Friday, April 29, 2011
Mavericks eliminate Blazers in Six games!
The Dallas Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki who scored 33 points were too much for the Portland Trail Blazers ending their season in the first round for the third consecutive year 103-96. The Blazers for the third straight year lose in the first round in six games and for the second straight season are eliminated at home despite the series at one point being 2-2. The Blazers in the playoffs have been beat up the last three years which is odd considering the last two years the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have the "soft" label. Now the Blazers season is over the offseason begins and they are no longer that team on the rise. It appears that window has slammed shut and they must find a new way to be a title contender which will be tough. For the Mavericks they got the first round monkey off their back by rallying to win the last two games after the epic collapse in game four. The Mavericks who had at one point a 15 point lead let it get down to one point but unlike game four the Mavericks held on due to Nowitzki scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks also overcame a hot start by the Blazers to clinch the series on the road.
In the first quarter the Blazers came out on fire playing like a team who wanted to keep their season alive. The Blazers sprinted out to a 27-19 lead in the first quarter behind Gerald Wallace who scored 13 points on five for seven shooting while grabbing six rebounds. The Blazers also got six points from Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldrdige who had a poor game five. The Mavericks had six points from Nowitzki and Shawn Marion as well. The Blazers shot well making 11-20(55.0%) from the field and two of five from three point range. While the Mavericks shot poorly making just 8-23(34.8%) from the field and just one of four from three point range. The Blazers were hitting their shots and the Mavericks weren't. It had appeared that the Mavericks were mailing this game in and going back to Dallas for a game seven. Then something stranged happened as a seldom used player on the Blazers made a foul on the best player for the Mavericks which woke up Nowitzki.
The Blazers had extended their lead to 31-19 on the Mavericks. Then shortly later Chris Johnson committed a flagerent foul on Nowitzki. After leading 31-19 the Mavericks outscored the Blazers 33-12. The Mavericks for the quarter had outscored the Blazers 33-16 in second quarter as Nowitzki scored 13 points to give him a game high 19 points at halftime. The Mavericks who once trailed by 12 points took a 52-43 lead going into halftime. The Mavericks had shot much better that quarter making 11-22(50.0%) of their shots, made three three's while making all eight free throw attempts. The Blazers shot horrible making 8-22(36.4%) from the field while missing all five three point attempts. The Blazers let the Mavericks take over momentum as their season was down to just one half.
For the Mavericks they were led by Dirk Nowitzki who scored 19 points on 8-11 shooting including making all three free throws. Shawn Marion scored eight points on 3-10 shooting with five rebounds. Jason Terry added 10 points off the bench making three of eight shots including two three pointers. While Peja Stojakovic scored six points wihle making a three pointer to give the Mavericks the much needed bench scoring. Nowitzki was too much for the Blazers after that flagerent foul. For the Blazers they were led by Wallace scoring 13 points on five for seven shooting with six rebounds. Aldridge had 12 points on 6-13 shooting with five rebounds but had zero free throw attempts. Matthews had scored eight points on three for seven shooting including making a three pointer. Brandon Roy had also scored six points on three for five shooting. The Mavericks in the third quarter for the third straight game would go into the fourth quarter with a double digit lead on the Blazers.
In the third quarter the Mavericks did their best to end the Blazers hopes right there. The Mavericks had outscored the Blazers 23-19 to take a commanding 75-62 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Mavericks had a 75-60 lead but Wallace was fouled at the buzzer and sank both free throws. The quarter saw once again the Mavericks shooting well while the Blazers still not shooting well at all. The Mavericks made 11-19(57.9%)from the field and overall were shooting 30-64(46.9%) from the field. While the Blazers had made just 6-16(37.5%) from the field and overall were shooting 25-59(42.3%) from the field and just 3-13(23.1%) from three point range. To that point the Mavericks were led by Nowitzki who had 19 points and nine rebounds. Marion had 14 points and six rebounds wihle Terry added 18 points on 7-14 shooting and five assists. The Blazers were led by Wallace who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Aldridge had 16 points on 8-19 shooting with seven rebounds with Roy scoring nine points on four for six shooting. The Blazers would have one last final push in them.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers made a huge rally led by Wallace scoring 12 and Aldridge scoring eight points. The Blazers had cut a 75-60 deficit down to one point as they trailed 86-85 with under five minutes to go. That is when veteran Jason Kidd hit a huge three pointer and the Mavericks never looked back. In the fourth the Blazers outscored the Mavericks 34-28 but fell short 103-96. Nowitzki was huge in the fourth quarter like he was in games one and two scoring 14 points on three for four shooting but made all eight free throw attempts. Nowitzki had closed the Blazers out in the fourth quarter. The win for the Mavericks snapped an eight game road losing streak in the playoffs. The Mavericks will move on to face the L.A. Lakers while the Blazers once again will be heading home.
