Followill's 5: Live From Portland And Game 6

As this very entertaining Round 1 series is drawing to a conclusion either tonight or Saturday, it's time to check in on what I think have been the areas that have led the Mavs to the brink of advancing to Round 2. Granted, it's a small sample size and one good or bad game can skew the numbers. But all we care about right now is this series, so let's dive in. ... to Followill's 5!

1. The Dallas Mavericks have improved in several areas both individually and as a team and the most notable and where we must focus I think is rebounding.

Based on the regular season, the series featured in the Mavs a team that was excellent in defensive rebounding and very poor in offensive rebounding. ... against the Blazers, a team that was the exact opposite - great at crashing the offensive glass but somewhat suspect in controlling their own defensive boards.

With five games in the books, here are the nice-to-look-at numbers: The Mavs went from grabbing only 24 percent of available offensive rebounds in the regular season to 28 percent in this series, boosted significantly by what Tyson Chandler did on Monday. (Check out the "20/20 piece for more on the Mavs centers' work ). Meanwhile, Dallas has also seen a healthy uptick in defensive rebounding percentage (.748 to .781). Where it really matters is that Portland has plummeted from grabbing 29.5 percent of available offensive rebounds in the regular season to only 22% in this series. Over the regular season Portland, as has been noted, was 3rd in offensive rebounding percentage but the number posted in this series would be good for only 29th in the league over the long haul of the season. So an already low-scoring team that relied on 14 2nd chance points per game in the regular season is barely getting half that now.

There are other areas where Dallas is better as a team, like 3-point shooting and free-throw attempts per game and turnovers. But the improvements are only slight and skewed in Dallas' favor thanks to having one more home game so far So we look at the individuals ...

2. Let's start specifically with the match-up of stars.

Dirk, because of his aggressiveness in getting to the line, has left his stamp on the series more than Aldridge, whose points have gone down each game. (In Donuts today: A film-study breakdown of what Dallas has done right against Aldridge

3. But they alone haven't been the difference.

Dallas has had at least one or two big step-up games from Kidd, Peja, Terry and Tyson Chandler. That's led to marginal scoring average increases for the first three players mentioned.

Meanwhile, the Blazers have only seen Andre Miller raise his game over the life of the series consistently; every other rotation player is pretty much down from the regular season in a lot of their numbers. To Portland's credit, though, they have ridden their phenomenal home court advantage, the first-quarter eruption from Wesley Matthews in Game 3 and Brandon Roy's crunch-time performances here in Portland to still very much being in this series.

4. Through five games, the numbers and the eyeballs pretty much tell me Dallas is a better team, but an admitted fourth-quarter brain zap coupled with a performance for the ages by Brandon Roy in that same quarter leave the Mavs still with work left to do. The Mavs must now either erase some painful memories of five days ago here in the Rose Garden -- and all of their recent road playoff struggles, for that matter -- or face a winner-take-all Game 7.

5. The odds overwhelmingly favor the home team in that case, and thank goodness that will be Dallas. But it's no guarantee when you get to one game, where a fluke shot, a hot player, or a bad call can all end you season prematurely.

However it goes down, DallasBasketball com will guide you through it, and so will the TXA21 gang, as we've got the telecast tonight with the tip at 9:30 and Saturday if necessary as well. Hope you join us for the fun!



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