Fast Breaks: Blazers vs. Mavericks, Game 4
There was a time when Brandon Roy routinely carried the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter and made opponents understand that no lead was safe. Way back in, oh, last season. But the hobbled 26-year-old, who struggled through the first three quarters against Dallas in Game 4 on Saturday, looked like a spry 25-year-old again while leading the most remarkable comeback story -- for a player and a team -- of the NBA playoffs up to this point as Portland rallied from a 23-point deficit to top the Mavericks, 84-82, and even the series.
• Roy scored 24 points, 18 of which came in the fourth quarter while bringing Portland back from what once seemed an insurmountable 18-point deficit when the final period began. The performance was a throwback to the form that had made him a three-time All-Star. The left-handed layup in the lane that pulled Portland within 80-74 with four minutes remaining? The step-back jumper? Drives into the lane that drew defensive pressure, allowing kickouts to teammates to complete plays? It was classic Roy -- something that double-knee surgery had taken from him this season, when he averaged 12.2 points in a reduced role off the bench.
• Four days after using their former franchise player only eight minutes in a Game 2 loss, the Blazers put the ball back in Roy's hands for the final quarter Saturday and he ignited a remarkable rally. Roy ran the point in the final period and re-energized a Blazers team that was lifeless by the end of the third quarter. His four-point play off a Shawn Marion foul with 1:06 remaining -- which tied the game at 82 -- may be replayed frequently as one of the first round's favorite moments. And his go-ahead nine-footer with 39 seconds remaining will be talked about for days. If the Blazers win this series, that stretch will be looked upon as the matchup's turning point.
• It isn't difficult to spot the change in Dallas' performance that led to its Game 4 collapse. Throughout the third quarter, the Mavericks' defense did an exceptional job of keeping the Blazers out of the paint, forcing the offense to rely on jump shots. Roy helped turn that around with his fourth-quarter renaissance, providing the Blazers with the penetration they previously weren't able to get, which opened up shots for his teammates. The Blazers run most of their offense through pick-and-rolls and depend on those plays to create options. So when Dallas let Roy find his rhythm and develop the confidence he'd been lacking earlier in the series, everything started to fall into place in Portland's offense and Dallas lost the vice grip it so effectively held.
• The fourth-quarter collapse will overshadow what had been a remarkable defensive performance for Dallas through three quarters, which the Blazers won't want to lose sight of as they prepare for Game 5. Dallas effectively shut down Portland's pick-and-rolls, but more importantly kept LaMarcus Aldridge from establishing himself in the paint. The Blazers' offensive leader was just 3-of-12 from the field through three quarters with half of his 12 points coming on free throws. With Tyson Chandler's physical defense keeping Aldridge in check, Portland struggled to find any rhythm, allowing Dallas to move in front 67-49 by the end of the third quarter, when Portland was shooting 29 percent for the game. Dallas would be foolish to retool its game plan to stop Roy -- he hasn't posted three straight double-digit games since early December -- so Saturday's remarkable night is likely more a flash than a sustained burst. Instead, the Mavericks will want to look at how they took Portland out of its game plan in the third quarter, and focus on recreating it.
• One question that might follow Dallas through its Game 5 preparations is the use of Shawn Marion late in the game. Marion was the catalyst in a 27-6 third-quarter run that pushed the Mavericks in front 64-41, when Marion made 4-of-6 shots for eight points. But Peja Stojakovic started the fourth quarter while Marion rested after playing the entire third. He didn't return until 5:21 remained in the game, and by that time Portland had trimmed an 18-point lead to 10. After taking eight shots in the third period and establishing himself as a devastating option on the low blocks, Marion took only one shot in the fourth period -- a nine-footer that provided Dallas' final points of the game.