Those 10 shots came within the generally honored, in these parts, sanctum of the free-throw line, where the Dallas Mavericks hit only 13 of their 23 attempts, including five misses in the fourth quarter alone. In a five-point loss, there's seldom a clearer path to where those points may have been found.
In the end, sloppy or careless play fed 16 turnovers that led directly to 16 Portland points, combined with missed chances at the line to close the coffin over a missed opportunity.
THE TOP STORY: Portland, and their boisterous fans, did not come up lacking on the scale of emotion. They swarmed the court extremely aware of their 2-0 series deficit and raced to a 16-7 lead, throwing a haymaker of an opening punch … yet Dallas held steady beneath the fire of the blow and dug in.
What could have easily become a blowout settled into a fierce battle embodying the back and forth nature of playoff basketball. Two strong teams stood toe-to-toe and got their punches in.
"I'm actually feeling good about the way we kept fighting,'' Dirk said.
Considering the circumstances, the chance to build a 3-0 series lead, the chance to smother all but the faintest of hopes, to lose in such a manner will undoubtedly haunt the Mavs … when the defense was set aside, the looks as clean as they can possibly be, Dallas saw their shots go errant.
It's not beyond the realm of reason to expect Brendan Haywood to miss a few free throws, but you don't expect Dirk Nowitzki to miss three in a game, or JJ Barea to miss a pair in the final quarter. For a team used to being ranked at or near the top of the league, missing 10 in a game and five in the deciding quarter is not how you foresee a loss being delivered.
NO WHINING ALLOWED: Hey, it's your dime. But we say: "No Whining Allowed.'' Moreover, "No Whining Necessary.''
Check out the quickie review (all in more depth below) of what almost went right … and didn't … and still your team was in the game to the final seconds:
*The 20 points of LaMarcus Aldridge didn't kill you, and again didn't exceed the 25 Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. The best player in the series is still a Boy in Blue. Ah, but The UberMan made just 4-of-7 from the free-throw line.
*The Mavs lost despite shooting 52 percent. In a sense, Portland never really stopped the Mavs. The Mavs must've made other mistakes, though, rather than FG shooting.
*Jason Terry made precious few mistakes on offense, scoring 29 points – but the problems that seem to historically ensue when the Mavs ask him to do too much march on. Many think our Thursday Morning Mavs Donuts pointing out how the Mavs' postseason problems seem to escalate when more is asked of Jet were unfair. But here we go again: Dallas has lost four straight playoff games when Jet scores 20-plus points.
Let's be clear: That's not to blame Jet, but rather to suggest that an over-reliance on him means other Mavs are failing to lift their load.
*Tyson Chandler registered as a non-factor, a victim of what the Mavs think were maybe four ticky-tacky fouls that led to his disqualification after just 15 minutes of burn. If you think TY hasn't shown up in this series, you're wrong. If you think he hasn't shown up on the offensive end, now you are onto something. Whatever happened to the Chandler-Oop?
*Jason Kidd made a clutch 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds remaining that cut the Portland lead to two … but then the controversial referee reversal after the judgment that Kidd's toe had nipped the line made his 3 a 2 and made the two-point deficit a three-point hole.
And here's where we separate the Mavs (we hope) from the TrailBitchers … Go watch this video of Kidd's toe. Watch it 100 times, for all we care.
Our view? Kidd's toe didn't nip the line. The refs' view (maybe from another camera angle)? It did so. A whiny view? We wuz robbed! Except …
It was still a one-possession game after the call, and the Mavs did nothing with that possession. Besides, which was bigger? Kidd's toe … or the fact that Dirk missed three FTs, that Dallas missed five in the final quarter, that Dallas missed 10 in the game by going 13-of-13?
Turnovers are influenced by the opponent. So are missed shots, rebound totals, etc. FTs are all up to you. Thanks to, starting with Nellie, Nash, Finley, Dirk and assistant coach Gary Boren and continuing on through the decade, this is one of the finest free-throwing franchise eras in NBA history.
In this All-Access Pass, we're going to resist the temptation to give voice to anybody who wants to blame the loss on anything but Dallas' FTs. There are a skillion other places on the internet, and in Mavs Nation, for whining. (That's not to say we won't analyze, say, Tyson Chandler's individual plight. A couple of his six fouls seemed to have been called on him due to his menacing eyebrows. But No Whining Allowed, even about that.)
We poked fun at the TrailBitchers for doing so. We will do our best to ignore any of the Boys in Blue who follow suit.
BLAZERS, MEET JASON TERRY: In each of the first two games, Jason Terry scored exactly 10 points. By the end of the first quarter, the Jet had matched this number in Game 3.
Terry finished with a game-high 29 points (the most he has scored in a playoff game since Game 5 of the Finals in 2006), and was an offensive force. He hit 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including 5-of-7 behind the arc, and added seven assists.
However, worth repeating: this marked the fourth straight playoff game the Mavs have lost when he scores at least 20 points.
On offense, Terry gave you everything you could possibly ask for, and in the first half he was solid at the defensive end as well. If you're searching for a complaint, you can point to a few possessions in the second half of matador defense, but this wasn't a game to come away upset with Terry … only to be saddened that his performance was left all for naught.
