Never, ever quit.
What, you thought that was just one of those trite sporting cliches?
Brandon Roy shot that notion down Saturday at the Rose Garden, right along with the Dallas Mavericks' hopes of seizing the advantage in their first-round playoff series with the Trail Blazers.
Roy reached deep into his bag of heroics when the Blazers needed it most, scoring 18 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter of Portland's see-it-to-believe it 84-82 come-from-behind victory.
Rather than head to Dallas for Monday's Game 5 trailing 3-1 and looking at elimination, the Blazers go in tied 2-2 with momentum in the series.
'A great day for me and the team,' Roy said. 'We've got some pressure on (the Mavericks) now.'
Rose Garden denizens will be talking about this one for years. The Blazers were dead and buried, trailing by 23 points late in the third quarter, and members of the media were already writing their epitaph - in the game and the series, too.
Then Roy - maligned and battle-scarred through the most trying of seasons - led a stirring rally that left him, he admitted, with a surreal feeling.
'It still doesn't feel real yet,' Roy said after sinking 8 of 10 shots in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 39.2 seconds left. 'Just an unbelievable game, the comeback.
'An incredible game to be a part of.'
With the ball in his hands nearly every possession down the stretch, Roy was scoring from everywhere - the 3-point line, the foul line, from mid-range.
'I've been in some pretty good zones before,' he said, 'but none like (today).'
It has been the most difficult of seasons for Roy, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in January and has been relegated to a reserve role since his return.
Roy played poorly in the first two games of the playoff series, scoring a combined two points on 1-for-8 shooting. He was a major factor in Portland's win in Game 3 with 16 points and four assists, but he was 'The Man' again for the Blazers in the clutch Saturday.
'We here in Portland know what he is capable of doing,' Portland coach Nate McMillan said. 'Tonight was the Brandon Roy of old. He took the game on his shoulders and carried the team, willed the team to win.
'There were possessions earlier where he was doing a good job of setting guys up and kicking it, but in the fourth quarter, he wasn't passing the ball. He was going to take the shot, and live with the result.'
Roy's final basket - a 10-foot running jumper over Shawn Marion from the middle of the key that gave Portland its 84-82 lead - wasn't intended to be a bank shot.
'I was just pushing Marion right,' said Roy, who also had four rebounds and five assists in his 24 minutes. 'When I went up for the shot, I was thinking, 'Just put it at the rim.' No way I called bank. Just being hot, it went in for me.'
'That runner in the lane, he didn't mean to shoot it off the glass,' Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki mused. 'But when you're hot, stuff just happens.'
After a timeout, Dallas' Jason Kidd badly missed a 3-pointer, and Portland's Gerald Wallace rebounded with 28 seconds to go. Roy missed a driving shot with five seconds left and Dallas rebounded, getting the ball upcourt to Jason Terry. His 3-point try at the buzzer missed, and Roy's teammates mobbed him at midcourt, celebrating with their saviour as the sellout crowd rained down some ungodly noise in appreciation.
'With everything I've been through this season, it all came into that moment there on the court, when guys were grabbing me and cheering me on,' Roy said. 'It was real special.'
After going scoreless in eight minutes of Game 2, Roy's expectations weren't high for the rest of the series.
'I envisioned (having) a game like this when I first came back from the surgery,' he said. 'But as things progressed, Game 2 was a down moment. I didn't think anything good was going to come. I was pretty down on myself.
'But the next day, (I got) so much support. I just wanted to go out there and give myself a chance. But I didn't think this would happen.'
'We've been saying all series, we've been game-planning for (Roy) like he's an All-Star,' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. 'He has had two of those nights now. He got on a roll in the fourth and made some things happen.'
Perhaps the most compelling comeback in Blazer playoff history wouldn't have been possible without perhaps the most significant dry spell in franchise lore.
When Portland's well ran dry, it was Sahara Desert style.
Trailing 37-35 after a sluggish, poorly played first half, the Blazers came out and missed their first 15 shots of the third quarter, going 10 1/2 minutes without a basket. When LaMarcus Aldridge finally broke through on a jump hook with 1:32 left, Dallas had used a 27-6 surge to build a seemingly insurmountable 67-44 lead.
'We were playing a great defensive game, especially in the first and third (quarters),' Nowitzki said. 'We had everything going.'
At that point, even the Blazers weren't drinking the Kool-Aid that they could come back and win.
'It just seemed like it was over,' Roy said. 'Dallas was just pounding us. We had no rhythm.
'Coach (McMillan) was basically saying, 'If we lose tonight, we're done, so we need to keep LaMarcus in the game.' So I'm like, OK, I've got to try to help LaMarcus a little bit.'
The Blazers made their final three shots to finish the quarter 3 for 18 from the field. Dallas, outscoring Portland 30-14 in the quarter, still had a 67-49 advantage going into the final period.
'Did I think it was over? No,' McMillan said. 'We had 12 minutes. You knew it was going to be tough to come back, but as you can see, anything is possible.'
