It’s getting kind of late, I’m tired, and quite frankly, I’m over writing about the Mavericks. Because of all those things, I’m going to keep this one kind of short.
Thursday night, as I made my way over to the Rose Garden for what would be the final time of 2010-11, I prepared myself for the likelihood that this may be Portland’s last game of the season. I’ve been a Blazer fan for as long as I can remember, and part of being a Blazer fan is dealing with postseason disappointment. Even those great teams in the 90s, and those teams that were equally great but for different reasons in the early 00s, never hoisted the championship trophy at the end of the season. Loving the Blazers means dealing with a team that gets close, but never gets all the way.
I thought to myself, coming into the area Thursday, that if by some stroke of luck Portland could blow Dallas out in game six, then the pressure to close the series would be real, and Dallas, playing an elimination game on their home court against a team they would have hypothetically been unable to knock out once already, might crack for real under some actual pressure. For awhile, it looked like my best wishes would come true, but sadly it was not to be. I’m sure a lot of Blazer fans are disappointed, and feeling that this season has brought up more questions than it has answered, and that this team is still more than one or two miracle comebacks away from being a legit contender.
All that is true. It might take me a day or two, but eventually I’ll have something to say about the whole season. But right now, the hardest part about watching the Blazers get eliminated in the first round in six games for now the third season in a row, is knowing that this team could have played better. Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez were non-existent for all six games, Brandon Roy brought probably too much emotion for anybody to sanely deal with, Wesley Matthews was inconsistent, Andre Miller wasn’t on the floor at times when he probably should have been, Gerald Wallace failed to show up a few times and then we did show up he had his minutes cut short both times (more on that in a second), and LaMarcus Aldridge just wore himself out having to be the guy on offense and guard the un-guardable guy on defense.
This was a close series; one or two more things break right for the Blazers, and the series really could have gone in their favor. But those one or two things didn’t break, and for every time Portland dropped the ball, or lost focus, or put together a string of fruitless offensive possessions, Dallas was there to capitalize. Most nights the Blazers were able to fight back, and one night that we won’t soon forget they fought back all the way, but playing uphill against a team with the talent and experience of the Mavericks will catch you at some point. It caught Portland on Thursday.
In a lot of ways, Thursday’s game was a microcosm of the whole series. Portland came out with a lot of energy, dealing the first blow. Dallas absorbed this opening salvo, regrouped, and launched a shot of their own. Portland took this shot, stumbled, attempted to regroup and take their next shot, which Dallas was basically able to deflect and overcome. More or less, every game of the series went like this. Big run from one team, big run from the other team, small run from the first team, big run from the second team to finish. In game three it was Portland with the second and final runs to get the win, and in game four Portland’s second run was better than Dallas’s closing run. In game six, Dallas just had too much offense down the stretch, and Portland simply didn’t get the one or two stops they needed. Trading baskets is a good way to stay close, but staying close shouldn’t be the goal when you’re down three buckets with less than five minutes remaining in your season.
We’re going to have some what-ifs, no doubt, and none will be greater than the Gerald Wallace what if. Crash put up some decent numbers through five games, and his drawn charge on Dirk Nowitzki in the midst of The Comeback was as pivotal as any bucket hit by Brandon Roy, but he had yet to break out with a big, take-the-game-over, offensive performance. Thursday was his chance, and he took it. Wallace scored Portland’s first nine point, finishing with 13 points in the quarter and helping the Blazers to an early eight-point lead. But then he was gone.
Sekou Smith covering the series for NBA.com was the first to notice that Crash wasn’t on the Blazer bench in the second quarter, and slowly word reached the media via Twitter that Wallace was in the locker room receiving treatment for a sore back. As this was happening, Portland’s offense was flat-lining, and the Rose Garden crowd was chanting “Ger-ald Wall-ace” not knowing why the Blazers’ most productive player was not on the court. Wallace came back in the second half, but in many ways the damage was already done. Portland trailed by 13 heading into the fourth, and the offensive spark, the hustle, and the urgency were gone. Much like game five, when two early fouls waylaid his quick offensive start, we’ll never know the impact Gerald Wallace would have had if his rhythm hadn’t been abruptly interrupted.
For the second time in as many home games, Portland closed the gap in the night’s final 12 minutes, cutting the Dallas lead to a single point with five and half minutes remaining on the evening. But where Dallas missed a few key shots last Saturday afternoon, they made them Tuesday night. And of course, LaMarcus missed two free throws that would have halved a four-point deficit with two and half to play. All things considered, and despite the efforts of a very loud and fully engaged RG, there would be no comeback redux.
Portland’s locker room was somber to say the least, post game. Many guys weren’t really ready to talk about the season, and more than a little disappointed that it’s actually over. On the other side, there was relief expressed that there will be no seventh game. And more than anything that will be the biggest what if from this series. The Blazers never really got on track. If they had, even as late as in games six and seven, we could all be getting ready to face the Lakers starting next week.
Enjoy your off season.
Just one quick though:
- On behalf of myself and Sean, I want to thank everybody for reading and commenting. I also want to thank everybody who has reached out to me via Twitter. It’s been fun talking Blazers with everybody for these last few months. There will be plenty to talk about going forward, and there were plenty of things to talk about starting way back in October. So thanks again!