In the lottery selection of second-scorers, Terry's numbers came up and he didn't disappoint.
SAME STORY, DIFFERENT RESULT: Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge entered the fourth quarter with 16 points apiece. As has been the case all series, one upped his game, outside of one key missed free throw, while the other slid to the background.
Dirk finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, one block … but went 4-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Aldridge finished with 20 points, four rebounds, one steal, one block … and the win.
For those counting, with nine fourth-quarter points, Dirk has 41 in the final periods this series. Aldridge now has 13.
Yet, those numbers ring hollow after a five-point loss … and they won't be what dances prominently at the front of Nowitzki's thoughts as sleep is slow to come.
TY'S PLIGHT: Shall we commission a video, BlazersEdge-style, that demonstrates that Chandler's fouls were lightweight, fluky and, as coach Rick Carlisle noted of one, "peculiar''?
We shall not.
Two of the fouls were on screens TY was setting. The contact was light but the calls were right; Dallas' execution on the plays was sloppy.
"There are some things I think we can correct there,'' Rick said. "He got a couple of fouls screening. Those are timing issues. I think we can clean those up.''
The "peculiar'' play? Chandler had harnessed a rebound. Gerald Wallace was behind him, and Wallace suddenly grimaced as if his face had made contact with … what? The back of TY's jersey?
Over the course of the season Tyson Chandler has serenaded us with his play, causing most Mavs fans to fall in love with the emotional heart and soul of a revitalized defense, with a center who must be respected around the rim for fear of being immortalized as the gawker staring up beneath a thunderous dunk.
In this series, Chandler has been marginalized by foul trouble. There's little doubt that he's not getting the benefit of calls, being penalized for contact far less than the physical style playoff basketball often allows, but he must find a way to overcome this brand of adversity and become a factor.
Through three games, Chandler has a total of eight points. In the first two contests, he was a presence on the boards, but you can't grab rebounds or collect baskets from the bench.
Easier said than done, but Chandler must find his way from the tangles of foul trouble.
Said Dirk of TY: "He's gotta be a little smarter. Some tough calls there, obviously, but on the road, that's what happens. We just gotta be overall a little smarter.''
BIG WOOD'S BIG UPS: In Game 3, the stats may tell you Brendan Haywood wasn't a huge contributor, and on offense they would be correct. Big Wood finished with six points, six rebounds, one steal and one block
On defense, you need only look at another's numbers to understand where his impact lies.
For the first time this series, Aldridge hit under 50 percent of his field-goal attempts (9-of-21), and this isn't a coincidence or a delivery of happenstance. It is the product of consistency stellar defense being played by Haywood. He hasn't been able to completely shut down Aldridge, but he has made every point difficult to come by. Good defense can be defeated by better offense at times, and this has come into play as Aldridge has made some incredible shots, but don't discount what Haywood's been bringing to the defensive side of the ball.
On a team with the third place finisher in the Defensive Player of the Year (Chandler), Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd … Haywood has stood out.
Unfortunately, the other end of the court is a different story altogether. Haywood continues to be a nightmare from the free-throw line, now 2-of-12 for the series (2-of-6 in Game 3), leading to hard fouls in place of monstrous dunks … and missed free throws replacing solid offensive plays or possessions.
But this is the player Dallas signed to a long-term deal. The FTs are part of the bargain. The one-on-one defense against an All-Star-level stud? The sprinting down court in an attempt to win a positional footrace with that same guy? The desire to not allow a letdown because TY is playing just a third of the game? Right now, that's part of the bargain, too.
THE BIG GUARDS: Beyond the free throws and the 16 turnovers, the story of the game on the Portland side of the ball must be the play of Wesley Matthews and Brandon Roy.
Roy entered Game 3 having scored a total of two points. He scored 16, with each point fueling an adoring crowd to booming frenzies.
Matthews had fared slightly better, putting up 13 points in Game 2 after only two in the opener. In Game 3, he would storm from the gate, hitting his first four three-point attempts and setting a new series high by the end of the first quarter with 16 points. He finished with 25 points (though only three in the second half) by hitting 8-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-6 behind the arc.
From 17 total combined points through two games, to 41 in Game 3 on 63.6 percent shooting … that hurts.
Our man Kevin Brolan notes that maybe we saw Fake Wes and Real Wes all in the same game here, as he kind of disappeared in the second half. And there is, of course, the hope that Roy will now disappear, with a Saturday afternoon game on tap.
Brandon Roy was ineffective in Game 1, in tears in Game 2 and in his element in Game 3.
"Tough times don't last,'' said Roy, who scored 16 points in 18 minutes. "Tough people do.''
The step-up game from Roy – a former All-Star who this year underwent what seemed to be career-threatening surgeries on both knees – is Portland's version of "feel-good.''
In Game 1, Roy was given lots of leash, including a major fourth-quarter role, and Portland lost as he contributed two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
In Game 2, the leash was a shoelace. Roy was allowed just eight minutes of play and did not score a field goal. And when coach Nate McMillan opted to keep Roy on the bench throughout the fourth quarter, Roy admitted to the Portland newspaper that he had to tell himself, "You better not cry.''