For the Mavericks they were led by Nowitzki scoring 33 points on 11-17 shooting and made all 11 free throw attempts. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out four assists. The Mavericks bench came up big again outscoring the Blazers bench 35-14 led by Terry who scored 22 points on 9-16 shooting with eight assists. Stojakovic added six points off the bench and J.J. Barea scored seven points with four assists on three for five shooting. Marion scored 16 points on 7-15 shooting with six rebounds and Tyson Chandler scored nine points with seven rebounds. Kidd who had a big series scored seven points with six assists. Now for the first time in Nowitzki's career he'll face off with Kobe Bryant in a playoff series which is crazy since both have been all-stars for a decade on good teams.
For the Blazers it's back to the drawing board this offseason. The team has changed quite a bit from the team who lost to the Houston Rockets two years ago. The Blazers got rid of Joel Pryzbilla, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster. The Blazers have brought in Marcus Camby, Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace yet still first round exits. With all these changes the results have actually been worse far as wins go and the playoffs has been the same with another first round exit in six games. The Blazers were led today by Wallace who scored a playoff career high 32 points on 10-17 shooting and was 11-12 from the free throw line. Wallace also grabbed 12 rebounds as he finally had a breakthrough game for the Blazers. Aldridge broke out of his mini slump by scoring 24 points but shot just 11-25 from the field and attempted just four free throws. Matthews scored 19 points on 5-14 shooting and Roy scored nine of the teams 14 bench points. The Blazers will now have to make some tough decisions in the offseason.
Overall, the Blazers season ends in disappointment. This was supposed to be the year the Blazers finally break through. The Oklahoma City Zombies and Chicago Bulls have broken through while the Memphis Grizzlies are on the verge as well. The Blazers the last two years probably got the matchup they wanted the most and couldn't capitalize on it. For the Mavericks they move on to play the Lakers in what should be a fantastic series. Two superstars who have never played each other in the playoffs in Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant should be fun. The Blazers can only wonder what it would feel like to be in the second round something this franchise hasn't done since 2000. The Blazers once again will be talking about next year instead of the season at hand. The Mavericks are moving on this year while the Blazers can only sit and wonder what if for the third straight season.
- Want to win a playoff series? I suggest getting a superstar because they win in the playoffs. Nowitzki was a superstar this playoff series for the Mavericks. For the series Nowitzki averaged 27.3 PPG on 52-115(45.2%) shooting from the field while making 56-63(88.9%) from the foul line. Nowitzki also averaged 7.8 rebounds a game. Nowitzki averaged 10.5 free throw attempts a game while making 9.3 a game. Nowitzki was agressive and was rewarded with trips to the foul line.
Speaking of which in the Mavericks four wins Nowitzki shot 52 free throws(13 per game) while in the two losses he only shot 11(5.5 per game) which is a huge difference. Nowitzki in the fourth quarter was dominant in three of the games he scored in double figures carrying the Mavericks. Nowitzki was a matchup nightmare for the Blazers just like Amare Stoudamire was last year and Yao Ming was the year before. Start to notice a theme? The Blazers are soft in the middle and need another big.
- Remember when Dennis Green went off how the Bears are who we thought they were? Well LaMarcus Aldridge is who I've said he is for years. Blazers fans refuse to listen to me but I've said he is a great jump shooting big man who is soft. This series hasn't changed my opinion one bit. Aldridge put up solid numbers averaging 20.8 points per game while shooting 53-115(46.1%) from the field. He averaged 7.5 rebounds a game which is pretty bad for a power forward. The stat that jumps out to me is that he attempted 115 field goals and just 24 free throws(4.0 attempts a game). That tells me Aldridge is just camping outside jacking up jumper after jumper. Nowitzki shot 39 more free throws than Aldridge in just six games and that wasn't because the refs were "screwing" him either.
