The Dallas Mavericks also finally got to Round 2, something they have done just twice since advancing to the NBA Finals in 2006. And the Mavs finally will oppose the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason, something that the organization has been plotting for since Mark Cuban's purchase of the franchise 11 years ago.
"Beat LA''? The opportunity begins with Game 1 on Monday in LA. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; the No. 3-seeded Mavs – predicted by so many to lose this series to a No. 6 Portland team that spent the entire year behind inferior Dallas – deserve credit for being able to bury this opponent over the course of three straight third quarters and over the final minutes of games.
The third quarters? In the last three thirds, Dallas outscored Portland 84 to 53.
The closeouts? Dallas had a 23-point late-game lead in Game 4 (but lost), a 20-point late-game lead in Game 5 (and won by 11) and moments before the start of the fourth quarter earned a 15-point lead here.
For all the thrilling potential of LaMarcus Aldridge (24 points, twice as many as he scored in the previous game), he's not Dirk.
For all the comeback heroics of Brandon Roy, he's not Brandon Roy … as demonstrated Thursday when he scored nine innocuous points.
The Blazers did get a grand performance from Gerald Wallace (32 points). But otherwise, Portland was generally swarmed by Dallas' full platoons of fresh bodies.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "Nowitzki, Terry and Kidd weren't going to let us lose the game. It's as simple as that.''
Ah, I say it's more complicated than that.
Backup 2-guard Jason Terry contributed 22 points and eight assists (his effort marred only by some brainless late turnovers). Backup point guard J.J. Barea scored eight. Backup marksman Peja Stojakovic scored six. And backup center Brandon Haywood supplemented the work of Tyson Chandler as the pair worked to single-handedly keep LaMarcus from going nuts. Pitch in Shawn Marion's six rebounds and 16 points and another thing the Mavs started the season talking about – "balance and unselfishness'' came to fruition.
"Anytime we made a mistake,'' said Blazers coach Nate McMillan, whose team did close to within one inside of six minutes, "they made us pay."
Making them pay the most was the closer, Dirk, who was 8-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 30 seconds. He scored 14 in the quarter and 33 for the game and seemed to gain inspiration when in the first half, Portland scrub Chris Johnson came off the bench to administer a cheap shot or two against The UberMan.
That would be a mistake.
Dirk would make them pay.
This may prove an important hill to have climbed, given Portland's reputation as a challenging place to visit and win. Since the start of those infamous 2006 NBA Finals, which the Mavs lost to Miami after taking a 2-0 series lead, Dallas was just 2-18 on the road in the playoffs.
"There wasn't going to be a miracle tonight,'' Carlisle said, obviously referring to Dallas' lost 23-point lead in Game 4 … but hey, when the Mavs win a playoff game on the road, it is sort of a miracle, too, isn't it?
During the third quarter, with the Rose Garden crowd less vocal that usual and the Blazers down double-digits, a team promotion was staged. It was "The Suitcase Race.''
I don't know the meaning of the promotion. I just get the symbolism.
The Blazers are packing for vacation to points unknown.
The Mavericks are packing for Round 2 in Los Angeles.MAVS-LAKERS ROUND 2 SCHEDULE Game 1 - Mon., Dallas at L.A. Lakers, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2 - Wed., Dallas at L.A. Lakers, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3 - Fri., May 6, L.A. Lakers at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4 - Sun., May 8, L.A. Lakers at Dallas, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5 * Tue., May 10, Dallas at L.A. Lakers, TBD (TNT)
Game 6 * Thu., May 12, L.A. Lakers at Dallas, TBD (ESPN)
Game 7 * Sun., May 15, Dallas at L.A. Lakers, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)