Let us begin with a disclaimer: We'll try to keep this even-keeled, but how do you overcome emotion after witnessing such a tent-fold? How do you find the positives in the litter after a tornado of destruction tears its way through a 23-point lead, turning what most assuredly was about to be a 3-1 series lead into a Portland momentum-granting 2-2 tie? How can you do anything but vent after the Mavs go down 84-82 in Game 4 … in this manner?
We'll vent -- DB.com is its own boss, you know, so no corporate ass-kissing is required -- and then we'll try to pry that silver from the wreckage.
THE TOP STORY: Call it the resurrection of Brandon Roy, or Dallas Mavericks fans being condemned to watch the past reclaim the present. Call it whatever you want, but this is easily the biggest gut-punch endured by Dallas since the 2006 Finals. ... or maybe the 2007 Warriors thing ... or maybe ...
OK, "gut-punch'' is polite parlor-room talk.
It's a testicle rip, is what it is.
We want not just you but the Mavs themselves to watch this. ... to get sick about it ...
Have we not experienced enough crying from Brandon Roy?
Here's Mike Fisher's Official Top Three Tearjerkers of All-Time:
3 Sophie's Choice
2. Terms of Endearment
1. Anytime Brandon Roy wins, loses, ties, shoots, doesn't shoot, walks, chews gum, whatev.
This experience ... is like you being told by a team they're taking you in the top 10 of the draft, you tripping over a cord as you celebrate wildly, you tearing both of your ACL's before ever hanging up the phone and having the team say "never mind" just as you head out to the hospital.
Oh, and then your mom informs you that you were adopted. From the circus.
For all of what Dallas did right on its way to a 23-point lead over the first 33:13 of the game, it managed to more than counter it with the undeniably -- and arguably unmatched in history -- horrible play in the final 14:47.
After scoring 25 total points on 7-of-34 shooting (20.6 percent) in the first and third quarters combined, Portland scored 43 points by hitting 15-of-20 shots (75 percent) over that final 14:47 … the Blazers outscored Dallas 43-18 over that span, and stole a victory.
THERE'S THAT WORD AGAIN: Such an ugly word with even uglier implications: "soft." Or, you could go, as we did in First Impressions, with the word "choke." We hate hearing them in reference to our teams, and we hate even more when they ring true.
There is no sugarcoating this loss. The Mavs were soft ... mentally, certainly, and in other ways, too. And, even if you've never believed in the concept before, you've gotta listen now: They did choke.
The Mavericks displayed a lack of fortitude in the worst ways possible and came up mental marshmallows. Brandon Roy went on a tear, and he deserves his praise, but Dallas wilted in the face of it. All the residues of "moral victories" or deeper mental muscle were washed away in the face of an improbable Portland surge.
Roy scored 18 points in the final quarter, ignoring the late defense of the Mavs' best perimeter defender, Shawn Marion. Dallas was good for only 15.
Roy finished with 24 points, hits 9-of-13 shots, grabbed four rebounds and handed out five assists … did it all on two bad knees just 40 hours after he'd improbably done much the same in the G3 win ... and took the win.
"I'm not playing to be the old Brandon Roy or to change someone's opinion of me,'' he said. "Just to play."
All joking aside, complete props to him. He's not good enough to start for the Blazers anymore ... yet he's suddenly the MVP (or, with Dirk, the co-MVP) of the series.
Perhaps, as much as all of this, what may sting as much as anything comes another reminder of that mental lack … Dirk Nowitzki, easily the best player on the Mavs' roster, the best to ever don a Dallas jersey, who has torn up the fourth quarters through the first three games of the series by averaging 13.7 points, was overlooked by his teammates and took only three shots in the final 12 minutes … making one of them.
We used to say this on the radio (it became a rather infamous drop): "I'll go down on Dirk.'' Taken out of context on sports-talk radio, you get the silly homoerotic reference. But what we meant: Let's ride Dirk. Let's lose with Dirk. If the Mavs are destined to go down in a game, let's go down riding the talents of Dirk.
