Q: What do you get when you let the Portland Trail Blazers offense--already the most prolific in the league--score in the paint and on the break?
This is exactly what happened in Dallas on Saturday night as the Blazers steamrolled the Mavericks in a 16-point blowout win that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated.
This game started with the Mavericks canning three mid-range jumpers, to which the Blazers said, "Come into my parlor..." Dallas built a 6-4 lead at the 9:25 mark of the first. That was as close as they'd get to victory all night.
Early on the Mavericks showed a disturbing tendency to blow rear-echelon rotations, leaving their rim unguarded. And by "unguarded" I mean "straight-line dribble here's the dunk" unguarded. Nicolas Batum took full advantage, waltzing to a couple slams and close-in conversions. The Blazers got more dunks in the first half of this game than they see in a month under normal circumstances. When the Mavs weren't letting Portland dunk freely they were fouling them for and-ones. When they weren't doing that they were failing to get guards back on defense, allowing Portland fast-break leak-outs. Those streaking conversions came easily because Portland vs. Dallas on the boards tonight resembled Muhammad Ali versus your average candy striper. Defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, fast-break points, foul shots, the Blazers leading the Mavericks 38-14 in points in the paint at the end of the first half, and Dallas trying to solve all this with jumpers spelled a 71-52 edge for Portland at intermission.
And then the Mavericks started turning the ball over.
The third period was a great argument for the NBA invoking a mercy rule. LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Damian Lillard sprayed points all over the scoreboard until the six-minute mark until they all looked at each other and said, "This isn't fair. Our poor centers haven't scored." So Robin Lopez scored 7 and Joel Freeland 4 to end the period. No, Dallas couldn't manage to stop them either. A couple times I had to freeze-frame the DVR to make sure the Mavs were fielding 5 players and not 3 on defense. They didn't stop anybody outside but still left Lopez free for dunks on demand. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called four timeouts in a desperate attempt to turn the ship.
The text of his four timeout speeches:
#3 "HEY GUYS!"
#4 "I'm not talking to you anymore. You're getting an actual timeout. Sit over there until this timer goes off."
Not only did the ship not turn around, it sank. Portland scored 33 in the frame, Dallas only 18. The Blazers led 104-70 heading into the fourth.
The aforementioned Mercy Rule would have had the pleasant side-effect of sparing us watching Portland's bench blow 19 points of the 34-point margin in less than 8 minutes. They seemed to be taking the game seriously and they had a couple good moments individually but collectively their defense was atrocious. Dallas' reserves, looking like actual NBA players, destroyed their Blazer counterparts. With 4:18 remaining and Portland's lead down to 113-98 Coach Terry Stotts, in a rare public display of pique, offered his referendum on the performance by substituting the entire unit out at once, re-inserting Aldridge, Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Mo Williams. Lopez would come in for Williams a minute later. The starters held serve until 43 seconds remained. With the Blazers up 14 at that point the lead was probably safe. Portland ended up winning 127-111, suitable revenge for Dallas' buzzer-beating victory in Portland last month.
As you might expect, the Boxscore numbers from this game are eye-popping. The Blazers scored 60 points in the paint, two dozen above their average. That's nothing compared to fast break points. 31 triples Portland's normal production in that category. The Blazers collected 14 offensive rebounds to 4 for the Mavericks and won the overall rebounding battle 41-26. Dallas averages 24 assists on the year. They had 15 tonight. The Blazers shot 51% from the field to 47% for the Mavs. Portland hovered around average shooting three-pointers, shooting 9-26 (35%). They hardly needed them.
Dallas brought a Q-tip to a gunfight tonight. The Blazers showed up with a bazooka. Dallas responded by mooning them and the rest of the story wrote itself.
Every time Dallas even thought about mounting a comeback LaMarcus Aldridge hit a couple "you can't guard me" shots. He shot 11-18 inside and outside the lane, converted 8 of 9 foul shots, scored 30, and grabbed 12 rebounds while keeping Dirk Nowitzki to 18 points on 6-17 shooting. #bestforward
Damian Lillard barely needed to shoot. He went 3-8, 6-6 from the line for 14 points but helped his teammates with 10 assists and 5 rebounds.
Nicolas Batum got over his recent offensive shyness once the path to the hoop started opening up. He went 8-11 on an array of dunks and layups, fired 3-6 from distance, and scored 21 with 7 rebounds and 1 assist.
Wesley Matthews was the only Portland starter who had a relatively humdrum night. Lanes to the hoop, fast breaks, and points in the paint aren't great things for him. He went 3-10 for 10 points.
Robin Lopez picked up rebounds like candy and then spread spun-sugar dunks all over them for 16 points and 12 boards.
Mo Williams had a fairly easy, fairly controlled night off the bench. He shot 3-6 for 8 points with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 19 minutes. Opponents defending poorly is like waving a red cape in front of Mo.
Like Lopez, Joel Freeland got to play fairly relaxed in Dallas' center-free environment. He scored on all three shots he took, posting 6 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. His defense is physical but prone to attracting fouls. He's doing a nice job of trying to go straight up in the air against drivers though.
Thomas Robinson had a couple brilliant moments, especially a thundering put-back dunk. He hit jumpers, shot 4-5 from the field, scored 8 and netted 3 rebounds in 17 minutes. He also had 4 turnovers. But he looked more aware of the court around him tonight in general despite the give-aways.
C.J. McCollum got to handle the ball a lot more tonight, both paired with the regular rotation players and in that fourth-quarter, all-bench unit. The results were mixed. He hit nice shots (3-7, 1-2 on triples, plus 2-2 from the foul line) but neither the offense nor the ball moved that well when he had charge. His defense remains a work in progress.
Meyers Leonard is pretty much a punch line at this point.
The Blazers get a day to travel and then face Houston at 5:00 on Monday.
Timmay's Instant Recap and (super-excitable) GameDay Thread Review If you've never seen Blazers Edgers on a roll you might want to click through the Story Stream and run through that GameDay Thread.
Mavs Moneyball needs to change that first "L" to a "W" to accurately reflect the tenor of this game. But their team couldn't change an "L" to a "W" no matter what they tried, so maybe they should just move on for now.
You can enter the Jersey Contest form for Monday's game HERE.