Playing on the road is difficult, even coming off such an incredible comeback win. There’s the crowd noise, the pumped-up opponent, and of course, the home calls.
Good teams like the Portland Trail Blazers should be able to work their way around possible bias. There undoubtedly was some, but they didn’t, and the Dallas Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead.
The Blazers were hit, thrown to the floor and pushed in the back repeatedly. The refs took no notice. The Mavericks took 35 free throws to the Blazers 19. Seven of the Blazers free throws came over the final seven minutes, with a loss already in the cards, so the discrepancy was far more than the box score would show. This is all true, but the foul shooting doesn’t entirely explain the defeat Portland suffered.
I’m not confident they could have prevailed even if it was called evenly. Offensively, they were flat throughout, unable to put together one successful quarter. They couldn’t make a shot, particularly in the fourth, as Brandon Roy didn’t have another magical comeback in him.
aMarcus Aldridge wasn’t much of a factor, nor was Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews or Gerald Wallace. Andre Miller was the lone bright spot. The team shot 43 percent and assisted on only 13 of their 32 field goals.
Complementing their ineffective offense, the Blazers struggled on the glass. Dallas center Tyson Chandler haunted their big men by grabbing 20 rebounds, 13 on the offensive end. Some were corralled by pushing many Blazers in the back, but even still, there wasn’t much aggressiveness on Portland’s part. Good calls or bad calls by the refs, Portland didn’t deserve to win.
Particularly in the game-changing third quarter, this rebounding advantage helped fuel a Mavericks offense surrounding Dirk Nowitzki and an abundance of free throws. Dallas took 15 free throws in that quarter, compared to Portland’s six, allowing them to turn a one-point halftime lead into a 13-point one entering the fourth.
The Mavericks were routinely being aggressive, and they were rewarded. This is how it goes in the NBA. The more energetic team gets the benefit of the doubt. Yet, the lack of consistency in calls had a suspicious feel to it. That said, Portland didn’t hustle and couldn’t hit an outside shot. The loss is on them. Now, Game 5 must be put in the rear-view mirror. It doesn’t help to complain about the officials.
All they should be focused on is Game 6, which has win-or-stay-home ramifications. The Rose Garden will be as crazy as it was in Games 3 and 4—both victories. The refs may have called Game 5 unfairly, but the Blazers have the chance to learn from a disappointing offensive and defensive display and force a do-or-die Game 7. That would be in Dallas. When they play that game, hopefully, they will let the players completely decide the outcome and hold back on the calls.
Let the cards fall where they may.