Roy added that he "just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me.''
Now, Roy will have less than 40 hours to turn around and try to do it again in Game 4, a 2 p.m. (West Coast time) tip in Portland. That's a challenge for him and his knees.
Or, at least the Mavs hope that's the case.
Said Rick: "We continue to gameplan for Roy as an All-Star player because he's capable of doing that on any night. He's done it to us, so I'm not surprised."
We think/hope Rick is being polite.
WHAT WE FEARED: For the first time this series, we saw something most expected to see Portland capitalize on from the start: the Blazers guards posting up a helpless Barea.
With Haywood doing his best to minimize the damage from Aldridge, Andre Miller went to work with his back to the basket and took it to Barea. The refs were refusing to bite as Barea went to the floor, and he was left without a chance to stop Miller, who scored 16 crucial points.
MAVSELANEOUS: Dallas hit 7-of-17 shots in the fourth quarter (41.2 percent), but held Portland to 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) … However, the Mavs made only 5-of-10 free throws, compared to 6-of-7 for the Blazers … Both teams had 37 rebounds, with seven coming at the offensive end … For the regular season, Andre Miller hit 4-of-37 three-point attempts (10.8 percent) … in this series he is 3-of-6 behind the arc, setting ablaze scouting reports everywhere … Marcus Camby took only one three-pointer all season and missed, he has taken one this series, and made it. … Assistant coach Dwane Casey is apparently on Houston's wish list and the Rockets will soon be granted permission from the Mavs to interview …
Owner Mark Cuban says he was hit in the face by a thrown object during the game. He says he is unharmed, but still, that behavior is never pleasant.
Having said that: Tweeted reports from DFW media at the game seemed to be celebrating Mark's back-of-the-bench behavior, as they described Cuban taunting the crowd. We're confused. If the Portland crowd is incited to be even more loud during games at the Rose Garden, how does that help the Mavs? … Roddy B was inactive again with that sprained left foot but he's "making progress," Carlisle said. … We were happy to see Shawn Marion handle himself with class in the postgame interviews – no ragdoll talk – but we can imagine his frustration at being passed over for crunch-time minutes by Barea and Big Wood … Did Dallas need more balance? "We'd like to get more guys involved and be able to score a few more points, but if you're not going to have a balanced games, you have to have a couple of guys go for big numbers," Carlisle said.
BEYOND KIDD'S TOE: We were on 105.3 The Fan on Thursday morning and noted that Kidd wouldn't need to "score 24 or 18. Kidd scoring eight should be enough.''
And by God, Jason Kidd scored eight.
It wasn't enough.
In Games 1 and 2, J-Kidd was nails from the perimeter, a 9-of-16 shooter. Here he finished 2-of-8 from long range …
And scored eight points.
Maybe it would've been enough had he not also committed five turnovers – this one game after the entire Dallas team committed six in a Game 2 win.
Kidd got looks. The Blazers haven't much bothered adjusting up in a belief that he's going to kill them from the arc.
So maybe he's got to kill them from the arc.
Or score eight points … without the five turnovers.
Kidd had his worst performance of the series, starting the game 1-of-6 from the floor before a couple of big late shots, but also led the Mavs with the turnovers, compared to only three assists.
Again, we don't expect Kidd to score 20 every game, but it seems fair to ask that he not have more turnovers than assists, something he did only once this season.
As we've come to expect, Kidd was there to drain a clutch shot at a crucial point late in the game (even if a review came away with the incorrect call, turning a three into a two, the outcome was irrelevant), but this team needs him to be the calming hand when he is on the court … not contribute to shaky decision making and poor passing.
QUOTEBOARD: "Who cares? Our only mindset was on the win.'' -- Jason Terry, when asked about his 29-point night.
MAVS FINAL WORD: Portland threw everything they had at the Mavs, had all of the breaks go their way and walked away with a five-point win that remained in doubt until the final moments. Dallas took their best punch, dug their feet in and stayed in the fight until the end. Rather than wilt beneath the swelling emotion of the moment, the Mavs kept coming back.
"I love the way we battled back," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We fought hard, guys stayed into it. We battled extremely hard, but we couldn't overcome our bad start."
We can find solace in that. Can't we?
Or, is there only the fact that this was a game that was there for the taking? There was a chance to throw another bucket of water on the face of a drowning team, and to essentially put away the series. If Portland takes Game 4, it will be this game that will continue to haunt Dallas.
And there is reason for concern. The Mavs are the NBA's best road team this year (along with Miami), but at the same time, the Mavs' playoffs road record in the postseason is a vastly different story: Since the start of the 2006 NBA Finals, the Mavs are 2-17 in playoff games.
Dirk says the Mavs are prepared for a "street fight.'' Sounds enticing. but that will have to wait just a bit.
What will we remember about G3? Will we look back and admire the stand taken in the face of pure desperation? Or find regret for the one that got away … in an opportunity wasted?
We'll find out soon enough.