opponent is trying to make a play,” the Mavericks coach said. “Often times, that’s where games are decided. I don’t know what the ratio was tonight, but I’m thinking it was pretty good in our favor.” Well, yes. Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki, and when the game’s on the line, the German giant delivers. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter of the opener, then tallied 14 of his 33 in the final period of Game 2. The Blazers used to have a leader like that — Brandon Roy. But Roy is struggling now, with his knees, his game and his confidence. He has been a non-factor in the first two games of the series, scoring two points on 1-for-8 shooting, and it’s unrealistic to think that things will change when the Blazers play host to the Mavericks tonight in Game 3 at the Rose Garden. LaMarcus Aldridge has been terrific in the first two games, averaging 25.5 points and 8 rebounds. Andre Miller has been good, too, averaging 18.0 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds with three turnovers in 82 minutes while battling uncanny Dallas veteran Jason Kidd on the perimeter. Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews came to the party Tuesday after ineffective openers, and Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum are weapons that will produce through the rest of the series. All is not lost. The No. 3-seeded Mavericks held serve at home, winning the first two games. As Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday, “a series doesn’t really start until a team wins on an opponent’s homecourt.” The Blazers were 31-10 at the Rose Garden during the regular season. The crowd there provides as big a homecourt advantage as there is in the NBA. “We’ll go home, get our crowd behind us, which will inspire us to have more energy, and guys will play better,” Aldridge theorized. Dallas won the first two meetings during the regular season, both at American Airlines Center. Portland won the final two matchups, both at the Rose Garden. That was Nate McMillan’s message to his players after Game 2. “It’s like the regular season,” the Portland coach said. “We lost both games (in Dallas); we won both games at home, which is what we need to do. It’s not over. We need to win both of the games in Portland.” The Blazers must do a better job defending the 3-point line. In the two games, Dallas is 18 for 38 (.474) from beyond the arc. A lot of that comes from the pick-and-roll, with Kidd (9 for 16) or Peja Stojakovic (7 for 14) stepping out after the screen. “We know this is a good 3-point shooting team,” McMillan says. “We didn’t double-team as much because of that. The ball is getting to the paint, which is forcing the defense to collapse, and we’re losing these guys at the 3-point line. “They are attacking our (center), and running what we call a ‘rub.’ We try to keep our big in the paint, and … our guards are getting nailed on screens. It’s becoming one-on-one with our bigs, and their guards are making shots. We’re going to have to make adjustments with that set.” That’s just one adjustment McMillan must make in order for the Blazers to get back into the series. It can happen, though. It may happen tonight.