Tag: Wes Mathews

Portland Trail Blazers guard Matthews celebrates three-point shot against Dallas Mavericks in Portland

NBA Playoffs: Portland’s season on line again Saturday

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Portland pretty much knew the game plan they had to pull off from Game 1 — force turnovers, get some transition points, work the offense inside out through LaMarcus Aldridge, knock down jumpers. For the first two games, it was Dallas taking care of the basketball and knocking down jumpers, Plus in crunch time they attacking the lane and had Dirk Nowitzki. Hence the Dallas 2-0 lead.

In Game 3, it all flipped. Wes Mathews came out on fire in the first quarter, Dallas turned the ball over and the Trail Blazers got some easy buckets. Portland was the aggressor, they executed the game plan. Dallas came roaring back behind Jason Terry but Portland held on and made this a 2-1 series.

Game 4 is just like Game 3 for Portland — lose and it will be a matter of time. These are two evenly matched teams, winning three straight is a long shot. At best.

Dallas fans have reason to feel good — they could easily have won Game 3, a game where Portland played much closer to their game plan. With just a couple tweaks, Dallas has to feel it can take control of this series.

When Dallas needs a win, you get more Dirk. He will get fed early and often in Game 4 and Portland’s ability to not let him get going with efficient jumpers from his favorite spots on the floor will be key. Portland will counter will go with a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge and hope he can stay out of foul trouble at home.

Portland also has to do a better job defending the arc — Dallas has shot better than 40 percent from three in all three games. Usually because somebody was red hot (Terry was 5-of-7 from deep in Game 3), but they have to lower that percentage.

Maybe the biggest key for Portland is the turnovers — they need to create them and get out and get buckets before Dallas can get set. Portland needs the easy buckets to have a real chance. Portland also needs another good night from the bench — Brandon Roy, we’re looking at you. One 16-point game is not enough. You know Dallas will get production from its bench, Portland must match it.

Portland played much better with the emotion of the home crowd at the Rose Garden. This is a team fully capable of having a flat performance, but another one of those Saturday and this is over. Dallas can be a little more cool and efficient and still win.

A Portland win will not necessarily mean a series win. But a Portland loss and Mark Cuban will not have to return to Portland and have things thrown at him any more.

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

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three
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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.

Winderman: The mid-level exception battleground — do you want two Jason Kaponos?

Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout
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How generous of the players’ union, offering to include not one but two mid-level exceptions in their latest collective-bargaining proposal.

Chuckle first, then recognize you can never have too many Jason Kaponos.

Of all the dollars and nonsense to come out of the back and forth between the league and the union as the current CBA draws to a June 30 close, this latest twist is one that makes you scratch your head.

Yes, there still is a place for the proper mid-level contract. Just ask the Lakers and Ron Artest or the Trail Blazers and Wesley Matthews.

Such revelations, though, are the exception. The mid-level, especially at its five-year maximum, is considered among league executives to be the worst of any contract.

The owners are never going for this one. The union has to know as much.

But, for a moment, consider the possibilities, consider the Heat being able to land both a center and a point guard next summer. It is a prospect for the rest of the league as frightening as the full, five-year, $35 million mid-level package the Bucks gave Drew Gooden this past summer.

A $5.8 million contract is a dangerous thing in the NBA, even though it is calculated as the average salary.

As Bill Veeck once put it, “It isn’t really the stars that are expensive. It’s the high cost of mediocrity.”

A history lesson of the mid-level delivers stark evidence, with the Mid-Level Hall of Fame including the likes of Jerome James, Nazr Mohammed, Jared Jeffries and Michael Olowokandi.

Even those with curb appeal tended to get the deal after they had been kicked to the curb by others, such as Anthony Mason, James Posey, Brian Cardinal and Joe Smith (twice).

This is not a league about average, it is a league about highly paid stars and willing, lowly paid supporting players.

Of course, the union also has expressed a willingness to eliminate the bi-annual exception, one that currently starts at $2 million and actually has a place in the league’s personnel economy.

As for the union willing to lower the maximum term of the mid-level from five seasons to four, don’t think the Bucks will take much solace out of that even in year four of Gooden’s current deal.

The age limit might be abolished.

A hard cap may be on the way.

A lockout is a distinct possibility.

But dual mid-level exceptions? About as good a chance of happening as the Kings and Nets meeting in the NBA Finals.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.