Mavs All-Access: 'Guess What?' In Portland
We should have known something was aloof when Chris Kaman dunked a basketball in an NBA game or when Rachel Nichols showed up in Mariah Carey’s jacket from the “Always Be My Baby” video (it’s the one with the tire swing don’t act like you don’t know). The very existence of Meyers Leonard might have thrown the universe off its axis, who’s to say?
After yet another third-quarter bloodletting the Dallas Mavericks ran into an animal new to this environment, the Portland Trailblazers defense. I used to not fear the Blazers as a real threat to the Mavericks and it came down to my theory from last season that the Mavericks could handle any jump shooting team (Spurs don’t count their ball movement is from the future and they can always get a quick six points out of Duncan on the block when they’re in a pickle) but if their below-average defense jumps into the elite range then you have my attention.
Terry Stotts is the man to thank for that as he’s getting basically the same collection of players to play at a suffocating level of defensive intensity (5th in defensive PER). You get noticed with nice offensive numbers but you win consistently with defense and rebounding (imagine if they would have gotten Roy Hibbert in restricted free agency!). Portland did both. They were +19 on the boards and held the Mavericks to a 37-point second half (their lowest scoring half of the season) on their way to 108-87 rout on national television that will surely leave the talking heads saying “See, I told you about these Mavericks” when the truth is any road game against the top 10 in the West has no guarantees.
Let’s not ignore the elephant anymore: third quarters and particularly third-quarter defense is going to cost this team games. When they can’t get stops and they’re forced to take the ball out of the hoop the offense isn’t nearly the juggernaut we’re accustomed to. Looking at the key stretch that turned this game, a 16-4 run in the third quarter by the Blazers, it’s pretty clear that perimeter defense and settling for for bad shots is what’s causing these third quarter sinkholes. I don’t know if it’s as simple as my theory of subtracting Jameer Nelson or if it requires more maneuvering like playing zone and crashing the defensive glass rather than leaking out but I have confidence that Rick will figure it out.
The tough thing is ... when? Game tonight at Utah. Travel home. Game again. I don’t think this team will have a true practice day until Monday and it’s hard to simulate a third-quarter scenario on a practice court anyway.
How do you lose a game when…
You’re a +10 in turnovers
You score 18 points in the paint in the first quarter
You shoot 100% from the free-throw line
You hold LaMarcus Aldridge to six second-half points
Let me tell you. You shoot 1-of-14 from three in the second half, you get out-rebounded by 17 in the second half, your bench gets outscored by 17 and your point guards shoot a combined 7-of-24 on the night. Still can’t believe that Portland plays Steve Blake and Chris Kaman at the same time. It’s too much. It looks like a casting call for extras to play Wildlings in Game Of Thrones.
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