Blazers upset by hard screen
And it's not Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. Forget about Brandon Roy vs. the entire Mavericks team. The unpleasantries happened between Brian Cardinal vs. Patty Mills -- two players who've played less than seven minutes combined in this heated first-round series.
Mills and his Blazers teammates took exception to a hard screen that the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Cardinal set at midcourt with about 12 seconds left in Dallas' 93-82 Game 5 victory Monday night. The pick sent the 6-foot, 170-pound Mills careening to the sideline.
With both clubs having emptied the benches, Dallas inbounded under its own basket looking to run out the final 18.1 seconds. The Blazers employed full-court pressure. As J.J. Barea raced upcourt, Cardinal blindsided the seldom-used Mills with a hard, legal screen -- and Mills crashed to the floor.
When time expired some Blazers players were barking, but Cardinal said Tuesday he doesn't understand why.
"They were mad," Cardinal said. "I don't know if they were yelling at me or yelling at their own teammates for not calling out the screen."
Had the Blazers not pressured full court as though the game hung in the balance, Cardinal, who has played 1:53 in the series, said he would have had no reason to set the strong pick.
"No, I'm going to be standing on the court waiting for the clock to run out and the buzzer to sound," Cardinal said. "If they would have stolen the ball from [Barea], they would have ran down and scored a layup. They're playing the game of basketball just like I am. If Patty or if they're mad, they should be mad at Earl [Barron] or Nicolas [Batum] or whoever else was in the game. They should have called out that screen."
Still, Mills, who checked in for the first time in the game with 53.4 seconds to play, took exception. Mills alleged that Barea and Cardinal plotted the pick.
"I didn't see it," Mills told The Oregonian. "I didn't know anyone was there, but I was wondering why Barea was pushing the ball hard up the court. But I found out why. He set it up [with Cardinal]. He set it up.
"At that point in the game, I don't know ... I don't know if you do that when you are up that much."
Barea rushed upcourt because of the Blazers' full-court defense, which included Mills, Armon Johnson and Batum tightly contesting Barea's inbounds pass. Barea got the ball to Corey Brewer, who quickly flipped it back to Barea when Mills picked him up.
Barea got to midcourt, where Cardinal stopped Mills cold with about two seconds to spare before an eight-second backcourt violation.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him, just playing hard, smart basketball. That's what they were doing," Cardinal said. "I'm just kind of surprised that they're so mad about it. They picked up J.J. full-court and they're going to double team him and they're playing hard, they're playing aggressive, you know, just like I am. They say there was no time on the clock or the game's over, but yet they're going to play hard, full court and press?"
Blazers guard Wesley Matthews said he won't forget it.
"I know it's the playoffs and everything, but come on," Matthews told The Oregonian. "With four seconds left in the game? But that's cool. I'm not going to forget it, that's for sure."
Cardinal was asked if he thought the crowd at the Rose Garden for Game 6 might not forget it either.
"Oh, no. Shoot, no," Cardinal said. "You know, it doesn't matter to me. I've played a total of what two minutes this series? If they're worried about me and my screens ..."
Cardinal didn't finish the sentence, unlike his game-ending screen.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.