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Do or Die Time

Portland squares off with Dallas tonight in a potentially series-deciding game six.  Fortunately, the Blazers play in the raucous Rose Garden where they took games three and four from the Mavericks.  And although the Blazers are one of the best home teams in the league, feeding off the energy of the crowd, after watching this series, a home game does not inspire much confidence in the black and red.

Portland should not have won game four.  Sure, the final score indicates they did, but it required a miracle performance from Brandon Roy, who returned to this universe with his five point performance on Monday.  He also posted a +/- of -18 in only twenty-six minutes total which is significantly more indicative of his abilities than the fourth quarter explosion needed to win game four.  The Blazers squeaked out two wins in Portland and have been manhandled in two out of three games in Dallas.  What do the Blazers HAVE to do in order to win game six then?

1. Rebound the basketball.  The Blazers cannot afford to give up 20 offensive rebounds to the Mavericks again.  I do not care if a player catches fire like Roy did, the Blazers will lose if this happens again.  Portland looked weak in every aspect on Monday, but their effort on the glass was putrid at best.  When you start Camby, Aldridge and Wallace against Chandler, Dirk and Marion, you should not be outrebounded by 12.

2. Stop settling for jump shots.  The Blazers are not a horrendous shooting team inside the three point line (that is another story), but a healthy balance between jump shots and attacking the basket keeps the Dallas defense honest.  Aldridge must establish himself early in this game in order to create open looks on the outside for the guards.  If the Blazers offense turns into a game of one-on-one's again, expect a repeat performance of game five.

3. Lead going into the 4th quarter.  The Blazers must make their lives a little easier for once and not be forced to mount a comeback in front of their home crowd.  If the Blazers actually lead at the start of the fourth, they won't have to exert quite as much energy trying to bite at Dallas' heels, conserving energy for a possible game seven.  Plus, I am not sure just how much fourth quarter magic the Blazers have left in their tank anyway.

4. Push the ball up the court.  Portland has seen flashes of brilliance this series when running the ball.  With Miller at the head, Batum and Wallce flanking, and Aldridge trailing, the Blazers can be a dangerous team on the break.  I know that it is not in Coach Nate's style to run the ball, preferring to slow it down and look for a quality shot, but now might be the time to take a chance on this.  The Blazers must prevent Dallas from becoming too comfortable on the defensive end.

I cannot say I am thrilled with the Blazers' chances tonight.  Dallas has performed better than most anticipated and Portland looks worse.  But the Blazers can no longer rely on the "playoff inexperience" card.  It is time for them to demonstrate their true character.  Win this game and the series is right where it started.  Lose game six on your home floor, though, and the Blazers will be forced to examine what their character really is.


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