- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Even after multiple knee surgeries, Brandon Roy insists that his biggest obstacles these days are mental. Not physical.
Game 2 is his latest chance to prove it after Blazers coach Nate McMillan unexpectedly played Roy for the entire fourth quarter in Game 1 … only for Portland’s former go-to guy to finish with a whopping two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Or is it? It remains to be seen how McMillan doles out crunch-time minutes for the rest of the series, after Roy was admittedly indecisive with his shooting and decision-making in the Mavs’ 89-81 triumph.
“I’m frustrated,” Roy admitted after the loss. “But I’m looking at the playoffs as a new season. Coming back to a team that has an identity now and trying to fit me back into it has been a little difficult. But I’ve got to keep trying to get my confidence back and take my shots when they come.”
McMillan benched center Marcus Camby in that fateful fourth quarter, preferring a smaller lineup that reunited Roy with new Blazers go-to guy LaMarcus Aldridge. But Camby wasn’t the only prominent absentee for the Blazers down the stretch; Roy’s presence on the floor also meant highly rated second-year guard Wes Matthews was also a spectator.
It seems safe to suggest that McMillan preferred Roy because of the damage he did in the teams’ last two regular-season meetings. Roy scored 21 points in 28 minutes in Portland’s home win over the Mavs on March 15 and was at the heart of another home win over Dallas on April 3, when Portland racked up 38 points in the second quarter while running its offense through the three-time former All-Star in the post.
Roy, though, hasn’t scored more than 11 points in any of his 15 games since the 21-point eruption in March and doesn’t dispute suggestions that he’s thinking too much when he has the ball instead of just playing.
The Blazers have nonetheless clung to the hope that Roy – with no back-to-backs in the playoffs – could still be a postseason X-factor.
“Something I’ve got to keep reminding myself is don’t get too down on yourself,” Roy said, insisting that his hesitation stems from the fact that he’s yet to find his niche as a role player as opposed to pain in his battered knees.
“As long as [the issue is] between the ears, I think I’ll be OK.”
And Roy, for the record, thinks that the crunch-time tightness was a team-wide issue in Game 1, not just something that affected his game.
“We almost played like we were the favorite and we had so much to lose instead of going out there and playing a little loose,” Roy said.
The slighted Mavs, of course, would undoubtedly counter by pointing out that the Blazers did start the series as the favorite-elect given how folks have picked sixth-seeded Portland to upset No. 3 Dallas.
P.S. – For more on Roy, you are advised to read this killer column on the matter from the Oregonian’s excellent John Canzano.