Portland Trail Blazers (2-3) at Dallas Mavericks (0-4)
Nov. 4, 2016 | 5:30 PDT
Watch: CSN NW | NBA League Pass
Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Mavericks injuries: Deron Williams (doubtful), Devin Harris (Out)
SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball
Though the Portland Trail Blazers have had a difficult week, losing three of their last four games, things could be worse. The Dallas Mavericks, hosting the Blazers tonight, hope to contend for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference but currently sit without a victory at 0-4.
This season, Dallas continues the trend of filling its lineup with veterans each year, adding former Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut this past offseason. Barnes in particular has played well this season thus far, averaging 18.5 points and more than five rebounds per game. While he may have looked tentative at times in Golden State, Barnes has played aggressively to start his career with the Mavs.
Bogut hasn’t provided much scoring punch, as usual, but is averaging more than 10 rebounds per game in fewer than 25 minutes. He’s a tough defender and a physical presence down low, something the Mavericks have lacked since losing Tyson Chandler to free agency several seasons ago.
Former Blazer Wesley Matthews seems to be mostly recovered from his torn Achilles’ tendon from almost two seasons ago. After suffering near-career lows across many offensive categories last year, Matthews has increased his scoring output to 15.8 points per game through four 2016-17 games. Unfortunately, he’s still missing the mark more often than desired, shooting a dreadful 31 percent from the field. Matthews does seem to be moving better on the court and, though he may never be the defender he was in his prime years with Portland, has been able to stay in front of his man all season.
After missing two games with stomach discomfort and a sore ankle, Dirk Nowitzki returned Wednesday night and put up nine points in 29 minutes in a loss to the Utah Jazz. Nowitzki is far from the transcendent big man he was a decade ago, but is still a capable scorer from the midrange out. Where Nowitzki has suffered most is on the defensive end, as he is unable to move his feet quickly enough to stay in front of stretch fours or guard the pick-and-roll effectively.
With Deron Williams and Devin Harris both likely sidelined tonight, Dallas will turn to veteran point guard J.J. Area, who’s always been an adequate pick-and-roll point guard and has worked to improve his 3-point shooting, hitting nearly 39 percent of his attempts last season. He gives up size to nearly everyone in the league, but Dallas will have little choice but to ride Barea for significant minutes against Portland.
After a first five games that has seen the Blazers called out for their struggles on defense, they now has an opportunity to atone for their shortcomings so far this season. The Mavericks are not an especially talented offensive team this season, with an ORtg of 100.5, good for No. 22 in the NBA. Portland needs defensive presence from Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless in order to slow down Barnes and Nowitzki but otherwise, outside of Matthews, Dallas doesn’t feature too much of an offensive threat.
That said, winless teams tend to play more desperately and, as we saw in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Portland can’t afford to take any team lightly. The offense is doing fine, but the real question is, can the Blazers stop anybody on the other end of the court?