Somber Mavericks left with a three-game series
There was hardly a sound in the Dallas Mavericks locker room. Heads were hung low as players sat icing their feet and knees. The ice could not have been any colder than the Mavs' fourth-quarter play in Game 4 Saturday afternoon at the Rose Garden.
The Mavericks dominated the first three quarters of the first-round NBA Western Conference series, taking a seemingly insurmountable 23-point lead.
But in the fourth quarter, things began spiraling out of control. The Mavericks could not buy a defensive stop, they could not hit their shots and suddenly the Blazers had outscored them 35-15 and Dallas had choked away the game, losing 84-82, and giving up its lead in the series, which is knotted 2-2.
'That's basketball,' said a very somber Jason Kidd, Mavericks point guard. 'You go on runs, and they went on a big run there in the fourth quarter. We didn't defend. They scored 35 points in the fourth quarter. You're not going to win any games when you do that. It's the game of basketball. That's what it is. It can take you on a high, and it can take you on a low.'
When Game 4 is remembered, one name will stand out: Brandon Roy. For almost three quarters, the Blazer guard was a nonfactor coming off the bench. With 1.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter, though, Roy hit a 24 foot 3-pointer to cut the Dallas lead to 67-49 going into the final period.
That was an ominous sign for the Mavs.
'The way we finished the third quarter was poor,' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. 'The last 3 that Roy hit probably gave him a little more confidence headed into the fourth.'
As the final period opened, Roy caught fire, scoring 18 of his 24 points by going 8 of 10 from the field, including a 3-pointer.
'He got it going,' Kidd said. 'Anytime somebody as talented as him gets a couple shots, he starts feeling good about himself and he starts making shots.'
Bad knees and all, Roy was able to take advantage of Mavericks forward Shawn Marion in isolation.
'A lot of times we left Shawn by himself and Roy made some great one-on-one moves where he put the ball in the basket,' Kidd said.
With 1:06 remaining in the game, Roy took a 3-point shot from the left side of the arc. Roy buried the trey and drew a foul from Marion. When Roy sank the free throw, the game was tied 82-82.
Marion would not say whether he disagreed with the foul call. But he did not believe the four-point play was the turning point.
'I guess it was a foul,' Marion said. 'It is what it is. That was just a good play. Good call, or, bad call, that's not even nothing. We lost that game in the whole fourth quarter.'
With 39.2 seconds remaining, Roy took Marion into the key on the dribble and pulled up from nine feet. Roy kissed the ball of the glass, and when the shot dropped, Dallas was sunk.
After joking that the bank-shot basket was underserved, Marion conceded, 'It was a tough shot. But it's hard when someone gets going. He was already hot. It's hard to shut down anybody who gets it going. He was already warmed up.'
Mavs guard Jason Terry lamented the lost opportunity to make adjustments that could have prevented Portland from finding its rhythm.
'We sat there and let them beat us up,' Terry said. 'It's on everyone. We take pride in what we do and have built thus far defensively. It's definitely a letdown to give up 35 (points) in the fourth quarter. They had the momentum. And they rode the wave so to speak. And that momentum helped them make shots. They're a rhythm team.'
As the tidal wave of Blazer momentum gathered force, so too did the noise level from the 20,357 fans in attendance.
'This is their home court,' Marion said. 'This (place) gets rowdy as hell in here. We've got to know that. We've got to go ahead and knock them out. The crowd was quiet (in the third quarter). This is one of the loudest arenas I've ever played in. We were up 23 points. (The fans) knew that. They could smell it. We just quietly kind of let the crowd get back into it.'
Even building a 23-point lead, the Mavs left a lot of points on the floor. As a team, they shot .408 from the field and .385 from 3-point land. Dirk Nowitzki had - for him - a pedestrian 20 points. Terry had 13 points and Marion 12. Though he was 3 of 5 from the 3-point line, Kidd had only nine points.
'(The Blazers) are a very good defensive team,' Nowitzki said. 'They have big guards, they switched some and just contested our shots. We still should've won the game even though we weren't shooting the ball well enough.'
That is especially true because of how well Dallas played in the third quarter. The Mavs defense was nearly flawless, holding the Blazers to 3 of 18 from the field (.167). Dallas was shooting well, too, going 10 of 17 from the field, including 4 of 8 from behind the 3-point line.
'The two quarters were diametric opposites,' Carlisle said. 'We were getting a lot of stops and it was fueling our offensive game, and then in the fourth we went eight straight possessions without scoring. A lot of that was things that they were doing. They were aggressive and they were getting stops, and that fueled their game. It's a game that, you look at it in sum … it's a game you shouldn't lose.'
As the series returns to Dallas on Monday, the Mavericks have to figure out a way to silence the critics who say the team has no heart, and more importantly, regain control of the series.
'The first thing we have to focus on is this long flight,' Marion said. 'Everybody was ticked off (in the locker room). Who wouldn't be? We're definitely frustrated. We came all the way up here and we didn't win. We were capable of having both of them. We've got to go home and play on our home court now. We are all disappointed in this one, but at the same time, we know we can win the series. It's a three-game series now.'