Friday, April 22, 2011
Pair of emotional sixth men break out
By Jeff Caplan ESPNDallas.com
PORTLAND, Ore. -- For the first time this series, the Portland Trail Blazers' bigger guards had their way with the smaller Dallas Mavericks backcourt.
"They kicked our butt," Jason Terry said. "They kicked our butt on both ends of the floor."
Terry did his damage, too, coming off the bench barely three minutes into the game to rescue an already tenuous situation. The runner-up in the Sixth Man of the Year voting had a hand in 29 of the Mavs' 52 halftime points (17 points and five assists) to keep them close. He started the second half and became the first Mavs player in the series to top 40 minutes.
Jason Terry came off the bench to score 29 points for the Mavs, who came up short in Game 3.
He finished with a game-high 29 points -- his high since Game 5 of the 2006 Finals -- but received little help outside of Dirk Nowitzki's 25 points. The Blazers rode 57 points from guards Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller and Brandon Roy.
Roy had 16 points and four assists and accounted for 26 of 56 points while on the floor in the Blazers' 97-92 victory that put them back in the series, down 2-1, with Game 4 coming up quickly Saturday afternoon back at the raucous Rose Garden.
Game 3 came down to a show of high emotion and breakout performances for Seattle natives Roy and Terry that might be relegated to one game or could have a profound effect as the series moves forward.
Terry came to Portland with a heart still heavy after the passing of an aunt last month who helped raise him.
After the funeral in late March, a series of negative events on the court plagued Terry down the stretch. And with pressure to score in this series, he entered Game 3 with a combined 20 points to his name. Terry had about 25 family members in attendance Thursday. He said his aunt never missed a game here in which he played, especially after the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City.
"Jet was huge in that first half and he was huge all game," said Jason Kidd, who had a terrible shooting night after his fast start with eight points and five assists, not to mention five of the Mavs' 16 turnovers. "He kept us in the game in that first half, and the big thing was with that performance, we wasted one. He gave us everything tonight."
On the home side was Roy, the three-time All-Star who is struggling mightily to find his place as a sixth man because his damaged knees have robbed him of his explosiveness. He admitted after the Game 2 loss in which he had a single point that his hard-luck plight nearly brought him to tears as coach Nate McMillan kept him tethered to the bench for all but eight minutes on the heels of an abysmal Game 1.
How would the Rose Garden crowd react to Roy's personal outpouring just as the team's season was teetering? He entered with 2:17 to go in the first quarter to a standing ovation. Roy took his first shot and missed with 25.9 seconds left and then buried a step-back jumper with 1.9 to go to give Portland a 28-23 lead after one.
It was the start of six consecutive buckets, including a confidence-building 3-pointer for a 44-43 lead. He wouldn't miss again until the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Roy -- who often matched up against the 6-2 Terry, his close friend -- finished with 16 points and four assists, compiling his best game since he burned the Mavs for 21 points here March 15.
"He hit a couple of tough shots on me and then I think he hit a 3," Terry said. "That 3 really got him juiced up."
Roy's big game came at the perfect time for a team that has dealt with so many injury woes and was staring at a 3-0 hole.
"It's been emotional for everybody," said Matthews, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 of his 25 points in the opening six minutes to push Portland to a quick 16-7 lead while fueling the crowd. "You look at Brandon Roy and the first thing you think about is All-Star. He's had to sacrifice more than anybody and he's a true professional about it, and for him to have the game that he did at this moment was huge for us. We all fed off of it, and everybody had a big night tonight."
That's the term -- "All-Star" -- the Mavs kept using to describe Roy. His seven-point run in the final 2:04 helped Portland seize control. He slipped by Terry for an uncontested layup to get Portland within one, 69-68. He rose up for an elbow jumper and got the and-1 on a foul by Brendan Haywood for a three-point play and a 71-69 lead.
Moments later he made a spectacular move, dished to Gerald Wallace under the basket, but Wallace couldn't finish. Terry then banged home his fourth of five 3-pointers to put the Mavs back in front 72-71.
Then it was Roy's turn again, drawing a foul on Terry. He made both free throws and Portland led again. Then Nicolas Batum added two free throws for a 75-72 lead at the end of three that the Blazers would not relinquish.
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Terry refused to say that off-court emotion spilled into this one on both sides, but considering the immediate strutting and flexing by Terry and the standing ovation Roy received upon entering the game, and then again when he sat down with 1:31 to go before halftime with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, it's hard to fathom that emotions weren't in overdrive.
Said Blazers coach Nate McMillan: "I said this to you guys the other day, and I'll repeat it: There's nobody in the state -- as I told Brandon -- not even Brandon Roy wants to see him out on the floor as much as I do. He's a guy we're bringing along this second half of the season and into the playoffs, trying to create this role. It's worked at times, and tonight was one of those examples where we can get matchups with Brandon and he can still produce."
The question now is whether Terry can continue to score and get help from others. And can Roy repeat this type of performance on short rest? His track record in the regular season suggests it is unlikely.
But if the answer to the latter is yes, it could mean big trouble for the Mavs.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.