And know that we were saying this during a time when The UberMan was being deferrential to teammates Nash and Finley.
There is certainly no reason to be so deferrential now.
With the offense crumbling down the stretch, how do you not find a way to force the Blazers to defend Dirk with greater consistency?
Moving on, how does a defense so priding of itself in marked improvement dissolve in the eyes of their biggest challenge the season?
ONE MORE THING: We bit our tongue after G3, and prodded Tyson Chandler to overcome the adversity of a few questionable calls. We chided the Blazers' fans and coaches and players for crying after Game 1. (See: TrailBitchers.) Yet, here we are.
Don't get us wrong; Dallas lost this game. To place the blame anywhere else is unfounded, but …
First the pure numbers: 23 free throws for the Blazers, 10 for Dallas, including zero in the first half. 21 fouls called against the Mavs and 15 against Portland.
The officiating in this game wasn't as good as the play in the game. That's how we've always measured it. The refs emerged from the halftime break with a brand new set of guidelines in place for calling fouls … ignoring every instance of precedence they set in the first two quarters. In the blink of an eye the game went from allowing the players to play, to a near constant harmony of whistles with everything from harsh breaths to changes in barometric pressure outside the arena drawing calls.
It wasn't solely to the detriment of Dallas, as often, both teams suffered from this glaringly inconsistent officiating.
That said, we're still waiting for the review angle that shows enough to overturn the out-of-bounds call that was reversed. From our perspective, Gerald Wallace clearly touched the ball last, but even if you claim that wasn't clear, where do you find the "conclusive evidence" to overturn the call on the floor and say it was off of Tyson Chandler?
We're also still waiting for any semblance of respect from the officials for anything Tyson Chandler does. With ticky-tacky touch fouls continuing to mount, such as another critical call that went against him when Nicolas Batum appeared to simply lose a loose ball that Chandler quickly picked up, and the inability to get to the free-throw line despite being nearly tackled under the rim … you find that you may almost understand if Chandler loses his cool at some point.
To his credit, he hasn't … but that doesn't excuse the calls.
We've vented about what we see as extremely poor and inconsistent officiating, now it's time to move on … and Dallas must do the same.
Are we being careful enough here? We hope to sound like analysts of confounding calls ... and not too much like homers who think "the fix'' is in.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS: In the first two games we saw Jason Terry fail to score more than 10 points. In Game 3, he exploded for 29 points in a loss, but remained in the flow of the offense, finding his points without necessarily taking them from the mouths of his teammates.
In Game 4, we saw what happens when Terry begins to seek out his shots and the significant damage that can come when he fails to convert contested jumpers.
None was bigger, or hurt more, than three-point attempt with 10 seconds on the shot clock and 50 remaining in the game with the score tied at 82. Crowded near the sideline with a defender in his face, while Dirk moved away from the screen he set to position himself to receive a pass, this is the precise brand of shot Terry must refrain from launching … especially when having a 5-of-16 shooting performance.
We're not pinning this loss to Terry's chest, honestly, there's far too much blame to single out any player for the fault, but Jet must play within the offense.
Damnit ... We know we're right when we conduct a study of the last five years of Jet and the Mavs in the playoffs and conclude that too much reliance on Jet, and too much impatience from Jet, equals Dallas failure.
We know it. DB.com readers know it. Are the Mavs and Jason Terry too stubborn to absorb the info?
QUOTABLE: From the Blazers: "We feel like the pressure is off of us right now ... Our confidence is high." - Portland's Wesley Matthews, who may not fully understand that the series is tied 2-2 and coming back to Dallas for Monday's Game 5.
From the Mavs: "You can always, after the fact, talk about what you could have done or should have done. You can go a million ways about it, and afterward you're a lot smarter, but that doesn't help anybody right now.'' - Dirk.
TO DOUBLE OR NOT TO DOUBLE: We've already chronicled what Brandon Roy was able to do to close out this game. He was unstoppable, even Shawn Marion could not slow him down.
