Mavs Survive Blazer Comeback
As we said a week ago, when a game between Portland and Dallas was coming down to the wire in Dallas, these two teams always put on a good show. The last seven regular-season games between the Blazers and Mavericks have been decided by an average of 3.8 points, and nearly all have been decided in the final couple of possessions of the ballgame.
This one looked like the exception to that rule through much of the night, as Dallas, desperately needing this game, built a 24-point lead over the Blazers. They came out sharp, focused, and wanting to put the Blazers down and keep them down. Their start certainly put the Blazers down, but you knew a comeback was brewing- it always is when these two teams do battle.
Earlier in the season the Trail Blazers had a habit of starting slowly in games, digging themselves a deep hole, and then having to use a ton of energy to get back into things. We haven't seen much of that lately, but certainly saw that tonight. Dallas was moving with a determined pace on offense, was hitting shots, and playing suffocating defense in the opening quarter. Combine their 57 percent shooting with Portland's 25 percent shooting and it actually surprising that the damage wasn't worse than 14 points after one.
Dallas took a 15 point lead to the locker room at halftime, and wanted to come out with the same passion in the third quarter. They did. The lead grew as high as 24 in that third quarter, but you got the sense that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasn't ever comfortable, and was fearing a Portland run. It would come, but not until the fourth quarter.
Even through Carlisle's conservative time outs, in an attempt to steady the ship, the Blazers suddenly were rolling and got themselves back in the game. But, as has been the case on so many nights this season, it turned out to be too little too late. When you're crawling back into a game from that far behind, everything has to go perfectly. For Portland, it nearly did.
The Blazers put together a 34-14 run, including 12 straight points late in the fourth quarter to get to within four, at 93-89 with still 1:18 left. But, with the ball, and with several attempts to make it a one-point game, the Blazers suffered two costly turnovers and were able to put the game away 97-94.
In their three meetings this season, the final scores were 97-94 in two overtimes, 99-97 in one overtime, and 97-94 in this one. That would seem to indicate that these are two pretty evenly-matched teams. Other than they way they've performed in close games this year, they are.
Dallas, with this win, is now 10-11 in games decided by five points or fewer. The Trail Blazers, are now 5-14 in games decided by five or fewer. The Mavs are 34-26, while the Blazers are 28-32. Do the math, and it's clear what separates these teams. That's nothing new, and we've been talking about it all season- the Blazers just haven't come up with the razor-sharp execution it takes in the closing moments of games.
Individually, the Trail Blazers were led by Nicolas Batum's 20 points and 8 rebounds. But, he was the only Blazer who shot better than 50 percent (among the players who took more than two shots). Wesley Matthews had 15, but was just 6 for 16, and Jamal Crawford had 18, but was just 6 for 17.
It was the third-straight double-double for J.J. Hickson, who was the focal point of Dallas' defense coming into this game. A week ago, the Blazers beat the Mavericks thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge. Now, with no L.A., it's been up to Hickson to carry the load. To his credit, he still came up with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Now, there are only six games left, with five of those coming on the road. Four of those five are against teams over .500 who are battling for playoff position.
We'll head for Sacramento on Saturday, and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. take on the Kings. Then, it's on to Phoenix for a Monday night game. After that, it's Utah at home, followed by a brutal three-game road trip to wrap things up, at Memphis, at San Antonio, and at Utah.