Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers: My Top 10 Observer-ations

Game 1   at Dallas       Sat.                    8:30 (ESPN)

Game 2   at Dallas       Tue.                   8:30 (TNT)

Game 3   at Portland   Thurs., April 21   9:30 (TNT)

Game 4   at Portland   Sat., April 23      4:00 (TNT)

Game 5   at Dallas       Mon., April 25    TBD

Game 6   at Portland   Thurs., April 28   TBD

Game 7   at Dallas       Sat., April 30      TBD

10. While you were sleeping, the Mavs came thiiissss close to being the No. 2 seed. But, alas, after coughing up a 20-point, fourth-quarter lead the Lakers survived to beat the Kings in Sacramento in overtime and shove Dallas to the No. 3 seed. Kobe Bryant and his foul mouth made a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime. He misses that shot and the Mavs would have the homecourt advantage in a second-round series with the Lakers. Of course, he doesn't miss that shot. He's Kobe. Sorry, Mavs fans. Beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round will be tough. Beating the Lakers without homecourt advantage will be improbable, if not impossible.

9. As for their best-of-7 series against the Blazers, it's troubling for the Mavs. The season series was 2-2, with each team winning twice on its home court. None of the games were decided by more than eight points, though Portland essentially blew Dallas out April 3 in the Rose Garden. Let's be honest, it's not a great matchup for Dallas.

8. The Mavs have historically struggled with Portland in the playoffs, losing first-round series in 1985 (thanks to big baskets from somebody named Audie Norris) and 1990 (swept out by Clyde Drexler), and almost blowing a 3-0 lead in the first round in 2003 before winning a Game 7 at AAC (behind Dirk Nowitzki's 31 points, 11 rebounds). The Blazers have length in the form of LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum and veteran guard play from Andre Miller and Brandon Roy, whose season appeared in jeopardy after two knee surgeries. Portland is also a different team than Dallas beat twice early in the season, after acquiring the athletic Wallace at the trade deadline.

7. By the way, I hope the Spurs enjoyed resting their stars and giving up a game via a D-League outfit Tuesday night against the Lakers. Karma, bitches. San Antonio, suddenly playing its precious trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli (who left the game with a hyperextended elbow) lost last night to Phoenix and is now the No. 2 overall seed in the playoffs. So if it's Bulls-Spurs in the NBA Finals, Game 1 is at the United Center. Idiots.

6. If I could wish one thing for the Mavs vs. Portland it's that Tyson Chandler stays out of foul trouble. Without him playing a lot of minutes at high intensity, Dallas will lose this series.

5. Went to last night's 32-point blowout of the Hornets at AAC and all was fine and dandy except ... Roddy Beaubois limped off the court favoring his foot. Yes, the same foot he broke last summer. Of course, Roddy hasn't been great this season. Fact is the Mavs are a better team with DeShawn Stevenson starting. Some of the loss of Caron Butler was supposed to be covered up by Roddy. But it ain't happening. If healthy, Beaubois will be only a bit player this post-season.

4. Which Jason Terry will show up? The one who can energize the Mavs with his emotion and sizzling outside shooting? Or the one who lost his emotions -- and track of the score -- several times in the last two weeks? Remember, the biggest reason the Mavs lost to the Spurs in the first round last year was that Terry got badly outplayed by San Antonio's George Hill.

3. Let me say this for the 1,314th time: Dirk is underrated and grossly underappreciated. He's a former MVP and a 10-time All-Star who has led Dallas to 11 consecutive 50-plus-win playoff seasons. And for those of you who say he chokes in the playoffs: There are five players in the history of the NBA who have averaged at least 25 points, 10 rebounds in the post-season. Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Bob Pettit and, yep, Dirk. He also, of course, joins Charles Barkley and Karl Malone among the greatest forwards to never win a championship. At 33, he's been as good as ever this season. But without help, I think yet again it won't be good enough.

2. Key to this series is Portland's length, especially in the form of Seagoville native Aldridge. At 6-foot-11, he possesses the athleticism, size and long arms to defend Nowitzki one-on-one. As we've seen in playoffs past -- and as looks to be the case again this spring -- after Dirk, Dallas has no consistent No. 2 option.

1. The prevailing perspective of the Mavericks is that they are heartless, soft underachievers. They'll -- if only temporarily -- shake that label by eliminating Portland in seven games.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt