Almost every Portland Trail Blazers victory starts and ends with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum...the gold standards of the franchise. But every rule has an exception, and tonight’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks provided one of them. McCollum and Lillard played great, scoring 20 and 29, respectively, but the accolades and the game belonged to unheralded center Ed Davis. Portland’s steady reserve sparked teammates and bullied opponents to drive the Blazers out of their early-game doldrums into a wholly-impressive 107-93 victory.
Trek through mud
The beginning of the game was all about the offensive struggles of both teams. Portland’s was partially due to a high amount of plays ending in isos, but the good shots that they did get didn’t drop either. Jusuf Nurkic missed two bunnies to start the game, while Damian Lillard couldnt get a shot to drop. CJ McCollum was the only Blazer able to get going and ended up scoring 11 of Portland’s 17 first-quarter points. Dallas’ offense was the opposite. They didn’t have anyone heat up like CJ did, but pretty amazingly, all 10 Maverick players to enter the game had scored just 4 minutes into the second quarter. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before. The Blazers found themselves down as many as 12 early in the game.
Ed Davis is another level.
CJ was the guy to keep the Blazers afloat, but it was Blazer big man Ed Davis that changed the tide of the game. Davis brought the usual infectious energy that Blazers fans have come accustomed to, but his 11 points (one shy of tying his game high for the season) in the half were a huge addition to his hustle and ferocity on the offensive boards.
And the All-Star?
Lillard made some high-level passes early but didn’t score his first point until just under 4 minutes left in the half. Those last four were all his though, and he scored 11 during that time. The Blazers headed to halftime up 52-44.
We’re goin streaking!
The third quarter was all about runs. An early three by Maurice Harkless put the Blazers up 12. Portland may have became a bit complacent at that moment as they started settling for jump shots. Meanwhile Dallas found the touch from outside and went on a 12-2 run to get within 2.
And the better team prevails
From that point forward, the Blazers took control the game and never looked back. CJ and Dame took turns controlling the offense while facilitating contributions from all. Defensively, Dallas struggled to get any kind of traction. Portland flew around and contested shooters like they hadn't all night. Dame put the nail in the coffin with an unguarded three off of a hand off to put the Blazers up 21. They coasted to a 107-93 victory.
Blazers are rolling
Tonight’s game was a great example what the Blazers try to do on defense. They only caused 5 turnovers against a shaky Dallas offense, but they dominated the boards and limited open looks. The Mavericks found stretches of success on the offensive end, but overall their shooters never got comfortable and Portland was able to limit the speed of the ball.
Offensively, Lillard and McCollum took turns being unguardable. That was good enough for a Portland offense that wasn't at its best. Ed Davis was incredible on both sides of the ball. From big-time dunks to big-time blocks, his effect on the game cannot be overstated. It was one of his best games offensively and defensively, but his rebounding was the difference in the game. He was the man on the boards tonight.
Zach Collins - CJ Dame and Ed took up most of the game flow because they were the biggest factors in the game, but Zach Collins had another very solid game tonight. He’s tough and aggressive. Sometimes he comes across as a bull in china shop, as 4 fouls in 15 minutes prove, but he made some great reads defensively, seeing plays unfold before they did and getting to spots early to make plays. That is one of the best signs for a young big man on defense. Oh, and his 2-2 from deep and 9 points were a great sign as well.
Al Farouq Aminu - Aminu had 12 rebounds, 11 defensive, but didn’t fill up the stat sheet other than that. But if you look at the stats to judge his game, you don’t know him well. Aminu was active on both ends of the floor, even making a few good passes—one to Harkless for a dunk—and his defense continues to be one of the tops of the team. The two threes is great to see, but those shots and his 12 rebounds still don’t tell the story of his contributions
Jusuf Nurkic - Nurkic didnt get a lot of run, just 17 minutes, but that had more to do with Ed Davis being unbelievable than it did with Nurkic doing anything wrong. Nurk had a couple early misses but was very efficient after that, finishing with 12 and 8 in limited minutes.
Maurice Harkless - Harkless drew the start at small forward with Evan Turner out and left very little to be excited about. He then came in to play power forward when Collins had to sit due to foul trouble. He’s still above Noah Vonleh in the pecking order, but his impact on the game was very minimal. The eye test agreed with the box score plus minus as the Blazers were -10 with him on the court.
Wesley Matthews - Wes hit two jumpers early and had 6 is the first quarter. The ex-Blazer has a habit of big games against Portland but luckily he cooled off after that, finishing 5-14 from the floor. Even without a great shooting game from Wes, it’s still always good to see him.
Onward and Upward
Mavs Moneyball is probably tired of seeing the Blazers.
The Blazers will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM, Pacific.