The Blazers gathered steam, making their first five attempts in the fourth quarter. The Rose Garden crowd was energized, the Blazers' defense was amped up and the Dallas lead was only 73-62 with 8:27 to play.
Suddenly the Mavericks were on their heels. Roy's step-back 15-footer brought the Blazers to within 77-70 with 3:50 left. Dallas' Jason Terry answered with a 3-pointer, but Portland's Wesley Matthews and Roy followed with scoring drives, and the Mavericks' advantage was 80-74 with 2:32 remaining.
Nowitzki was called for a charge on Dallas' next possession, and Aldridge's jump hook from the baseline closed the margin to 80-76 with two minutes to go. Kidd turned the ball over, and when Roy knocked down an 18-footer, it was 80-78 with 1:30 left.
Marion scored to make it 82-78, but Roy came back with a four-point play - drawing a foul on Marion while making a 3-point shot. Roy's free throw tied the score at 82-82 with 1:06 on the clock. That set up the game's final drama.
'We lost a little bit of our aggression,' Carlisle said. 'The way we finished the third quarter was poor. They scored the last five points (of the quarter), Roy hit a 3, and that gave him some confidence.
'NBA games are long. You have to keep playing. What got us the lead were stops and scores. What lost the lead was we went eight straight times without scoring, and that fueled (the Blazers') offense. It's a very tough loss. We're very disappointed.'
Portland made 15 of 20 shots in the fourth quarter after hitting only 14 for 49 attempts (.286) through three quarters.
'Great fourth quarter by our guys,' McMillan said. 'We struggled trying to put the ball in the hole, and that had an impact at the defensive end of the floor.'
When the Blazers couldn't hit a shot in the third quarter, 'we dropped our heads,' McMillan said. 'We needed to get our heads up and play the game - stop thinking, do the things we know we need to do. We did that.
'Defensively, we got aggressive, we got stops. Offensively, we got spacing, we made shots. Brandon just did a great job of being poised. We talk all the time about our three Cs - be calm, clear and consistent. We were able to come back and win this game.'
The third and fourth quarters, Carlisle said, 'were diametric opposites. In the third, we were ggetting stops and it was fueling our offensive game. In the fourth, they were the aggressive ones getting the stops.'
The Mavericks seemed shellshocked that they grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
'It's tough to find a word,' said Nowitzki, who scored 20 points but made only 7 of 17 shots. 'Certainly, frustration at a high level. It's a tough one to sit on.'
'We've been through tough losses before,' Carlisle said. 'It's not easy, but we have to get back in the plane, get back home, study some of the things that went wrong.
'Look, it's a game you shouldn't lose, but sometimes these things happen, and when they do, we have to stay the course and keep playing. That's all we can do at this point.'
Carlisle was asked about the mental toughness of his players.
'We know we have to earn our wins in this series,' the second-year Dallas coach said. 'We know we have to win a series win ultimately on the floor. We know a seven-game series isn't over in four games.
'At this point, it's not about talk. We have to get ourselves ready for Game 5, which is now a very pivotal game, in our arena. We need our fans to be like these fans were out here.'
'We have to win two out of three now, and we have two at home,' Nowitzki said. 'That's the only positive. In this league, there's always a next night. You have to find a way to stay positive.'
That was no problem for the Blazers.
'Now the pressure is on really both of us,' McMillan said, 'but we know we'll come home to play another game (Thursday's Game 6). And if we can get Game 5, we have an opportunity to (wrap up the series) in our building.'
There was a lesson to be had, McMillan said, from the Blazers' performance Saturday.
'You never give up, you never quit,' he said. 'They didn't give up and they didn't quit.'
NOTES - It was the third time in NBA playoff history that a team has come back from as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter to win. ... Portland matched its 35-point halftime total with 35 in the fourth quarter. ... The Blazers' 11 first-quarter points tied a franchise playoff low. ... Portland was 22 for 23 from the foul line. The Blazers made their first 18 attempts. The first miss was by Roy late in tthe third quarter. Dallas went 10 for 10 at the stripe. ... Aldridge scored 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting. He also had six rebounds, a career playoff-high four steals and three blocks in 47 minutes.
Portland had the ball and a two-point advantage with 27.9 seconds to play and 23 seconds left on the shot clock, but Carlisle chose not to foul. Bad move. Roy missed a 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired, but the Mavericks wound up only with Terry's rushed 3-point try. Did he consider fouling? 'It was my decision not to,' Carlisle said. 'With a veteran team, the awareness we have and a four-second difference, I felt we could get the ball upcourt and get a look at the basket, which we did. Unfortunately, it didn't go in.' ... Marion, a 6-8 small forward, defended Roy during his entire fourth-quarter outburst. 'I'm going to take the blame for a lot of that,' Carlisle said. 'There are different things defensively we could have done. We should have done some different things.' ... Portland finished with 10 turnovers, only two in the second half.