Online exclusive: Elimination looms for Blazers in Game 6

Things could not have felt much better for the Portland Trail Blazers after the apparent “return” to glory for three-time NBA all-star Brandon Roy.

Things could not have felt much better for the Portland Trail Blazers after the apparent “return” to glory for three-time NBA all-star Brandon Roy. In the two game home stand, Portland showed incredible poise in fighting back from a 23-point deficit late in the third quarter of Game 4 to pull out an 84-82, stunning the Mavs’ and tying the playoff series at 2-2.

Unfortunately for Portland, they were unable to show the same result away from the Rose Garden Monday night, as they lost convincingly to the Mavericks in Dallas 82-93. The Blazers fizzled as the only consistent production came from 35-year-old point guard Andre Miller, who finished with 18 points and seven assists to lead the team. Miller has been a consistent player for Portland but is not the most reliable option for the team in crunch time.

The weaknesses in the Blazers attack came from the team’s lack of size inside. Portland was out-rebounded 20-9 on offense glass, with Dallas center Tyson Chandler out-rebounding the entire Blazers team 13-9. The Trail Blazers finished with 37 total rebounds, compared to the Mavs’ 49, and struggled mightily to get points in the paint throughout.

While there will be a Game 6 in Portland, the Blazers have some things to work on if they plan to have a shot at making it to the second round. Getting production from an inconsistent bench as well as finding a way to get their shooters hot more consistently. Problems arise when those shooters have an off night and from there the Blazers shooting percentage drops dramatically.

Lack of confidence seems to be the major problem the Blazers are dealing with. Most of the offensive attack revolves around good outside shooting from Lamarcus Aldridge, but there is a constant need for another player to step up and provide a second scoring option for the often double-teamed power forward.

In both of Portland’s wins at home we saw incredible numbers from at least one player other than Aldridge, giving him a chance to contribute in other aspects of the game. In Game 3, shooting guard Wesley Matthews was an incredible 4-4 from behind the arc in the first six minutes and gave Portland the spark necessary to attain the 97-92 victory. Matthews had 22 points in the first half, ending his night with 25 points. Aldridge had a solid 20 point performance, with Brandon Roy coming off of the bench and adding 16 points to give the team the much needed win.

Creating a secondary shooting option in the starting five as well as getting moderate production out of the bench has been the only way Portland has survived in the series so far.

Game 4 was won because Brandon Roy stepped up late in the clutch and carried the team on his back while his shooting was hot. The 18-point fourth quarter for Roy was nothing short of incredible, but also was not the type of play that can be expected from any player on a consistent basis, unless of course your name is Dirk Nowitzki and you are playing in Dallas.

Nowitzki has been the Mavs’ closer for years, managing to get to the line more than anyone else in the series. Dirk has attempted a staggering 52 free-throws, converting 45 of those in the first five games. While his ability to get to the line, especially in late game situations is frustrating for the Blazers, they need to be able to respond with double teams on defense and attacking the paint.

Portland has lacked the confidence to take shots in late game situations, with Roy’s heroics being a great example of how effective they can be when willing to attack the basket and take hard fouls.

Portland is now down 2-3 in the best of seven series with Dallas and will have to return from Texas with the passion to take shots and be willing to get points, no matter who is on the floor.

Players will need to find their rhythm early in Game 6, with players like Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum having yet to show their full potential in the playoffs. Lamarcus Aldridge has been a workhorse for Portland in the playoffs and with a cast around him ready to take shots, there is no doubt the Blazers can at least take Game 6 on their home court. Another game changing factor could be the Blazers ability to grab rebounds. In Game 5 there was a glimmer of potential when head coach Nate Mcmillan brought in two centers to create a presence in the paint. Marcus Camby and Chris Johnson contributed to a Portland run and seven-point lead, their largest of the night.

Game 6 is scheduled for this Thursday night and will be the make it or break it test for Portland if they want the season to continue. Passion will need to be the Trail Blazers’ motive to win and try to steal Game 7 in Dallas. Nothing is impossible—something learned from the fourth quarter of Game 4—but finding players willing to step up will be Portland’s greatest roadblock this Thursday. ?