Mavericks-Trail Blazers Preview

While the energy in the first-round playoff series against

Dallas looks to have tilted Portland’s way, the Trail Blazers still

need to address some issues if they hope to even the series.

The Blazers need to improve aspects of their defense, despite

the 97-92 victory in Game 3. And they’re still lacking production

from the bench, even though Brandon Roy’s 16 points were somewhat a

breakthrough.

”We can be better,” coach Nate McMillan said Friday. ”And

we’re going to need to be better.”

Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 25 points in Portland’s

victory Thursday night, which drew the Blazers within 2-1 into

best-of-7 series.

The result was true to the regular-season series, when each team

won twice on their home court. The Blazers will host the Mavericks

in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.

Besides Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points in the

victory. Dependable veteran guard Andre Miller had 16 – as did Roy,

who had scored just one field goal in the previous two playoff

games.

Roy had groused in frustration after going scoreless in Game 2.

His comments touched off controversy in Portland, where fans seemed

divided in their support.

The three-time All-Star had arthroscopic surgery on both his

knees in January and has struggled with his role off the bench.

But spurred by the presence of his family, and supportive text

messages – even one from Charles Barkley – Roy played with abandon

in Game 3.

Now the trick for him is to do it again.

”Last night I went out there and just played and had fun,” Roy

said. ”And that’s what I’m going to have to do on Saturday.”

Overall, the Mavericks’ bench outscored the Blazer’s bench by

109-56 through the first three games.

The Blazers had trouble stopping Jason Terry, who came off the

bench and had 29 points and seven assists. The game before that it

was Peja Stojakovic who gave the Blazers fits, and the game before

that, there was Jason Kidd. Those three have had the bulk of

scoring to complement Dirk Nowitzki.

”We’d like to get a few more guys involved and able to score a

few more points. But if you’re not going to have a balanced game,

you need to have a couple of guys who go for big numbers,”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ”There’s no set formula for

us. We don’t say Dirk’s gotta be the first guy and Jet (Terry) is

going to be the second and (Shawn) Marion’s the third work that way

for us.”

The Mavericks opened this year’s playoffs with an 89-81 victory.

Kidd had 24 points, including a playoff career-best six 3-pointers.

Nowitzki had 28 points – 18 in the fourth quarter alone – and 10

rebounds.

In a 101-89 Game 2 victory, Stojakovic tied his career playoff

best with five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points, while Kidd

pitched in 18. Nowitzki, showing more resolve than in the opener,

finished with 33.

”It usually comes down to X-factors and who makes shots,” said

Nowitzki, who had 25 points and nine rebounds in Game 3. ”In the

playoffs you have to attack from everywhere, and you have to make

shots and make enough plays from all over the place. Whoever is in

has to be in that attack mode to really help the team win.”

Nowtizki said the Mavericks also need to correct minor things

that stood out in Game 3 – Dallas had 13 turnovers and made just 13

of 23 free-throw attempts. But he liked how his team was able to

hang with the Blazers in front of the their hometown crowd.

”We feel like we took their best blow and we’re still right

there,” he said. ”We have another opportunity on Saturday, and

obviously we don’t want to go home with a tied series.”

Portland has won 11 of its last 10 at the Rose Garden. Overall

against Dallas, the Blazers have a 47-18 advantage at home in the

regular season, and they’re 7-1 in playoff games.

Dallas is 2-1 when it opened 2-0 in 15 previous best-of-7

series. The exception was the 2006 NBA Finals when the Miami Heat

defeated the Mavericks in six games. The Heat were just the third

team to claim a championship after trailing 0-2.

The last time Dallas and Portland met in the playoffs was 2003.

The Mavs claimed the first three games before the Blazers won the

next three. The Mavericks took the deciding game in Dallas.