the Portland Trail Blazers They won their second consecutive match Dallas Mavericks At Moda Center Sunday evening 140-123. Dallas superstar Luke Doncic sat out the second night of the back-to-back game. But Damian Lillard played, scoring 40 points with six assists in 37 minutes. Blazers forward Nasir Little returned to action after a lengthy injury layoff, scoring 10 3-5 three-point goals. Jusuf Nurkic helped Lillard take control of the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 20 points. Anfernie Simmons and Jeremy Grant each scored 20 points. Mavericks point guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored 28 in Doncic’s absence, but it wasn’t close enough to get his team a win. In fact, that was barely enough to qualify him as Portland’s junior intermediate for tonight.
Teams totaled 75 free throw attempts in the game.
The win brings Portland’s record to 21-22, keeping them in the midst of the Western Conference playoff race despite their recent five-game losing streak.
The Mavericks missed Luka Doncic in their early sets, but they didn’t have to work so hard to read the Blazers using the same tactic that worked well last night: quick selection and rolls to pinch the dribbler. Dallas took extra time setting up plays in those situations; It hasn’t been so smooth without their star. With a bit of time, however, they found open shots from the fairway. Three-point attempts were plentiful, though they missed more than their share.
No matter what the Mavs did on offense, they weren’t going to stop Damian Lillard on the other end. Dame drove the track like he owned it, smashing the Dallas defense into baby food slurry. If Lillard himself didn’t score, forwards Jerami Grant, Josh Hart, and Anfernie Simmons made the cut against a hard-hitting defense from Dame Bowls.
The only development that spoiled the Blazers’ opening six minutes was Jusuf Nurkic who picked up two fouls in less than four minutes. This kept the catch attack at bay, forcing them to rely a little more on bald penetration or deep dribble shots. But whenever they were satisfied with the iso shots, Lillard took the pass and landed again. Then their attempts came freely.
Portland took a 21-15 lead at the sixth hour, capitalizing on Lillard’s greatness and Grant’s scoring momentum.
Even with the edge, Blazers still show cracks. They had trouble dealing with a hack from Spencer Dinwiddie. Reggie Bullock won’t miss open three-pointers. These two had 13 points in the first seven minutes of the game. Hart got his second foul in the same stint, joining Nurkic as an early nominee for Starter in Perpetual Foul Trouble. When Christian Wood started hitting a home run, the Blazers cracked up a bit. Dallas was leading to 3 with 4:00 remaining.
With Lillard holding back a bit, Grant and Simmons attempted to score the Blazers during the late minutes of the half. They were modestly successful. The Mavericks continued to miss wide open threes that helped the cause greatly, as did Dinwiddie who got a second personal foul of his own on an intense whistle-stop.
Coach Chauncey Billups has kept Dame through first-ball balance, playing alongside Shedon Sharp, Jabari Walker, and the reserves as they check-in. The success rate without the key players was lower than when Lillard had multiple options, but served. Gary Payton II was energetic and restless. Drew Eubanks did the usual defense job. Portland finished the period up 33-31, a late scoring sluggish turn that turned a great quarter into a good one.
Lillard attempted to sack the quarter in the first 90 seconds of the second, hitting a step back three times and fouling another. He had the shot button on the turbo, waiting for no players to score attempts. Both teams favored all three, with Gary Payton II, Dallas guard McKinley Wright IV, and (again) lone Damian Lillard sinking them in quick succession.
The scoring dried up and the game slowed dramatically as the quarter reached its midpoint. Missed shots and whistles that stunted momentum marked the action. The Blazers’ most exciting developments were Nurkic’s indoor ball play against diminutive defenders and the long-awaited return of Nassir Little.
Dallas’s recording speed rose after the sixth mark. The Mavs ran the ball, fouled a third against Nurkic, and thrived with Wood taking advantage of his own length advantage after Nork sat out. Lillard continued to score — and occasionally assist — but everything out of his hands dried up with Portland.
But the lady was enough. As Dallas continued to scramble and run, he kept his cool, hitting every available target from his frequent (and unstoppable) drives. He finished the half with 22 points and 5 assists. Dallas eventually sold the farm to the defense to get the ball out of his hands. Portland missed a little, but Hart and his comrades hit the offensive glass, giving them additional chances. The Blazers faded a bit, but they still finished the half with a 61-54 lead.
Dallas went inside out to start the third. Their biggest players – Wood and Davis Bertans – scored inside the arc. Dinwiddie hit after three. Nurkic resumed his rampage from the second quarter but it took nearly three minutes for him to make a fourth foul and put an end to it. The Mavericks outscored Portland 16-8 in the first four minutes and they caught up almost immediately.
The lead fluctuated for a few minutes as the two teams traded one-point margins. A couple of Grant runs in the sixth minute brought Portland back their margin. They led, 77-74, with 5:59 remaining. Dinwiddie committed his fourth foul at that exact moment, giving Portland a potential weak spot on offense. Simmons’ subsequent free throws made it 79-74, giving his team the same breathing space they had every period.
Dallas attempted to go on the early offense to win points back, but—absent guards—failed to get off the launch pad on several possessions. Some went late at the clock. Others were interrupted by foul calls, which led to Dallas free throws… about the only way they were consistently scoring. But Portland is starting to take advantage of turnovers, turning infections into fast spots of their own. By 4:00, the Blazers’ margin was back to 7, providing a potentially disastrous quarter.
The story got better for Portland inside the 3:00 mark, when Little hit his third three of the game. He seemed little relief on the ground, especially on his open shots. The best part was, behind Little and company, the Blazers re-extended their lead without Lillard on the floor. Lillard didn’t take over when he came back at 2:00, either. The biggest firework in the final 120 came from a baseline drive by Shaedon Sharpe in the half zone for a huge dunk. This made the score 98-89, Portland.
Dallas got three points from Jaden Hardy and a traditional three-point play from Dwight Powell in the dying seconds, but the Blazers still held a 98-95 lead by the third period horn. Wood had 11 in this period for Dallas.
The fourth quarter
The fourth period opened with a short shot by Dam, announcing his intention to win this stage. Grant fouled a Dinwiddie three-pointer on the next play, allowing Dallas to recover it directly. Then I hit Dam for one on the wrong “J” line. Then Powell sank at the other end. Then Little got an error trying to recycle. And Dinwiddie hit the spiral scoop in the fairway. hoo boy. That was how it would be.
After that sudden flurry, we got a big one, as Dinwiddie made his fifth mistake by intercepting Nurkić’s drive. The hour remained more than 10 minutes. The Mavs left him, for better or for worse.
Hardy and Lillard would both score on the next possession before Dinwiddie finally missed a jumper, breaking the streak of consecutive scoring possessions for both teams. At that point, Portland led 109-103 with 9:30 remaining.
But that’s when the lid was blown off Portland and the fireworks started. After three free throws combined with Lillard and Norkic, Lillard scored three and Nork followed with his own. Best Buds scored 9 points in 80 seconds, pushing Portland’s lead to 15, 118-103, with 8:08 remaining. If Dallas let go a run, it would have to be a big run.
When Lillard stole a pass on the next possession and Nurkic half-hooked the post to complete the transition, hope of a comeback faded. Dam and Nork went to Salt Bay in that victory and the Moda Center rocked the rest of the evening.
Stay tuned for our extended analysis of the game, coming soon!
Blazers get Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off before heading to Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM, Pacific.