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NBA Playoffs 2011: Dallas Mavericks at Best, Worst vs. Portland Trail Blazers

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Dallas Mavericks at Best, Worst vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It's been quite a rollercoaster so far.

With the Dallas Mavericks looking completely in control of their first round series against Portland over games one and two, their grip on the series slipped in game three. Game four? Well, that's when their hands were chopped off and thrown into a wood chipper. 

But due to today's medical wonders, the Mavericks have a new set of hands and are 48 minutes of good basketball away from a second round berth. 

It hasn't always been easy to watch. The Mavs gave up huge runs in games two, four and five, but they rebounded in two of those.

Why?

It's simple: Dirk has finally had some help.

In game one it was Jason Kidd turning into Chris Paul briefly. In game two we saw Peja Stojakavic turn back the clock eight years. Then Jason Terry woke up and has become the cold-blooded shooter he was from November to late March. 

The Mavericks have overcome significant mismatch issues so far in this series. The backcourt of Jason Kidd, JJ Barea and Jason Terry is too small to hang with the likes of Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews. Shawn Marion, the team's best perimeter defender, is often stuck on Gerald Wallace, since Dirk can't guard him. 

What has been the biggest surprise for the Mavs this series?

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DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer would be options at the two-spot, but Rick Carlisle seems intent on going for offense with Terry and Barea. 

To Terry's credit, what he lacks in size he has made up for with smart defensive plays. He's anticipating passes well, and playing JJ Barea-style defense in pestering Roy and Matthews just enough to (most of the time) prevent them from getting into a rhythm.

Dirk has been his usual fantastic playoff self, with a new twist. His aggressiveness in not settling for jumpers is something we haven't seen from him in a few seasons, and it's paying off. Nate McMillan can whine all he wants about unfair treatment, but Dirk is driving hard to the hoop and taking his punishment for it. 

But while Dirk, Terry and Kidd are basically known quantities for the Mavs, Tyson Chandler has been the X Factor this series. When he's been in foul trouble, the Blazers have taken control of games down low, and when he's in, he's sucking up rebounds and giving LaMarcus Aldridge all he can handle on the defensive end. 

Brendan Haywood has played well off the bench, but his solid and steady play can't match the energy Tyson brings to both sides of the ball. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the Mavs might have a shot of getting a W in the Rose Garden. 

But we've also seen glimpses of the same old Mavs. The Mavs that seems to play hard, then get a little too relaxed and have trouble turning the switch back on. Dirk and Terry are the only Mavs left who have felt the sting of the Mavs' playoff woes the last few years, but they all got a sample after game four. 

Who wins the first round series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers?

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But the difference with these Mavs seems to again be Tyson Chandler. He gets them fired up. His play speaks for itself, and his tough defense and strong finishes at the rim are the kinds of things that gets both the crowd and the team fired up. 

While many picked Portland to outmatch the Mavericks this series, the Mavs have been getting timely contributions from their supporting cast, and when you look at it, have played superb basketball for all but one quarter. 

That being said, the Rose Garden will be a tough place to win, but if the Mavs have dreams of winning it all this year, a win in game six will be the easiest of their challenges. 

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