Dallas Mavericks (19-30) at Portland Trail Blazers (22-28)
Feb. 3, 2017, 7:30 PST
Watch: KGW, ESPN; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Ed Davis (questionable), Festus Ezeli (out)
Mavericks injuries: Deron Williams (doubtful), Andrew Bogut (out), J.J. Barea (out)
SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball
Two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference will face off tonight in Portland when the Mavericks visit the Trail Blazers. Each squad has won four out of its last five games, with Dallas winning five of its last six, making this contest significant in the race for the eighth seed.
This will be the third game between the Mavericks and Blazers this season, with the series tied at one game each. Damian Lillard was nearly able to erase a 24-point halftime deficit in the last meeting with Dallas, but Wesley Matthews was able to play just enough defense down the stretch to thwart his efforts.
This is a very different Mavericks team this time around, as their recent streak of solid play has removed some of the foul taste left behind from a sluggish 2-13 start to the season. Several of the new faces under coach Rick Carlisle have begun to adapt to their larger roles, and no player is a better example of that than Harrison Barnes.
After serving as the fourth option on most nights in Golden State, Barnes has started to flourish as the primary option in Dallas. He has nearly doubled his points per game average since last season, while maintaining a similar field goal percentage in the process.
Barnes’ solid production isn’t nearly as surprising as the current backcourt duo that the Mavericks are featuring. Yogi Ferrell - signed to a 10-day contract on Saturday - is undefeated while serving as the starting point guard. Ferrell is joined by Seth Curry, who is quietly putting up solid shooting numbers in his brother’s shadow.
Carlisle leans on two established veterans to round-out his starting lineup, with Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki serving as calming forces in an unproven rotation. Matthews is a proven defender on the perimeter, while Nowitzki is still capable of creating space on the offensive end.
The Mavericks aren’t the only ones using a revamped lineup as a catalyst for success. Evan Turner and Noah Vonleh have only tasted defeat twice in the six games since they’ve entered coach Terry Stotts’ starting lineup.
The improvements made on the defense side of the ball are encouraging. Portland’s defensive rating was sitting at an abysmal 109.3 prior to reshuffling, but the changes in the rotation have resulted in a respectable rating of 102.5 in the last six games.
Portland has had a solid amount of rest between games in the last two weeks, which should give them an advantage over an injury-depleted Dallas roster. Ferrell has gone from relative obscurity to playing at least 35 minutes in all three of his contests with the Mavericks, which isn’t nearly as absurd as Nowitzki playing in excess of 25 minutes per game in the twilight of his career. Facing a nearly-healthy squad, fatigue could certainly become a factor for the visitors in this one.
If Portland is able to achieve victory tonight, this five-game homestand could be viewed as the rallying point for a postseason push. The Trail Blazers continued their climb to a .500 record by dispatching the Hornets on Tuesday, and they must continue to close-out winnable games if they hope to complete that journey.
LAST CHANCE TO DONATE TO BLAZER’S EDGE KIDS NIGHT 2017!
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!