As you are no doubt aware, Wesley Matthews ruptured his Achilles Tendon in tonight's game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks. He will miss the remainder of the season. This development far overshadows Portland's dominating 94-75 victory. We're going to give enough credence to the game to give you an idea of how the Blazers won, then spend the rest of the night and tomorrow assessing Portland's path forward without Matthews.
Our Instant Recap gives you an idea of tonight's game flow and our In-Arena Report will fill you in on the atmosphere in the Moda Center, including reaction to Matthews' injury. You can always check there to complete your picture.
The riddle of the Mavericks wasn't too hard for the Blazers to solve. Portland spent the first quarter allowing Dallas to score off of guard penetration and in transition, a continuation of a post-All-Star-Break theme. LaMarcus Aldridge hit enough jumpers to keep Portland alive despite their gaffes. Robin Lopez added rebounds and paint points. But Nicolas Batum found himself open for multiple weak-side threes--perhaps part of the Mavericks plan--yet couldn't hit them. Not being able to score from the arc is Portland's equivalent of playing with one hand tied behind their backs. They managed only 17 points in the period against 23 for Dallas.
The Blazers eased off the long shot in the second quarter, preferring to post their wings inside. Arron Afflalo and Wesley Matthews scored or got fouled. Aldridge also made good close to the bucket. More importantly, the Blazers corrected their defensive issues, no longer allowing run-outs or free dribbles towards the rim. When the easy looks evaporated, so did Dallas' offense. The Mavs scored only 13 in the second period and would follow up with 39 points total in the second half. Their shooting actually looked decent for a while but the Blazers got into an offensive groove. Portland scored at the cup or beyond the arc. Dallas scored in the middle ground. Foul shots and extra points off of triples began to tell for the Blazers. As long as the defense remained solid, only turnovers or lack of rebounding could have scuttled Portland's ship. The defense stayed solid, Dallas secured only 6 offensive caroms in the game, and the Blazers didn't commit enough TO's to make a difference.
The Blazers held their opponents to 37.5% shooting, 12.5% from the arc. Starters and reserves contributed to the defense. They didn't leave many holes after that first period.
Matthews' injury occurred less than 2 minutes into the second half. He caught the ball down court, along the right sideline, with only Rajon Rondo between him and a layup. As he came down from the reception and began to make his move, his foot slipped and/or buckled and his leg extended backwards somewhat awkwardly. The actual extension didn't look too bad but you know something was wrong when he immediately dropped the ball and you knew it was worse when he fell to the floor, rolled on his back, and grabbed his leg. You can see video of the injury here. It's not graphic, just sad.
This 94-75 victory over a division rival keeps the Blazers percentage points above the Houston Rockets for 3rd place in the Western Conference. It reduces their Magic Number to clinch the Northwest Division from rival Oklahoma City to 13, as the Thunder lost tonight to the Chicago Bulls. It also counts as an in-conference win and a win against a conference playoff team should those tiebreakers become necessary (assuming Dallas makes the playoffs).
Portland's starters all played well tonight. Aldridge and Batum netted 12 rebounds each, Batum and Lopez shot 50% from the field, and Damian Lillard keyed the third-quarter run that put the Mavericks against the ropes. Dorell Wright and Alonzo Gee played exceptionally well off the bench. Arron Afflalo struggled on offense once again, hitting only 2-9 shots.
The Trail Blazers face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. On paper that's an easy win. In real life it could depend on how well the Blazers deal with Minnesota's guards. It'll probably still be an easy win. It's nice that Portland gets at least one tune-up game to adjust to life without Matthews before the rough part of the schedule returns.
Mavs Moneyball will not like this loss one bit. Their team started flat and only went flatter as the game progressed.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to Blazer's Edge Night. We've now accumulated enough tickets to send 1151 underprivileged youth to the March 30th game versus the Phoenix Suns. Be proud of yourselves, Blazer's Edge community.