"The Same Ol' Mavs'' on Thursday? Heck, this wasn't even the same team from that Game 4 debacle in Portland. Oh, there was another slow start and there were a couple of near-unravelings … but then Dallas re-raveled.
Soon it will be time to measure up to the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. But not yet …
THE TOP STORY: Well, clearly the win is the top story. For only the second time in five seasons, the Dallas Mavericks will move beyond the first round. And, for only the third time in their last 21 tries, they claim a win on the road in the playoffs. The official NBA highlights package ...
One game … two demons lying dead at its feet.
"We feel our work has just begun," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said
Again, we'll get to what comes next in the coming days. For now, let's look into just how these Mavs asserted themselves and won in Portland for the first time all season (0-4 over the regular season and playoffs combined before Thursday).
And, what better place to start than Dirk Nowitzki?
Forming a perfect bookend, Dirk closed the series how he opened it: with a double-double.
He finished with 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting (first game all series he hit over 50 percent of his shots), 11 rebounds, four assists and one block. Within those 33 points were a perfect 8-of-8 attempts from the free-throw line over the final 30 3 seconds of the contest, ensuring that Portland would not duplicate the Game 4 comeback, but would find their season over instead.
"There wasn't going to be a miracle tonight,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, obviously referring to Dallas' lost 23-point lead in Game 4.
Dirk scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-4 shots and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line For the first time all series, Lamarcus Aldridge joined him in an impressive fourth-quarter duel by scoring eight of his 24 points there … but as it had been for the majority of the six-games, Dirk proved to be just too much.
DIRK VS ALDRIDGE: It was no contest.
Aldridge, a DFW kid and UT guy, is poised for a bright future in the league. If he's lucky, he'll grow into what The UberMan already is. That's not an insult, only the reality of his youth.
For the series, Dirk averaged 27.3 points, 7 8 rebounds, 10.5 free-throw attempts (where he converted 88 9 percent), hit 45 percent of his shots, including 44 percent behind the arc … though he only attempted nine 3-pointers in the series.
L.A. was seven points shy of Dirk, on average. He found himself being (relatively) controlled not only by Tyson Chandler but also by Brendan Haywood. The first should not shock the Blazers The second shocks even the Mavs themselves, just a little bit.
Aldridge said before this game that the outcome would not define him … that it would be a team thing.
He's wrong and right. Portland hasn't won a playoff series since 2000. The Blazers have been booted in three straight years in Round 1.
That is on Aldridge to repair that … just as Dirk has felt the burden of doing the same.
THE JET HAS LEFT THE RUNWAY: For the second consecutive game, Jason Terry scored at least 20 points And, for the second consecutive game the Mavs claimed a victory. After four straight losses when he reached that number, including Game 3, it's a nice change to witness.
Much like that Game 3, Terry consistently acted within the flow of the offense. Generally finding his attempts without taking them from the plates of others, and he was as likely to penetrate and create for his teammates as to search out his own shot.
Terry finished with 22 points while going 9-of-16 from the floor and dished out an impressive eight assists.
This was the Terry that fuels Mavs wins, playing as a primary member of the offense without dominating the face of it. He may have only scored four points in the fourth quarter, but they came on 2-of-2 shooting and were complimented by a trio of important assists.
Considering crooked wings Jet was flying on in recent playoff performances, it's hard not to feel good about what we've seen so far … considering the result, we'll momentarily overlook the three extremely poorly timed turnovers down the stretch.
Jet in control … Jet making smart decisions in a pick-and-roll game that has Portland completely baffled … Jet using energy to scramble on defense. If he's going to be a big-minute piece to Dallas' puzzle (and he obviously is) he need to be this Jet.
‘TRIX OFFENSE: Shawn Marion opened the game with the offense immediately being run through him, but struggled from the gate by missing his first five shot attempts. Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace was tearing him up at the other end of the court with 13 first-quarter points.
In a pivotal game, the Matrix was having his worst performance of the series. Fortunately, things would soon begin to turn around.
After that 0-of-5 start, Marion hit seven of his 10 attempts from the floor and picked up his defensive presence … though only the sore back that kept Gerald Wallace from the court the entire second quarter seemed capable of slowing "Crash'' down, as he finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds.
This didn't fall entirely on Marion, as Wallace took turns abusing several other Mavs defenders, but he was a primary factor assigned to slowing down Wallace.
Marion ended the game with 16 points, six rebounds and one assist. This won't be remembered as his best game, though he did come through with crucial points when the team badly needed them.
In fact …
WHAT PORTLAND WILL REMEMBER: Wallace departed the game with 36.5 seconds left in the first He did not play in the second During that time, the Mavericks outscored the Blazers 33-16 and took a 52-43 lead into halftime.
"He was huge," LaMarcus Aldridge said of Wallace. "He carried us If he had been there in the second, it could have been different."
QUOTEBOARD: "We started the season saying that a championship is our goal. To do that, we've got to get out of the first round. We finally got (a road win) and we're moving on.'' – Dirk
KIDDBBIQ: Jason Kidd was a near afterthought for much of the night, and his final stats of seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, six assists and two steals won't leave anyone amazed.
However, as is often the case for the master of the BBIQ, the stats fail to tell the story of just when and how those stats came.
The Blazers had erased a 17-point third-quarter lead to pull within a point with 5:24 remaining in the fourth period. It was then that the man who had waded in the background for much of the night stepped forward and changed the game. We've seen it many times before, yet the elegance of the timing continues to amaze.
