Portland trims Mavericks' series lead to 2-1 with 97-92 win
by: CHRIStopher Onstott Trail Blazer forward Nicolas Batum blocks a shot by Dallas' Brendan Haywood during Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday at the Rose Garden.

Pick the things to like from the Trail Blazers' 97-92 victory over Dallas Thursday night at the Rose Garden.

There was Wesley Matthews' state of unconsciousness in the first quarter. Brandon Roy's resurrection. Chris Johnson's startling emergence. Andre Miller's cool in the clutch. Improved defense that helped force 16 Dallas turnovers.

The biggest and best thing, from a Portland perspective, was the victory that sliced the Mavericks' lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series to 2-1.

'We had a sense of urgency,' said Matthews, the second-year shooting guard who played his rookie season with Utah. 'That came from everybody.

'It started when we took the court. The crowd was amazing. It was everything they said it would be. It was a must-win for us, and we took care of it.'

Portland withstood a sensational performance by Dallas reserve Jason Terry and a Maverick comeback that trimmed a 13-point fourth-quarter lead to 95-92 with 12.9 seconds remaining.

The Blazers came out ready, jumping to a 10-2 lead in the game's first three minutes, and played with more intensity than they had in the first two contests at Dallas' American Airlines Center.

'We got off to a very poor start,' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. 'Their aggressiveness put us on our heels. We recovered well from it, and eventually got a lead.

'Then it was a series of things that didn't go well for us. Their level of aggression was the biggest thing that influenced the game.'

Even so, Dallas shot .600 from the field in the first half - and still trailed 54-52 at intermission. The Mavericks wound up shooting .515 for the game, but struggled in two other areas. They made only 13 of 23 foul shots and committed 16 turnovers after having only six giveaways - none in the second half - of Game 2.

Matthews, not a major factor in the first two games, was all of that Thursday. He bombed in four straight 3-pointers in the opening 5 1/2 minutes and - eight minutes into the game - had 16 of the Blazers' 22 points. Matthews was at the 22-point mark by halftime and, though he took only one shot and scored three points in the second half, was the biggest thorn in the sides of the Mavericks.

'Wes coming out the way he did was huge,' said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 20 points. 'It helped us find our rhythm.

'Every game (of this series), the team that won had somebody rise up. Tonight it was Wesley.'

'Nothing different,' Matthews claimed. 'Just shooting it, getting open, my teammates finding me and letting it go.'

Matthews also had prime defensive responsibility on Jason Kidd, who had killed the Blazers in the first two games. Kidd - who averaged 21.0 points on 26-for-35 shooting (including 9 for 16 from 3-point range) in the first two games - was 3 for 9 Thursday, 2 for 8 on treys. He finished with eight points, six rebounds, three assists and five turnovers.

'We wanted to pressure Kidd as much as possible,' Matthews said. 'He's a Hall-of-Famer. You give him space, you give him time, he's going to pick you apart.'

'Wes did a good job of making Kidd work, not allowing him to walk them into their offense,' Portland coach Nate McMillan said. 'When (Matthews) locks in defensively and allows the game to come to him offensively, he has been really good. He did a good job of spacing and making them pay when they tried to clog and double-team the post.'

The game's biggest drama was provided by Roy, the talk of the town the previous two days for comments made after Game 2. The three-time All-Star, slowed by knee injuries this season, expressed dissatisfaction with playing time (eight minutes). He had scored two combined points on 1-for-8 shooting the first two games.

Entering the game late in the first quarter, Roy was greeted by a standing ovation as he walked onto the court. Roy airballed his first shot, then sank six in a row. He finished with 16 points, hitting 6 of 10 shots, and dished out four assists with no turnovers in 24 minutes.

'You look at Brandon Roy, the first thing you think about is 'All-Star,' ' Matthews said. 'He has had to sacrifice more than anybody, and he is a true professional about it. For him to have the game that he did at this moment was huge for us. We all fed off of it.'

