The Portland Trail Blazers dug themselves an enormous hole tonight before mounting a furious comeback in the fourth period, registering yet another bizarre game in a long series of same against the Dallas Mavericks. From 26 down with 1:45 remaining in the third period the Blazers came within 3 as the clock ticked the final seconds of regulation. A futile final possession cost them the chance to tie but the team left the court to applause anyway, the first time in a couple weeks. Wesley Matthews got the fiery, passionate performance he campaigned for following Portland's loss to Houston on Friday night. Ironically he had to leave the court in order for it to happen.
The first quarter of this game found the Blazers in all-too-familiar territory. Portland fired outside shots and bricked. Dallas got to the rim with ease and scored. When they missed they scooped up offensive rebounds for even better shots.
Grizzly Adams Dirk Nowitzki would play but 24 minutes in this game, scoring only 6. He wasn't the problem. His sidekick Ben the Grizzly Bear Chris Kaman mauled the Blazers savagely enough that Dirk took pity and put away the rifle. Kaman embarrassed J.J. Hickson with post shots and boards then did the same to Meyers Leonard. He led the Mavs to 29 first-quarter points while the Blazers managed only 18. The rout was on.
And that was before the turnovers began.
The Blazers embarrassed themselves further in the second quarter, playing their influenza offense. Every possession ended with them coughing up the ball or barfing up a shot while fighting the clock. The score was 40-22 Dallas with 8:26 left in the second when injury was added to insult. In a classic "it figures" Blazers moment, Wesley Matthews turned an ankle and had to be helped off the floor. In came Will Barton. Out went Portland's last chance of mounting a decent fight in this game. Or so it seemed. The Blazers topped their first-quarter offensive ineptitude, scoring 14 in the second. Dallas led 56-32 at the half.
Portland's turnovers and Dallas' paint points continued in the third as the game slid into the laughable category. Barton scored a few points early and LaMarcus Aldridge followed up with a few more but Dallas countered easily. Portland wasn't even able to mount a mini-run until the last 2 minutes of the period. With Barton displaying nifty dribble-dish moves, Portland cut a 26 point lead at the 1:45 mark down to 20 by the end of the period. The bright spots in the quarter for the Blazers:
1. They scored 29.
2. They finally got the rebounding under control.
3. 9 of their 12 buckets were assisted, showing they had some kind of offensive cohesion.
Even so, they had only managed to trim 4 points off of Dallas' halftime lead. The Mavericks were secure. Or so they thought. They did not reckon on meeting Will Da Beast.
Wildebeest: (n.) from Afrikaans, literally: wild beast
And that's exactly what Will "Da Beast" Barton was in the fourth period. His production looked like an entry from George Clooney's autobiography: Score, Rebound, Score, Rebound, Score Again! You guys done taking pictures yet?
Barton scored a dozen points in the final period, grabbed 6 rebounds, and made a lineup consisting of Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Luke Babbitt, and Eric Maynor look really good. Meanwhile the Mavericks slowed down the game to bleed the clock. That made them infinitely easier to guard. HUGE mistake. 20 became 10 became 5 and with the clock reading 12 seconds the Blazers had the ball with a chance to tie at 91-94. Sadly they never got off the three-point attempt. Lillard, cold all night but able to score at the rim in the final period, drove and attempted to draw the foul. He got neither the whistle nor the layup. Dallas rebounded, chucked the ball down the court for a layup, and the game was over.
Personally I don't like going for the and-one with only 12 seconds remaining but the Blazers weren't hitting jack from distance and you can bet the Mavs had a bullseye on Luke Babbitt. No Wesley Matthews and no Nicolas Batum leaves the ball in Lillard's hands in that situation. He has to do what he's comfortable with. I wish he could have rewound to earlier in the season when he was comfortable with the step-back three and nothing but. Still, the look was pretty good even if he overshot the layup. Since the Blazers were fortunate to be in that situation anyway you just have to shrug. It's a learning experience.
In the end this was like the guy who gave his wife roses to say "Thanks" and "I'm sorry" on the day of their divorce. Classy move, but if you had demonstrated that spirit just a wee bit earlier...
Still, anyone who bought a ticket or invested 2.5 hours of their life watching this game had to be glad for that stirring fourth period. The first 34 minutes were pure misery but the last 14 washed out all the bad taste.
After giving up an ungodly percentage from the field in the first half the Blazers finally dragged the Mavericks back to 47% for the game, shooting 46% themselves. The turnover battle also ended up closer than the first half foreshadowed, with Portland committing 14 and the Mavs 12. 4-22 three-point shooting did the Blazers no favors but Dallas only shot 3-13...bullet dodged. Portland could not escape Dallas' 13 offensive rebounds generating 10 more field goal attempts, however. Three-pointers and free throws are the only way out of that conundrum and the Blazers couldn't generate an advantage in either department. A 21-14 fast break deficit and a 62-46 points in the paint hole didn't help but it's worth noting that 14 fast break points and 46 in the paint are both pretty good numbers for Portland. Had the Blazers been able to hit a three or control the boards just a little better this might have turned into another Mavs Miracle. Sadly, it was not to be.
That's OK. They're saving it for the Lakers on Wednesday anyway,
Will Barton: 32 minutes, 7-11 shooting, 8-9 foul shots, 22 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers. Let's put that in perspective. He generated 24% of Portland's points, 56% of their foul shots, 33% of their rebounds, 26% of their assists, and 38% of their steals plus 0% of their turnovers. He took about 14% of their total field goal attempts to do so. He ought to steal Damian Lillard's last Rookie of the Month award just for doing that.
It's tempting just to do a Gilligan's Island "and the rest" here, but we'll note that Aldridge scored 18 on 50% shooting with 6 boards, Lillard struggled yet again under pressure and managed only 6-19, 0-5 on rushed threes, and 15 points plus 4 assists in 40 minutes, and both Hickson and Leonard got stomped.
Eric Maynor had a great night as part of that weird lineup, shooting 4-6, passing with aplomb for 6 assists, and helping to push the tempo. Victor Claver had a couple of steals and looked way more confident taking his shot but also committed 4 turnovers...a work in progress.
I'll wager Timmay had his instant recap all written and then had to change it in the fourth quarter.
MavsMoneyball is wondering what the heck is going on and whether Dallas should just start spotting the Blazers a 20-point lead and work from behind instead.
There was no Jersey Contest form for this game because we wanted you to enjoy Barton's outing without worrying about your numbers. Here's your Jersey Contest Form for Wednesday's game.