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NBA Playoffs: Portland’s season on line again Saturday

Apr 23, 2011, 3:47 PM EDT

Portland Trail Blazers guard Matthews celebrates three-point shot against Dallas Mavericks in Portland Reuters

Portland pretty much knew the game plan they had to pull off from Game 1 — force turnovers, get some transition points, work the offense inside out through LaMarcus Aldridge, knock down jumpers. For the first two games, it was Dallas taking care of the basketball and knocking down jumpers, Plus in crunch time they attacking the lane and had Dirk Nowitzki. Hence the Dallas 2-0 lead.

In Game 3, it all flipped. Wes Mathews came out on fire in the first quarter, Dallas turned the ball over and the Trail Blazers got some easy buckets. Portland was the aggressor, they executed the game plan. Dallas came roaring back behind Jason Terry but Portland held on and made this a 2-1 series.

Game 4 is just like Game 3 for Portland — lose and it will be a matter of time. These are two evenly matched teams, winning three straight is a long shot. At best.

Dallas fans have reason to feel good — they could easily have won Game 3, a game where Portland played much closer to their game plan. With just a couple tweaks, Dallas has to feel it can take control of this series.

When Dallas needs a win, you get more Dirk. He will get fed early and often in Game 4 and Portland’s ability to not let him get going with efficient jumpers from his favorite spots on the floor will be key. Portland will counter will go with a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge and hope he can stay out of foul trouble at home.

Portland also has to do a better job defending the arc — Dallas has shot better than 40 percent from three in all three games. Usually because somebody was red hot (Terry was 5-of-7 from deep in Game 3), but they have to lower that percentage.

Maybe the biggest key for Portland is the turnovers — they need to create them and get out and get buckets before Dallas can get set. Portland needs the easy buckets to have a real chance. Portland also needs another good night from the bench — Brandon Roy, we’re looking at you. One 16-point game is not enough. You know Dallas will get production from its bench, Portland must match it.

Portland played much better with the emotion of the home crowd at the Rose Garden. This is a team fully capable of having a flat performance, but another one of those Saturday and this is over. Dallas can be a little more cool and efficient and still win.

A Portland win will not necessarily mean a series win. But a Portland loss and Mark Cuban will not have to return to Portland and have things thrown at him any more.

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