Trail Blazers vs Mavericks Thursday, 04/28/11 AT 07:30PM

Road Warriors Deliver Final Blow To Trail Blazers

  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 4.0

    Not once in all nine matchups between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks - including the postseason - has the visiting club come out victorious. In Game 6 of the NBA Playoff series, the pattern seemed to continue.

    The Trail Blazers (2-4) came out possessed, shooting 55 percent in the first quarter and at one point claiming a 12-point lead thanks, in part, to Gerald Wallace, who tallied 13 points and six rebounds in the opening frame.

    Late in the period, however, Wallace said he felt a tightness in his back, as if it "locked." Portland would be without Wallace for the second quarter, during which the Mavericks (4-2) outscored the opposition 33-16, carrying a nine-point advantage into halftime.

    Dallas continued to pile it on in the third, extending its lead to 17 points late in the period when Jason Terry sank a pull-up jumper to cap a 16-6 spurt. Portland refused to be discounted.

    "After that game [Game 4] where we were down [23] and we came back, we always felt like if we just put a run together with defensive stops and went down and played good offensively, that we could get back in the game," LaMarcus Aldridge said. "We actually did that and got it to two or three, but then [the Mavericks] made plays."

    Behind Wallace and Aldridge, the Trail Blazers began the closing quarter with a 23-11 surge, narrowing the 13-point gap to just one midway through the period. On the ensuing Dallas possession, Jason Kidd stepped up to the three-point line and sank what Nowitzki called an "unbelievable three." Kidd buried the three-ball, giving the Mavericks a four-point lead, one that would not be relinquished.

    With less than a minute remaining, the Trail Blazers had an opportunity to cut into the six-point hole they found themselves in, but Wallace's three-pointer wound up long and was batted out of bounds by Portland. Nowitzki went on to make eight free throws, holding off any Trail Blazer run and sealing the series win.

    "It's tough," Aldridge said. "We had a good year, looking at all the things we overcame - a lot of injuries, losing our main guy, having (Marcus) Camby in and out, and doing the trade with Gerald. I think with all that adversity we faced, it was a good year. But for us personally, this wasn't all that we wanted. We wanted to advance and we wanted to go to the second round."

    Despite missing the entire second quarter, Wallace finished with a postseason career-high 32 points to go along with a game-high 12 boards. Aldridge added 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Wesley Matthews finished with 19 points.

    For the Mavericks, Nowitzki led the way with a game-high 33 points as well as 11 rebounds. Shawn Marion notched 16 points and six boards and Terry paced all reserves with 22 points and eight assists. Dallas' bench held the upper hand in this contest, outscoring the Trail Blazers' second unit 35-14.

    "I just felt like this whole series, any time we made a mistake, they made us pay," Portland Head Coach Nate McMillan said. "They made big shot after shot throughout this series... Anytime we made a mistake, they made us pay. Tonight, I thought our guys competed. We got off to a good start. We lost Gerald for that first half and lost a little momentum in that second quarter and it took us a while to get going again. But I just really appreciate, respect the effort our guys gave tonight."

    According to Aldridge, Wallace played a pivotal role in keeping the Trail Blazers afloat in this game, as teammates fed off Wallace's energy and production - Wallace's goal heading into Game 6.

    "Basically, yeah, my main thing was I didn't want to go home," he said. "So I tried to come out and get myself going early, try to get some energy going through the teammates and try to let them feed off me. I think I did a good job of that successfully in the first quarter."

    McMillan said that he thought Wallace simply made up his mind to be the aggressor, to get out in transition and crash the boards.

    "We talked about someone needing to show that we weren't going to lose this game, as opposed to that we were going to try and win and he was trying to make plays to give this team a lift right from the start," McMillan said. "He got off to an excellent start, getting some easy buckets in transition as well as I think two tips in that first quarter. So just much more aggressive looking to attack the glass."

    Tightness in Wallace's back, however, kept Portland's spark out of the lineup in the second quarter. During that time, Dallas outscored its host 33-16 and took a nine-point lead into the half.

    After returning to the game, Wallace said he wanted to do everything in his power to get his team back into the game. The Trail Blazers did, reaching to within a single point after Wallace intercepted a Nowizki pass and took it coast-to-coast for a one-handed dunk, but the Maverick veterans proved to be too much.

    "We talked about it before, we talked about it during the game... how we just had to keep fighting," Nowitzki said. "It wasn't pretty there again. They made a great run, kept making shots, kept making plays and kept plugging into the lead. They really cut the lead to one, and we just refused to lose... We didn't want to give in to their run and we refused to lose, and that's what this game came down to."

    The Trail Blazers gave up nine fastbreak points in the second quarter, but responded with 10 unanswered transition points in the second half. During that time, however, the Mavericks shot 60.6 percent, with Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry accounting for 33 of Dallas' 51 points.

    McMillan said he respected his team's play in the Trail Blazers' final contest of the season and that they put themselves in a position to "do something special this year." Now, after ending this season similar to the previous two, Portland has an opportunity to improve the team and prepare for next year.

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