DALLAS -- Perhaps you thought the Portland Trail Blazers had the Mavericks right where they wanted 'em when Dallas led by a dozen points after 36 minutes Monday night. Particularly after Brandon Roy knocked down an 18-footer on the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
“Oh, no, not again!” a face-painted fan behind press row moaned.
No, not again. Not even close.
The Mavs made sure Portland didn’t repeat its miraculous Game 4 comeback, when Roy scored 21 points while the Blazers rallied from a 23-point deficit in the final 13 minutes and change. The Mavs closed the Game 5 door in convincing fashion, claiming a 3-2 series lead with a 93-82 win.
Roy’s jumper was the Blazers' last bucket until a little more than four minutes remained in the game. By the time the field goal drought of 7:32 ended, there was no doubt about the outcome.
It’s pretty much impossible for the Blazers to erase a 20-point deficit in four minutes, especially on the road. They couldn’t draw inspiration and energy from the deafening roar inside the Rose Garden. The folks in the American Airlines Center were fleeing for the exits in an attempt to avoid traffic in the final few minutes.
Roy fell far short of his 18-point performance from Game 4's fourth quarter. In fact, the Blazers managed to score only 19 points in the last 12 minutes.
“From start to finish tonight, we played aggressive,” said Mavs big man Tyson Chandler, who had a monstrous performance with 14 points and 20 rebounds in addition to anchoring the defense. “We did the same thing in Portland but only for three quarters. Tonight we did it for four quarters and that’s why we got the win.”
Moments after Saturday night’s stunning loss, the Mavs claimed they’d forget about it by the end of their four-hour flight home. They fibbed.
It’s something that stuck in their craw the next 48 hours.
“We had to sit there all day on Easter and think about it while we were egg hunting,” Jason Kidd said.
Game 4’s ghastly finish didn’t add to the Mavs’ emotional baggage, which players, coaches and owner Mark Cuban claim doesn’t exist despite their miserable recent playoff history. It just made the Mavs more determined.
“The only residuals there was a motivating factor,” Jason Terry said. “Hey, we’re not letting that happen again. Keeping that in the back of your mind was good. It was a positive thing. I thought we fed off it. When we got the lead tonight, we closed them out.”
There was a ton of talk about coach Rick Carlisle’s failure to make adjustments during Roy’s ridiculous scoring spree. Carlisle shouldered the blame, and several players pointed his way.
Carlisle responded by mixing in a lot of zone defense, a Mavs staple for much of the season that they hadn’t used this series. As was the case during the Mavs’ previous two wins, Roy was a nonfactor, scoring only five points and none after his shot to open the fourth quarter.
“It looked like you could drive a car through the lane and lay it up [in Game 4],” Terry said. “Tonight, those alleys weren’t there. A few minor adjustments -- not letting Brandon Roy embarrass us like he did in Game 4 was key. Other than that, it was who wants it more.”
Nobody wants to be embarrassed in back-to-back games. They Mavs made sure that didn’t happen, putting themselves one step away from the second round in the process.
Their Easter was ruined. The series was not, although it ought to be over already.