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Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Preview

The Blazers can take a giant step towards securing home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs with a win in Dallas.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (48-29) at Dallas Mavericks (23-54)

Tuesday, April 3rd - 5:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (out), Ed Davis (out)
Mavericks injuries: Salah Mejri (out), Wesley Matthews (out), Seth Curry (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball

Update: Nerlens Noel will miss the rest of the season for Dallas.

The Blazers have lost just once in the last five games, and that loss came when Damian Lillard was at home for the birth of his son. Unfortunately, the basketball gods have thrown a few injuries at the Blazers. Maurice Harkless and Ed Davis will both miss time, and they will certainly be missed. The good news is that other players are getting a chance to get more reps and step up. Not an ideal situation, but not the worst either, especially if the Blazers can hold on to the three seed.

The Mavericks have been eliminated from the playoffs, and thoughts of a high lottery pick are dancing through the heads of everyone who cares about Dallas basketball. Perhaps unfortunately for the Blazers, the Mavericks seem pretty locked into their position, so an outright tank probably won’t do them any good at this point. As Portland has learned, a team with nothing to lose and young talent playing to establish themselves in the League can make for a dangerous opponent.

What to watch for

  • Fast start from Dallas. The Mavericks have won the first quarter in each of their last five games. Dallas has shown an impressive ability to jump on teams, even good teams, right from the opening tip. Unfortunately for Dallas, this hasn’t translated into wins. The Mavericks’ record in those last five games? 1-4. The Blazers would love to take control of this game early, but don’t be surprised (or worried) if they don’t.
  • Fast break opportunities, but few points off turnovers for the Blazers. The Mavericks are 28th in the league in giving up fast break points at 14.2 points per game. Oddly, they give up the fewest points in the NBA in points off of turnovers at 14 per game. Dallas is also first in the league in committing turnovers, coughing up the ball a paltry 12.4 times per game. Add it all up and it means that Dallas is letting opposing guards leak out for long touchdown passes after missed shots. Expect the Blazers to not get many steals, but look for them to make quick outlet passes after defensive rebounds to spring guards for easy opportunities on the other end.
  • A big night for Blazer big men. One of the problems the Mavericks have had this year is getting pushed around in the paint. Don’t expect that trend to change against the Blazers. Dwight Powell, the Mavericks’ starting center, gives up around 30 pounds to Jusuf Nurkic. Meyers Leonard is taller and heavier than Powell, too. Nerlens Noel is a positive lightweight compared to Blazer bigs. Dirk Nowitzki can still play some ball but he’s not at the stage of his career where he is going to consistently overpower bigger guys on the block. Look for Portland to try to bully Dallas in the paint — and expect it to work.

What they’re saying

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News is writing about the Mavericks’ lottery position:

So the Mavericks are preparing as if they are going to be either at or very close to the spot they are right now, which would give them an 8.8-percent chance at getting the top pick in the draft.

And what does that mean for their scouting department?

”I think I was in Dallas a grand total of two days in the month of March,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “I’ve been living out of a suitcase. Obviously, it’s a big priority, a big draft for us. We’re going to have a pick in the high lottery and I’m excited to see what falls to us.”

Dallas pursued Hassan Whiteside two years ago but came up empty. Isaac Harris of The Smoking Cuban examines whether the Mavericks should make another run at the disgruntled Miami center:

But let’s play the hypothetical game. What if Dallas gets a wing in the draft and is still left with a hole in the middle heading into the summer? What could the Mavs realistically offer and what would Miami even want for Whiteside if they shopped him.

Before the draft, Wesley Matthews has to decide on his player option worth $18.6 million that he will almost for certain pick up. He immediately becomes an expiring contract.

What if Dallas offered the expiring contract of Matthews and one of their second round picks they own this year for Whiteside?

John Morgan Francis of a Sea of Blue says that former Kentucky star Aaron Harris has found the best possible situation after signing with Dallas for the rest of the season:

Seeing Harrison get a second chance with a “tanking” team like Dallas is probably his best-case scenario. With two weeks left, he’ll be sure to receive consistent playing time that comes with a chance to show off his skill set to other clubs as well the Mavericks.

With just 11 days remaining in the regular season, signing Harrison to a second 10-day contract works out for Dallas, too. The Mavericks would have to sign Harrison for the remainder of the season after his 10-day contract expires, so they’ll likely see as much as they can of the young shooting guard on the court and re-evaluate him in the offseason.