Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks - Game One

NBA Playoffs: Mavericks and Blazers wrestle for control

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Throw out the term “pivotal” in this series. Get the phrase “must-win” out of your head. They have no place here. The Mavericks can take the game Tuesday and Game 3 and nothing will be assured. There’s too much volatility in this series. The Mavericks have perimeter acuity. The Blazers have much stronger post play. The Mavericks have the best player in the series. The Blazers have a swarm of wings. The Mavericks run the break exceptionally well. The Blazers defend like madness. We saw all that in Game 1, some arguable officiating, and a whole fury of runs.

So as Game 2 strikes up in Dallas, the question becomes which side will tip.  In Game 1, the Mavericks’ got a super shooting performance from Jason Kidd to tip the scales in Dallas’ favor. But the Blazers made long runs with the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, who the Mavericks can’t defend. The Blazers held leads in the first and fourth quarter. But Dirk Nowitzki matched Aldridge, dropping 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Blazers defended him tough on a lot of the shots. But that’s what Dirk Nowitzki does.

Jose Juan Barea played 19.2 minutes and was -9. And his heavy rotation at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter was only one part of the bizarre rotation decisions from coach Rick Carlisle in Game 1. Carlisle played a long stretch with a lineup with Barea, Terry, Peja Stojakovic and Shawn Marion. It resulted in a long, successful run from the Blazers. It also gave Dallas’ starters a long rest they used to bury the Blazers over the final six minutes.

Gerald Wallace was limited in Game 1. Eight points on 13 shots, five rebounds, one assist. That’s not a very Crash-like performance. The Blazers need Wallace in particular because of the Mavericks’ weakness at wing. Shawn Marion outplayed Wallace in the “versatile forward that jumps a lot” department. That’s up there with Jason Kidd outplaying Andre Miller in the “old man that makes you wonder just how he’s still managing to be effective in any reasonable capacity” department for things the Blazers can’t survive in Game 2.

Game 1 was a slow, methodical affair between two veteran playoff teams. Expect more of that until one team gets four wins. And until one team does that, you need to consider this the first-round series most in flux.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect. Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates:

Splash Brothers showtime: Klay Thompson beats Stephen Curry to win Three-Point Contest

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TORONTO — It came down to the Splash Brothers. Because of course it did. Just like last season.

In the final round of the NBA All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout, defending champ Stephen Curry hit his first eight shots and set the bar high with 23 points — the best score of the night.

His backcourt teammate Klay Thompson responded by draining his last seven shots, which included the entire money rack, and put up 27 points — tying the event record.

That gave Thompson the upset win and the Three-Point Contest title.

Although, is it an upset if the second best shooter in the game beats the best?

“It was like déjà vu last year,” Thompson said. “Not gonna lie, I got nervous when he hit his first eight, and I didn’t think he was going to miss. But it was exciting, just coming back to Oakland [with the title], you know. Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool.”

So does Thompson have bragging rights?

“(For) about 364 days, and then — but that’s a daily thing we do,” Thompson said. “We love to shoot against each other. You know, I’ve never been on a team with someone who shoots it better than me, so it’s a privilege to work with him every day. He makes me that much better.”

The Final round was two you expected — the Splash Brothers — plus one few did, Suns rookie Devin Booker.

Getting there was not simple. In the first round, Thompson set a high bar going first and putting up 22. Curry got hot in the middle, then hit the last two money balls to reach 21. James Harden and J.J. Redick ( who stayed behind the line this year) scored very solid 20s. Later 19-year-old rookie Booker put up a 20 to tie those two veterans. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton (13 points) Portland’s C.J. McCollum (14) and home-town crowd favorite Raptor Kyle Lowry (15) got bounced. .

That left Harden, Redick, and McCollum in a tiebreaker, and the rookie calmly put up a 12 in 30 seconds to advance.

Booker took a step back in the final round with a 16.

Not that it mattered with the Splash Brothers in the building.