Opportunities evade Shawn Marion

PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the last month and change of the regular season, Shawn Marion reminded Dirk Nowitzki of the guy who was so hard to guard back when "The Matrix" was a four-time All-Star for the Phoenix Suns.

Marion emerged as an efficient offensive force in that stretch, which started soon after he was plugged into the Mavericks' starting lineup. Marion averaged 15.9 points on .547 shooting in his final 17 games of the regular season, scoring 20-plus points five times.

So Marion's stat line so far in the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers is pretty surprising: 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting. That's for all three games, not just one night.

How has Marion gone from in a groove to missing in action for the Mavs' offense? He offers a simple explanation.

"The only way you can score is to get attempts," Marion said.

Marion isn't moping or complaining. He's just being matter of fact about the situation. He has become an offensive afterthought in this series, and it's not because the Blazers have made defending him a priority. He just isn't getting many touches, which tends to happen when the Mavs have trouble getting in transition and playing out of their flow offense.

"I'm trying to be aggressive," Marion said. "That's all I can do. I can't control anything else. I'm getting some good looks, the few I got. I've just got to take what's given and, when I get the opportunity, make sure I make the best of it."

The Mavs have never run many plays for Marion. He'll get the occasional post-up, but the Dallas half-court offense runs through Nowitzki and Jason Terry. That isn't going to change.

But there's no reason Marion shouldn't score at least in double figures when he's playing close to 30 minutes per game. He's too talented to be a nonfactor on one end of the floor, allowing Portland's Gerald Wallace to basically play free safety on some possessions, roaming into passing lanes without worrying about Marion making him pay for cheating.

"We've got to get him going some," said Nowitzki, the only Maverick to score more than 10 points in each game this series. "We need him to stay aggressive, stay engaged on both ends of the floor. I felt like he did a good job on Wallace overall this series, and we're going to need him to continue to do that. Maybe we'll get him more involved on the offensive end. I think that's something the coaches will have to look at it, because it's going to be tough to win if we have two guys in double figures."

The Mavs' basketball brain trust vowed to spend a considerable chunk of the day and a half between games at the Rose Garden figuring out ways to get Marion involved in the offense again.

"We've got to get him more in transition, get him touching the ball more going to the basket," point guard Jason Kidd said. "We've got to look at that and look at the film and see what we can do."

Added coach Rick Carlisle: "I think there are ways to get him more involved, and we'll look to do that."

That might mean more touches for Marion on the block, but that's not how he'll get the bulk of his buckets. He's at his best as a cutter and slasher, getting runners, layups and dunks often as a secondary option when defenses react to Nowitzki or Terry.

It was Marion's effectiveness on those types of plays that led Nowitzki to say his teammate had "turned back the clock" to his All-Star days with the Suns. The Mavs' chances to make a playoff run would be much better if Marion could turn back the clock again, if only a couple of weeks.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.