In a game where Rick Carlisle and his former assistant Terry Stotts fought back and forth with tactical coaching adjustments, the Dallas Mavericks made a late charge but couldn't catch up to the Portland Trail Blazers, who salvaged an important home-and-home-series. Portland held on to their sixth seed in the Western Conference.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (27 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), Ed Davis (16 points, 9 rebounds), and Moe Harkless, who scored 14 points in a starting role. Seven Blazers scored in double-figures. Of the former Blazers, Wesley Matthews went 6-10 from downtown for 22 points, and Raymond Felton helped Portland's cause by shooting 1-6 to finish with 2 points and 0 assists as Dallas' starting point guard.
Stotts announced before the game that backup center Meyers Leonard is out indefinitely with his dislocated shoulder, and is getting a second opinion.
First half: This was a fun half if you're into tactical coaching and back-and-forth runs, but due to technical issues, we'll simply explain that after a close half, Lillard sparked a late Blazer run and a 4 point halftime lead. Also, McCollum and Williams got grumpy.
Halftime: Blazers 57, Mavericks 53
Third Quarter: More runs on both ends. Portland opened the half with a rare glimpse of a made Lillard jumper, but Dallas' size kept them close. Salah Mejri continued to cause match-up problems at both ends. The Blazers maintained a slim lead through the first half of the third quarter, and despite the gargantuan influence of Wesley Matthews, Portland slowly built a cushion. Lillard swished a three, Plumlee dunked after a nice inbound play, and Harkless dunked off a missed shot. The Blazers suddenly led by 11, and Dallas called timeout. From that point, small-ball was officially underway, as eight guards were on the court simultaneously. A Carlisle technical foul led to a 12-point Blazer lead, but Dallas promptly scored 5 quick points to pull close again. But the game of runs continued, and Portland kept the game in double-digits heading to the fourth quarter.
End of third: Blazers 83, Mavericks 73
In the fourth, Portland bumped the lead back up to 13 thanks to McCollum free throws before Dirk hit an open three-pointer. Portland kept control, but after a timeout made consecutive errors (turnover and offensive foul) to give the Mavs extra opportunities. However, this eventually led to a technical foul on the NBA's gnat, JJ Barea. That led to a McCollum free throw, followed by a layup, followed by a Blazer fast break and Aminu dunk. The crowd erupted, and Dallas called timeout, down 15 with under eight minutes left. Up 13, Lillard threw a desperation shot from downtown hoping for a miracle, and it ended with a swish. But every time it felt like Portland would pull away, the veteran Mavs found a way to dig in their heels and keep the game within reach. A Barea floater forced Stotts to call timeout, up 11 with under five minutes remaining. Two minutes later, the teams played to a standstill, swapping points and keeping an 11 point margin. But Portland couldn't hit any shots, and Dallas was within 9 with two minutes left. Another Matthews wide open three-pointer capped a 9-0 Mavs run to close to within 6. Lillard tossed up a terrible shot, but Dirk threw a poor outlet pass to save the Blazers. CJ McCollum drive, dish to Allen Crabbe for three, swish. Dallas responded with (who else?) Nowitzki, who swished a three in response with a minute left. McCollum mishandled a Lillard pass to turn it over.
Down 6 with 34 seconds left, Dallas took their last timeout to set up their final seconds. They gave the ball to Deron Williams, who attempted a similar shot to Lillard's last-second attempt Sunday. It ended with the same result: a big miss. Lillard sank two free throws for an 8 point lead, but within seconds, the Blazers fouled Dirk for a three-point play. This led to the usual foul-shot bingo. McCollum hit two, but Lillard fouled Williams on a three-point attempt. He went two-of-three. Finally Nowitzki missed a contested three-pointer, and the clock ran out.
No rest for the Blazers, who fly right down to Los Angeles and will play the Clippers tomorrow night. Here at Blazer's Edge, stay tuned for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.