With 5:05 to play, Kidd drained his first, and only, 3-pointer of the night to put the Mavs back up four. On the next Portland possession, after a pair of offensive rebounds, guess who was there to strip the ball from Aldridge, leading to a Terry jumper and the return of a six-point lead, and again push the Blazers to their heels? If you said Jason Kidd, you would be correct.
It only shows up as three points and a steal in the boxscore, but they may add up to the biggest individual plays of the game, without which we'd again be pondering how the Mavs surrendered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Three points and one steal … but so much more.
Our only question: Does Rick Carlisle know he has us all on pins and needles as six minutes usually tick off the fourth-quarter clock before Kidd comes in to take the ball-handling and triggerman duties from Barea (and from Kidd finishing backcourt mate Jet)?
THE NITPICK: Look, we're celebrating the Mavs moving on to the second round, we are, but it's hard to overlook the absence of aggression from the Mavs in the fourth quarter. In Game 5, they insisted upon the win when they were persistent in their forays into the paint.
They were rewarded for the aggression only a game after being punished for a lack of it when Portland erased a 23-point deficit to "steal" a win by the slimmest of margins.
Things worked out here, but only because Dirk converted his free throws and a few clutch jump shots were converted … but they were jump shots. Against the Lakers, the results may not be as forgiving.
That's enough of that … for tonight.
CHIPPY BLAZERS: Was this their plan of retaliation for "The Custodian'' setting a hard, clean, legal screen in Game 5?
Tell Portland scrub Chris Johnson to sic' ‘em … and order him to horsecollar Dirk (or was that a "facecollar''?), to elbow Jet in the head, and to stomp about as if he's some sort of force in the league?
Now, Chris Johnson IS a force in the league … the D-League, where he was the defensive player of the year. But his foul on Dirk – and then his physical objection when Dirk barked "And-1'' – was comical Moment later, when he grabbed Dirk by the face after a Nowitzki defensive rebound (a flagrant that gave Dallas two FTs and the ball), that was dangerous.
And when he elbowed Terry? That was accidental … but to the viewer, a rep was developing and a trend was developing.
We're rather amazed that Portland left him out there, when all he really accomplished was the poking of the bear.
As we've seen so often, The UberMan doesn't retaliate with a punch. He beats you down by scoring 33 … and in this case, immediately responding by leading a 13-2 run during which he scored the first nine points.
Chris Johnson in the mixmaster one game … Patty Mills in it the next Who are – or rather, who were – these clowns?
WHAT IF TY SAYS IT?: Then will you believe what we've been saying about Dirk and the Mavs for years?
"Toughness doesn't always mean throwing a punch back or something like that," Tyson Chandler said. "It means getting up and going at them even tougher You're frustrated, and I think it was useful and it was the reason we won the game
"Dirk got up and instead of getting into an altercation, he said, I'm going to punish you on the other end."
NUMBER-CRUNCHING: Calculate …
*In the last three third quarters, Dallas outscored Portland 84 to 53.
*13 points in the fourth for Dirk? He scored at least that many three times in fourth quarters in the series.
* 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 … until now!
*The Mavs have long focused on building a team that could complete with LA Yet the upcoming series marks the first postseason meeting between the two
clubs since 1988.
RICK'S COMMENTS: Carlisle discusses the "brutally hard series'' ...
MAVSELLANEOUS: In the end, Brandon Roy is not Brandon Roy He scored nine innocuous points and was not at all a Dallas defensive focus … Portland did a nice job running Peja Stojakovic off the arc, so he only scored six. We say Dallas needs to design a few ways to get him free, open looks – and not shots on the run, which is not his forte … Very helpful that while LA rests (having ended New Orleans' bid on Thursday), Dallas does the same A Dallas Game 7 on Saturday played while the Lakers earned four days of rest would not have helped the Mavs' Round 2 chances … Carlisle said the Rose Garden is the loudest building he's ever been in. Who are we to doubt that. Except, boy, we saw a lot of "faithful'' disguises as red seats near the end. Fans in various cities are more alike than most of us want to admit, we think … Yeah, you always want to go to Dirk. But we did like Dallas' recognition on a big basket with 2:13 left, when ‘Trix was matched up inside against Roy and Dallas cleared out for Marion, letting him back down the smaller foe for an eventual bunny that put Dallas up 93-87.
GAME 4? WHAT GAME 4? From Jason Kidd:
"It just shows the maturity of a veteran ballclub, having short-term memory, moving on and getting that win in Game 5, and then coming up here and then winning on the road," Kidd said.
Hard to argue. Wouldn't a less mature team have allowed itself to be haunted by what happened in G4, when they had a lopsided lead and lost it? This team went out in two ensuing games and got two MORE lopsided leads. ... and won
THE FINAL WORDS: Your Dallas Mavericks have upset the analysts and a high number of predictions that had them losing in anywhere from four to seven games. They've cast aside the chains many used to link them to the franchise's past.
They did not wither in the aftermath of a brutal Game 4 loss. Instead, they pulled themselves together and denied the undertow of a building Blazers' momentum. Do Mavs teams of the past get this done?
"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."
This isn't any team from the past. This is the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and a handful of other guys who have no desire to be straddled to a past most of them never endured.
For at least one night, and one series, they reminded us of that.