Amid other exciting announcements by the NBA today–the Hornets are staying in New Orleans, the Maloofs remembered they don’t like Sacramento–it was decided that going forward, during the month of April, the Blazers and Mavericks will play 12 minute games, with the Mavericks leading by 20 at tip off.
League officials pointed to the past three seasons, where during ten April meetings (the most against any Portland opponent), the average margin of victory between the teams is just 5.3 points. Over the past three contests, Dallas has outscored Portland by just four points total. Strongly influenced by Brandon Roy’s heroic game on April 24 of last year, the double-overtime victory last week in Dallas, and tonight’s down-to-the-wire thriller, everyone agreed this 12-minute-game would be the “most fun option for all involved parties.” With the teams splitting the past 10 games, no objections were made on their behalves.
In the interest of this new system, we’ll pick up coverage of tonight’s game with the Blazers down 61-81 entering the final period.
With about fifteen percent of the Rose Garden leaving shortly after the start of the fourth quarter, Blazers down by 20, Portland began chipping away at what had been a comfortable Dallas lead for the night. Though both teams were shorthanded (Portland without LaMarcus Aldridge and Dallas without Jason Kidd), the ending felt like an inevitable Dallas win against a floundering Portland team.
Only eight-seconds into the final period, Wesley Matthews scored two of his seven points in the quarter, off of a quick pass from Jamal Crawford in the lane. A minute later he assisted on a Luke Babbitt three-pointer to cut the lead down to 15 with 10:30 to go. Matthews would add two more crucial assists plus two steals in the period. JJ Hickson sparked a 7-0 run for Portland to bring Portland within nine points with over six minutes to play. Add in eight Dallas turnovers, and the final 12 minutes of play had just about everything you could want in a 12-minute basketball game: fast breaks, steals, scrappiness, defensive stops, and a couple of alley-oops for good measure.
Coach Canales focused on the last twelve minutes of play in his post-game conference: “there was no quit in us.” He continued: “I thought we came out during the first six minutes of the [fourth] quarter and responded even though [Dallas] had won the third quarter. To hold the defending champs to a 16-point fourth quarter shows a lot about us responding, and a lot about us giving a game-winning effort.”
The enthusiasm over the “game-winning effort” in the loss was mixed.
JJ Hickson (who finished with 13 points and 10 boards) appreciated Coach focusing on the positives.
Scoring a team-high 20 points, Nicolas Batum added after the game: “We came up short, but we didn’t give up and that’s something to take from this game.” He and Matthews went on to discuss the play where Batum inexplicably passed the ball out of bounds. More on that in the video below.
Matthews was clearly agitated that the effort didn’t translate to a win. The locker room didn’t feel filled with payers crushed that their playoff hopes were on life support. It certainly didn’t feel like the sting burned deeper that the loss came against the team who knocked them out of the playoffs entirely last year. Matthew’s sobering take on the events stood out. He has struggled this season to find his rhythm and the comfort he enjoyed on the court last year. His remarks tonight weren’t those of someone itching for the whole thing to just be over already, but someone who welcomes the agony if it comes with success.
For Wes, 12 minutes against the Mavs just wasn’t enough.
- Your obligatory Raymond Felton note is that his five turnovers included two crucial ones during the fourth quarter, with the game on the line. His offensive game (you could read that either way, really) was not terrible, but not his best this month.
- Hasheem Thabeet played eight minutes and scored four points, adding a block to his stat line. I tweeted this, but whenever Thabeet does anything on the court the audio drop is We got the Beat.
- Jamal Crawford’s much-needed offense came through with Portland missing LaMarcus Aldridge. His six-for-six made free throws bumped him up to 93.6% on the season, good for best in the league.
- Five Blazers ended the night in double figures. All who logged minutes scored, except Nolan Smith.
- Dallas finished with seven blocked shots, including three from Brandan Wright, whose has a 7’ 3.75” wingspan. Is that all?
- After scoring 17 in the first half, Portland kept Dirk Nowitzki to just seven points in the third and fourth quarters.