Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

NBA Playoffs: Aggressive Trail Blazers make a series out of it

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Portland just came out aggressive. Finally.

Sometimes it’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about energy and execution. Portland had that in the Rose Garden. Credit the home crowd (always one of the best in the league). Credit desperation. Credit Everclear. (The band, not the drink.)

Whatever it was Portland came out far more intense and aggressive — we saw it defensively on the pick-and-roll (hedging out rather than laying back). We saw it when Portland came out trying to run. We saw it in just a seemingly more confident shooting stroke from three for their shooters. All that together meant Portland came away with a 97-92 win that makes the series 2-1 — a series that is still completely up in the air.

Nobody symbolized the new, more aggressive Blazers better than Wes Mathews, who came out of the locker room gunning and had 16 first quarter points including hitting 4-of-5 three pointers. He fed off the crowd.

The other big key for Portland was the return of Brandon Roy — he still comes off the bench, but he was a role player with some moves who could score tonight. (We’ll ignore that late fourth quarter rushed three against the clock and pretend it didn’t happen.) Roy had 16 off the bench — the Blazers bench had been a sore point all series, but tonight there was some production.

Not as much as Dallas got, with 29 from not quite Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry. Terry was the most aggressive player in the game — he gets to the line because of how he attacks the rim.

There will be no easy games for anyone in this series and so it was that Dallas was back in this by the end of the first quarter and led for much of the third. But that was until Roy had seven points late in the third that sparked an 11-4 run and put Portland back on top. Gerald Wallace had seven in the fourth and Portland made plays down the stretch.

That included a jumper from LaMarcus Aldridge, who had a good game and 20 points. He wasn’t hitting like he is capable of, but respect for what he does opened things up for Mathews early. When Aldridge faced some foul trouble, the former D-League Defensive Player of the Year Chris Johnson stepped in and played fantastically.

Portland got a real, balanced team effort. They got a win. They made it a series.

But if they want to make it a series they can win then Game 4 is also a must.

John Wall drops J.R. Smith with crossover, makes layup (VIDEO)

John Wall
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John Wall is one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. J.R. Smith found that out the hard way on Tuesday night when Wall sent him flying with a behind-the-back dribble before making an easy layup.

The Wizards beat the Cavs, who are now 13-5 on the season.

Sixers to retire Moses Malone’s number next season

Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone

Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.

There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?

LeBron James with two-handed halfcourt bounce pass for assist (VIDEO)

LeBron James
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Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:

Kobe gets great introduction, loud ovation in Philadelphia

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Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game —  but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.

In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.

Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.

That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.