On Bizarro Earth, this would give the Blazers the number one seed.
After most of the game screamed "blowout!", the Dallas Mavericks held off a late Portland Trail Blazer rally for a close win. Dirk Nowitzki made sure Dallas never lost full control, as ESPN surely enjoyed a late Blazer run to cut a 20 point lead to a nail-biter down the stretch.
The Blazers were led by an efficient Nicolas Batum with 20 points and 8 rebounds, with help from JJ Hickson (13 points, 10 rebounds), Raymond Felton (12 points, 4 assists, 5 big turnovers), Wesley Matthews (15 points, 7 rebounds) and Jamal Crawford (18 points, 2 steals).
Before ESPN even switched from the early game, Dallas led 9-0 and Kaleb called timeout. To their credit, the Blazers played the Mavs to a standstill for most of the quarter, but Dallas pulled away late to lead by 15 after one. They quickly made it 20 early in the second quarter, to the groans of the crowd. However, the Blazers increased the defense to start the second quarter, pulling to within 11 within 4 minutes. Dallas tried to pull away, but Nic took control, using a dunk, three-pointer, and assist to Hickson to cut the lead to 6. That woke up both Dirk, and their offensive rebounding. Dallas led by 15 at halftime.
Basically, nothing happened in the third. Just assume the refs spotted the Mavs 5 points, so they lead by 20.
The Blazers quickly cut the lead to 13 in the fourth. 10 seconds later, it was an 18 point deficit again. A minute later, 13 again. It looked like a weird tennis match. When the Dallas lead reached 11 on some sloppy play, Rick Carlisle called timeout. The Mavs increased the lead to 16 with 3:50 left. But then something unexpected happened. Dallas suddently had a case of the fumbles. The Blazers soon cut the lead to 7, forcing another Carlisle timeout. And out of the timeout, a Hickson three point play cut the lead to 4 with over a minute left. Dallas turned it over, giving the Blazers a chance to cut the lead to one possession. But consecutive Felton turnovers gave Dallas the buffer they needed to hold on for victory they won't celebrate.
Check out the box score, then stay tuned for Dave and Ben's takes on this unexpectedly close game. The Blazers get a day off, but have a strangely-early 3pm game in Sacramento Sunday. I hope they stop by the Squeeze Inn for cheese skirt burger, it's tasty. -- Tim