Brandon Roy's season had been fraught with uncertainty, first over the stability of his knees, then over his diminished role with the team.
All those doubts melted away on Saturday when he led the Portland Trail Blazers to one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history.
With 39.2 seconds left, Roy made a go-ahead bank shot that gave the Trail Blazers a stunning 84-82 comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks -- and evened their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
Roy finished with 24 points -- 18 in the fourth quarter alone -- as the Blazers erased a 23-point deficit. Portland became the third NBA team in the shot clock era to win a playoff game when trailing by 18 points or more heading into the fourth quarter.
"I've been in some pretty good zones before," the three-time All-Star said. "But nothing like tonight."
After the victory, Roy was swallowed by the embrace of several of his teammates.
"It still just doesn't feel real yet," he said. "It was just an unbelievable game and comeback. With everything I've been through this season, they just all came into that moment there on the court when guys we're grabbing and cheering me on. It was real special."
Trailing 67-44 in the third quarter, the Blazers closed the gap to 77-70 after Roy's step-back jumper.
Jason Terry answered with a 3-pointer but then Roy drove down the lane and finished to narrow it to 80-74 with 2:32 to go. LaMarcus Aldridge added a turnaround jumper.
Roy traded baskets with Shawn Marion before making a 3-pointer and a free throw with 1:06 left to tie it at 82.
After Roy's go-ahead jumper from out front banked in, the Mavericks missed two 3-point tries, the first from Jason Kidd and the second from Terry as time ran out. Roy defended Terry on the final shot.
Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points to lead the Mavericks. Terry finished with 13 off the bench.
Aldridge finished with 18 points for the Blazers, while Gerald Wallace had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"When people ask me what did I do in the fourth quarter, I'll tell them `I stood in the corner and watched The Brandon Roy Show,"' Wallace said.
The series now heads back to Dallas for Game 5 on Monday.
"Did we let up? I think we let up, yeah. There isn't any question," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Blazers started slow, going 0-for-4 from the floor with two turnovers, and finished the first quarter shooting just 25 percent (4-for-16). Dallas capitalized on the pace, taking a 22-13 lead early in the second quarter after Terry's jumper.
Aldridge didn't score for the Blazers until a pair of free throws 7:36 mark of the second quarter.
While successfully defending Aldridge, Portland's top scorer, the Mavericks were spreading their scoring around better than they had in the previous three games, and extended the lead to 33-23 on Tyson Chandler's layup.
Tempers flared with 3:21 left in the first half when Aldridge and Chandler got into a shoving match under the Blazers' basket, resulting in a technical for each.
The scuffle seemed to bring the fans -- and the Blazers themselves -- back into the game, albeit temporarily. Portland closed to 37-35 at the break after Wesley Matthews' layup and a pair for free throws from Aldridge.
Matthews led the Blazers with 25 points in Portland's 97-92 victory in Game 3 on Thursday night, which drew the Blazers within 2-1 into best-of-7 series.
The Mavericks did not go to the free-throw line in the first half, while the Blazers went 12-for-12.
Kidd's high-arcing 3-pointer game the Mavs a 48-37 lead in the third quarter and the Rose Garden crowd fell quiet. It touched off a 16-4 run by the Mavs capped by Peja Stojakovic's 3-pointer to make it 64-41.
The Blazers missed their first 15 shots from the floor in the third.
"You can always, after the fact, talk about what you could have done or should have done," Nowitzki said. "You can go a million ways about it, and afterward you're a lot smarter, but that doesn't help anybody right now. We all have to take it and stay positive."
Roy embarked on his turnaround when he had 16 points in Portland's Game 3 -- after grousing to a reporter in frustration after going scoreless in Game 2. The comments seemed to polarize fans, but Roy said overwhelming encouragement from friends and family -- including a text from Charles Barkley -- led him to the breakthrough.
The three-time All-Star has played off the bench since his surgery in January, and has at times had trouble adjusting to his diminished role.
Carlisle insisted Roy's emergence in the playoffs didn't throw the Mavericks.
"We've been saying all series that we've been game planning for him like he's an All-Star," the coach said. "He's had two of those night now, so we'll continue to do that. He got on a roll in the fourth and made some things happen. I'm going to take the blame for a lot of that. There are different things defensively we could have done."
The Mavs opened the playoffs with an 89-81 victory. Nowitzki had 28 points -- 18 in the fourth quarter alone -- and 10 rebounds. The 7-foot veteran had 33 points in Dallas' 101-89 win in Game 2.
Overall against Dallas, the Blazers have a 48-18 advantage at home in the regular season, and they're 8-1 in playoff games.
Dallas is 2-1 when it opened 2-0 in 15 previous best-of-7 series. The exception was the 2006 NBA Finals when the Miami Heat defeated the Mavericks in six games. The Heat were just the third team to claim a championship after trailing 0-2.
The last time Dallas and Portland met in the playoffs was 2003. The Mavs claimed the first three games before the Blazers won the next three. The Mavericks took the deciding game in Dallas.
Notes: Minnesota forward Kevin Love, who grew up in Lake Oswego, Ore., sat courtside. ... Lots of security was apparent behind the Dallas bench. Maverick owner Mark Cuban, sitting in the seats just behind his players, said he was hit in the face with an unknown object in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Cuban was unhurt. ... The two other biggest fourth-quarter comebacks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, were Boston's rally from a 74-53 deficit at home against New Jersey for a 94-90 victory on May 25, 2002, and Phoenix coming back from trailing 100-82 against the Rockets to win 124-117 on May 11, 1994, in Houston.