Cold Spell Late Dooms Blazers
These are the kinds of games the Trail Blazers have been winning, and these are the kinds of games the Mavericks have been losing. At least on this night, things turned around for both teams. Dallas hit the big shots late, Portland came up empty on a couple of huge possessions, and the Mavericks picked up the 105-99 win.
Coaches and players constantly say you can't get too high after a win, and can't get too down after a loss, but this one stings for Portland simply because of what a victory would have meant. As we said before the trip started, the most important games on this six-game trip are the first three because they come against Western Conference opponents.
This was not only the opportunity to start the trip 2-0, but would have guaranteed at least a split in the season series with Dallas, and given what else happened on Wednesday night in the NBA, would have moved the Trail Blazers back into the top 8 in the west.
Given that Portland had lost 21 of it's previous 26 games in Dallas, you can't say a win was expected, but the fact that they were in a position to grab a game, in that building, makes it a missed opportunity and that hurts.
In some games you see a pretty consistent-style battle, with strategy staying basically the same. This game was truly a tail of two halves. Guards did the scoring in the first half, and front-court players carried the load in the second half.
The Trail Blazers were scorching hot from deep in the first half, hitting 9 of their first 16 three pointers and that helped them build a 12-point lead. Wesley Matthews, like he did Monday, started the game very aggressive and was certainly in an early zone. But, he ended up being the only Blazer to hit a three in the second half, and that one was a desperation heave when the game had pretty much been decided. He'll also be thinking about the three that he missed in the final minute that would have tied the game at 97. It was right on line, but rimmed off. After that, the Mavericks all but put the game away.
Damian Lillard, who usually waits until the second half to take over offensively, did his damage early in this game, scoring 15 points, and hitting 3 of his 4 three pointers in the first half. It was amazing to see him actually not record a field goal in the second half. I haven't gone back and checked all the box scores yet, but I don't remember a game this season when he was held without a field goal in a second half.
LaMarcus Aldridge though, who scored just 9 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in the first half, was the go-to guy in the last two quarters. Aldridge got himself into a zone, and ended the game with 27 points and 10 rebounds. JJ Hickson recorded his 27th double-double of the season, ending with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
We've spent a lot of time talking about Nic Batum's sore wrist, and clearly it's still a major issue for him. He's simply not even looking to shoot right now. He still needs to be on the floor, and does enough other things to be a factor, but hopefully this thing clears up soon. Despite his inability to be a huge factor in the offense, he still ended with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Mavericks were led by O.J. Mayo, who had 20 points at halftime, but had just 8 in the second half. Vince Carter turned out to be the crunch-time star for Dallas, and ended with 17 off the bench. He missed Monday's game with the flu, and seemed to have plenty of energy in this one.
It was yet another game involving the Blazers that was decided by six points or fewer- their 24th, and 18th in their last 21. But, this time, they simply weren't able to close the deal in a game they felt like was there for the taking.
This trip doesn't get any easier now, as we move on to Houston to take on the Rockets. After scoring 140 on Golden State on Monday, they fell in Miami (no shame in that) on Wednesday night, 114-108.
Talk to you on Friday.