The Dallas Mavericks lead the Portland Trail Blazers, 3-2, in their first-round NBA playoff series and can eliminate the Blazers with a Thursday night victory in Portland. Dallas took command of the series Tuesday thanks to, as SB Nation colleague Maurice London indicated in his Mavs/Blazers Game 5 observations, improved rebounding. The Mavericks won the battle of the boards, 49-37, and limited Blazers center LaMarcus Aldridge to 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
Of concern for Dallas, as I tried to lay out Wednesday, is its struggles to find offense away from home; in its losses this series, both in Portland, only Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry scored consistently, with Shawn Marion doing some clean-up work. The Mavs need at least one of their outside shooters, such as Peja Stojakovic or Jason Kidd, to serve as a reiable third option from the perimeter so Nowitzki and Terry don’t get overworked.
Dallas clearly has the talent and wherewithal to close out Portland as soon as Thursday, and perhaps it learned a valuable lesson in its Game 4 defeat, in which it squandered a 23-point, third-quarter lead due to its inability to either contain Brandon Roy or to get easy baskets at the rim area in the fourth quarter. Mindful of those mistakes, the Mavericks ought to be able to win tonight, earning several days of rest before taking on the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers/New Orleans Hornets series in the next round.