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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview

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The Blazers look to bounce back against a travel-weary Dallas team

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (18-14) vs. Dallas Mavericks (15-16)

Sunday, December 23 - 6 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Mavericks injuries: Dennis Smith Jr. (doubtful), Dirk Nowitzki (out), Luka Doncic (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball

Following a blowout loss 110-90 to the Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers face off against the Dallas Mavericks in hopes of a win before they depart on their Christmas road swing. The Blazers bench struggled against the Jazz (they were outscored 57-40), illustrating their importance in clinching wins. Maintaining and controlling momentum remains an issue for the Blazers.

The Mavericks arrive in Portland to play their second game in a road back-to-back after a tight loss to the Golden State Warriors (120-116); it will be their third game in five nights. Dallas has a reputation this season for struggling on the road with a 2-13 record. But the Blazers should remember that the Mavericks are excellent at drawing fouls: the last time these two teams met, the Mavs shot 35 free throws to the Blazers’ 23. In a close game, that could prove a difference-maker.

What to watch for

  • Big-Time Backcourt. Last time these two teams met, both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum struggled in the first half. Damian played hero ball to bring the Blazers back from a deficit, but ultimately fell short. This game could prove to be a revenge matchup.
  • Zach Collins. When the bench’s big man is performing well, so is the bench. His energy is crucial to the momentum of the second unit. Largely quiet the last time these two teams met, Collins could be the spark needed on defense after the loss to the Jazz.
  • Defense, Defense, Defense. Ultimately, it all comes down to defense for the Blazers, period. They had a difficult time stopping a Jazz run in the late 1st quarter of Friday’s game, and they were never able to recover. Against Dallas, they will need to close out on the perimeter and force stops to benefit the flow offense.

What they’re saying

Eddie Sefko at the Dallas Morning News examines the issue the Mavericks are having with turnovers and their plans to clean them up:

”Obviously, you want to be a team that takes care of the ball,” said Dirk Nowitzki. “But there will always be some lapses. You can’t always be sharp for 82 games. That’s the beauty of the NBA season. If everybody would be robots, it would be boring. It just happens.”

Over at Mavs Moneyball, Josh Bowe explains how Harrison Barnes’ game has changed this season due to the addition of Luka Doncic:

At this time last season, on Dec. 19 of last year, Barnes had attempted 134 mid-range shots in 31 games according to NBA.com’s stats page. This season? He has 49 mid-range shots in 25 games. That’s amazing! Barnes has basically chopped his mid-range shots in half while almost doubling his catch and shoot threes from a year ago. We should be singing to the heavens that Barnes has embraced his super-charged role player destiny.

Except for one little thing — Barnes is not passing, to an almost alarming degree.

Tim MacMahon at ESPN tells how Luka Doncic is embracing his role in Dallas:

The 6-foot-8 Doncic possesses a rare blend of size, skill and savvy, all essential elements in the Slovenian becoming the youngest Euroleague MVP ever while leading Real Madrid to a title as an 18-year-old last season. But it’s the kid’s combination of joy and confidence that awes his veteran teammates, who embrace the notion that Doncic has quickly become the (baby) face of the franchise.