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.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.