Roy, who had offered an apology earlier in the day for his remarks, was emotional as he met with a throng of media afterward.

'I have a lot of supporters,' Roy said. 'A lot of people called me, pulled me aside and gave me that confidence. When the game started, I thought, 'I'm going to go out and have fun.'

'All I can control is going out there, playing hard, having fun and moving on from it when it's over. I was able to get some shots to fall, and get into a groove.'

As he was shooting free throws in the second half, a portion of the crowd chanted 'Bran-dunn Roy! Bran-dunn Roy!' Just like old times.

Asked if it matched his biggest thrills in the NBA, Roy smiled.

'It's right there,' he said. 'I can't put one (highlight) above another at this point, but it was a great game for me.

'I was excited and focused and it means a lot for me. I've been around this organization for five years now, and the fans have been great. To see the support they showed tonight, nothing else mattered.'

His coach was moved, too.

'There is nobody in the state, not even Brandon Roy, who wants to see him out on that floor as much as I do,' McMillan said. 'He has meant a lot to this organization. I have not forgotten about him, nor do I disrespect (him) this season. We are bringing (him) along the second half of the season and into the playoffs, trying to create this role for him. It's worked at times, and tonight was one of those examples.'

Johnson was the night's biggest surprise. The little-used 6-11 rookie, named this week as the D-League's defensive player of the year, hadn't played in the first two games. But when starting center Marcus Camby got in foul trouble, McMillan called Johnson's number.

The gamble paid off. In his six second-half minutes, Johnson grabbed three rebounds, had two showy blocked shots and made a major contribution.

'The young kid, Johnson, changed the game some,' Nowitzki said. 'He didn't score, but he had an effect on the game. That's what happens sometimes in the playoffs.'

'I don't know if I can express how important Chris' minutes were,' Aldridge said. 'Camby's in foul trouble, he goes in and gets a big block, a big rebound. To not play (in the first two games) and be that good for us was huge.

'He's like a pogo stick. He blocks shots, he rebounds - that was just him being him.'

'Chris has earned the right to play some minutes' through the rest of the series, McMillan promised.

Terry scored 29 points - including 17 in the first half - in 40 minutes off the bench. The Seattle native made 10 of 13 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and had seven assists to keep Dallas within range of victory.

Dirk Nowitzki had his customary numbers - 25 points, nine rebounds - but Dallas' 7-foot German wasn't enough, either, to get the Mavericks the triumph.

'I liked the fight in us,' Nowitzki said. 'We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to win.'

Matthews said the Blazers had more incentive to win Thursday's game than did the Mavericks.

'Seven times we've played Dallas now,' he said. 'There are no hidden plays, no Xs and Os. It's just who wants it more, who can execute, who can take advantage of matchups. That's what we tried to do.

'We didn't feel we played our best basketball in Dallas, but we still had a chance to win both games. Coming home, it was a combination of 'must-win, our home crowd. They took care of their homecourt. Now it's for us to take care of ours.' '

Nowitzki didn't disagree. He says the Mavericks will do what they can to change all of that in Saturday's Game 4.

The Blazers 'were a little more energetic today,' he said. 'They wanted it more, yeah. Saturday will be another streetfight. Let's see who comes out on top. We'll see if we're ready from the jump. We were the reactors at the beginning (tonight), and you have to be more ready for the hit.

'We feel like we took their best blow (tonight), and we were right there. We have another opportunity on Saturday. We don't want to go home with a tied series. We have to leave it all out there like we did today after the first couple of minutes. We have to do that for 48 minutes on Saturday.'

NOTES: Nowitzki, 28 for 30 at the foul line in the first two games, was 4 for 7 in Game 3. ... Dallas backup center Brendan Haywood, 0 for 6 at the line in the first two games, was 2 for 6 at the stripe Thursday night. ... Portland's Gerald Wallace, scoreless through three quarters, wound up with seven points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Teammate Andre Miller totaled 16 points and seven assists and knocked down a pair of free throws with 9.6 seconds left for the game's final points.

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