So, do you continue to trust your teams best perimeter defender? Or, do you abandon that trust to find something that is working?
Above, we point out that Portland was 15-of-20 over the final 14:47. Over that same stretch, Roy was 9-of-11.
Considering this, many will question why Dallas refused to send a double-team in an attempt to both slow him down and/or get the ball out of his hands.
Carlisle has said that they treat Roy as an All-Star, rather than an injury-slowed shell of his former self. If that's the case, aren't you obligated to do all you can to break the flow he found late? You can say this opens other avenues to success for the Blazers, and you would be correct, but you must chose your poison … with the loss in hand, it's easy to second guess, but it's safe to say the incorrect poison was swallowed.
"We should have done some different things (to stop Roy)," Rick Carlisle said. "So, I'm going to take the blame for that."
MAVSELLANEOUS: J-Kidd has his very own phrase for second-guessers: "You can always play Couch Quarterback, but you gotta look at the tape and you gotta get better,'' Kidd said. "Couch Quarterback.'' We get that. That's what Dirk is saying, too. But boys, you just lost a 23-point lead in the final 17 minutes of a game. You are going to get Coach-QB'ed, sirs. ... Another quote not sitting well, this one from Rick Carlisle, asking the Dallas fans to be as good and vocal as the Portland fans were. And again, we understand what he's TRYING to say. But this request, so immediately issued while the wound of Game 4 isn't yet scabbed over, seems like asking too much, seems like moving the onus of all this away from where it truly belongs ... "I've been in some pretty good zones before," Roy said. "But nothing like tonight." Just our luck, eh? ... As Mark Cuban learned in G3 when he thought he was somehow helping his Mavs by inciting the Portland crowd (?), the Mavs' on-court conflict with the Blazers in G4 did the same. Aldridge and TY got tangled and hot with 3:21 left in the first half and exchanged shoves. It fired up the Rose Garden (later quieted, of course), and it reminds us of why you want G5 (and the if of G7) in Dallas.
ONE SMALL SLIVER OF SILVER: In other (now empty) ways, this may have been Shawn Marion's best game of the series. He was helpless to curb the onslaught unleashed by Roy, but had a strong game, including finding his back-to-the-basket abilities.
Marion finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
We'll need more of this from The Matrix if the Mavs are to deny the momentum Portland has claimed as the series heads back to Dallas Monday night … tied at two games apiece.
Ah, but wait a sec. How'd that four-point play happen again?
Maybe we're giving 'Trix too much praise for having a solid game on just one end of the floor.
THE FINAL WORD: It's easy to find your confidence bruised or altogether absent after a brutal loss such as this. Comfort is an elusive love when caught between the constricting embrace of adversity and the wounds scattered in the wake of loss.
Yet, for all of the bones broken here, for all of the confidence needlessly sacrificed, Monday will bring a chance to bury any ghosts spawned by losing a 23-point lead in under 15 minutes, and an 18-point lead entering the final period.
Fate has yet to tattoo her words on the forehead of this series.
Broken down, embarrassed and likely ridiculed, these are merely the bruises of a tied series. There's nothing to say the hurt must find its way to the heart, to the will. Despite the nature of the beast, this failure comes before an opportunity to render its lasting impact impotent.
"In this league, there's always a next night …" Dirk Nowitzki said.
In this moment, he's correct.
There's no denying Dallas missed out on a pair of golden opportunities to put this series away in Portland, but such is the way of sports, they have another chance to capitalize upon Monday night.
Saturday, they limped weak and beaten from a test of their mental fortitude. Monday, an even larger test will arrive. How do they respond to that failure?"We've been through tough losses before,'' Rick said. "It's not easy, but for us, we gotta get back on the plane, get back home, study some of the things that went wrong . . . It's dissapointing and everything, but the NBA season has a lot of highs and lows, and we gotta keep going."
The series and the season don't have to be over … they don't have to be.