It could be Aldridge got frustrated by the physical style of play of Chandler and Brenden Haywood as his production went down as the series wore on. Aldridge in games one through three averaged 23.7 points per game on 30-59(50.8%) from the field while grabbing just 6.7 rebounds a game. In games four through six he averaged only 18.0 points per game while shooting 23-56(41.1%) from the field which is horrible for a power forward. He did average 8.3 rebounds a game though. If the Blazers ever wish to win a playoff series with this group Aldridge has to get tougher or the Blazers need to acquire another guy to help make up for Aldridge being soft.
- Gerald Wallace had a huge game today scoring 32 points while grabbing 12 rebounds but for the most part he had a bad series. Before today Wallace was averaging just 11.8 points per game on 20-50(40.0%) shooting but did grab 8.6 rebounds a game. So his series stats are going to be a bit inflated due to this one huge game.
Wallace was supposed to bring a much needed toughness to this team. For the most part Wallace was the Blazers top rebounder but scoring other than game six he didn't do enough. He was supposed to be the missing piece to finally get this team over the hump and win a playoff series. Now the Blazers will search for that next piece. I do think Wallace is a good fit for the Blazers as they need his toughness at the small forward position. Due to Wallace being on the team that makes another Blazer pretty expendable.
- I think if the Blazers were to ever win a playoff series with this group the time is to trade Nicolas Batum. I know Batum will only be 23 this December but he has the most value to other teams. He is also proven now in three playoff series with the club that he pulls a Cliff Robinson like disappearing act. This year Batum averaged just eight points per game on 19-46(41.3%) shooting from the field and even worst 7-26(26.9%) from three point range. Batum scored 24 in the first two games and then just scored six points per game including today where he scored zero points. In the last four games Batum shot 9-25(36.0%) from the field and just 4-14(28.6%) from three pointers.
Last year Batum in the playoffs averaged just 8.2 points per game but again like this year scored 30 points first two games. The final four games of the series Batum averaged just 4.8 points per game including three points in the final game of the series. Batum in that four game stretch shot just 5-16(31.2%) from the field during that stretch. Then his rookie year he averaged just 2.0 points per game and was so unproductive he played a combined seven minutes after starting the bulk of the season. When are Blazer fans going to realize he is more likely to be the next Travis Outlaw than the next All-Star? Now is the time to deal Batum for a big while he still has that "Potential" word. Batum still has value to another team. Trade him now for a big time point guard or another big.
- Nate McMillan now falls to 6-12 in the playoffs as Blazers head coach and overall is 14-20 in his career in the playoffs. He has never had great teams but he has also been a coach in this league for 11 seasons now and has only advanced past the first round one time. At what point does McMillan be held accountable? Losing in the first round three years in a row wouldn't have been acceptable back in 2009 so why should it be now?
The Blazers have changed their roster from the team who lost two years ago. Only Roy, Aldridge and Batum are the only main players who are left from that team. I think the Blazers need to move on from Roy and Greg Oden. Treat both players as bonus players at this point and find suitable replacements so you aren't left scrambling when they do get hurt during the season. If the Blazers don't advance past the first round next season I think McMillan will be fired and there will be a major shakeup. This will be the final season that guys are allowed to keep their jobs after losing in the first round.
In conclusion, the team who once had the brightest future in the NBA back in 2008 appears headed for mediocrity. The NBA is all about getting that franchise top five player. You get those players in the NBA draft lottery well the Blazers like they did in the 1980's passed on that player(Kevin Durant) and will now make the playoffs every year meaning they won't get that chance for another 20 years. That is the problem for teams like Portland you have to hit a home run on your few chances in the draft lottery or you won't win a title. Makes me appreciate the San Antonio Spurs run more when I think about it. Unlike Miami, L.A., and New York free agents aren't taking their talents to Portland. Portland just like Seattle in other sports either drafts stars or trades for them. Stop and think about the last time Portland or a Seattle team signed a "mega" free agent? Okay now that you realized they aren't any you've realized just how hard it is. For the Blazers the team whose future was so bright just three years ago is facing the sad truth of the NBA world. They had their chance and they blew it by passing on Durant. Now the Blazers just like the 1980's will have to live with that mistake forever. At this point the Blazers will just settle for a playoff series victory which for the third year in a row will have to wait until "next year".