The Portland Trail Blazers melted down in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, losing 102-101 to a Dallas Mavericks team who replaced four starters in one week. After entering the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead, the Blazers scored just nine points, ending the infamous 33-game winning streak when leading after three.
Damian Lillard, despite a rough start from the field, finished with six three-pointers and 30 points; 21 of those came in the third quarter alone. Luka Doncic responded with 28 of his own, including 13 in the fourth quarter, leading the Mavericks to their late comeback and ultimate victory.
Prior to halftime, the Blazers had assisted on 12 of their 17 made field goals. Lillard and CJ McCollum looked for mismatches in the paint nearly every time down the floor. Jusuf Nurkic, who finished with 18 points on 9-11 shooting, easily backed down any Mavericks player who dared defend him in the post for close-range buckets.
Evan Turner revived the team’s ball movement out of halftime. He patiently waited at the top of the arc for Lillard to peel around Meyers Leonard screens as the guard caught fire. Turner finished with seven assists and helped build Portland’s double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter.
Down the stretch, Dallas started double-teaming the pick-and-roll ball handler, forcing Lillard, McCollum and Seth Curry to turn the ball over. The smooth first half ball movement ceased and Portland mightily struggled to score as the lead slipped away.
Interesting Lineup Iteration
Terry Stotts deployed a new lineup in the second quarter: Curry, Turner, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman and Zach Collins. This unit looked to run the floor after defensive rebounds; every player besides Collins is comfortable dribbling the ball up the floor, so rebounds quickly transitioned into offense.
With Turner at the helm, the other four Blazers moved well off the ball, creating a natural flow of offense. Hood worked on smaller guards in the post, Curry kept his defender honest on the perimeter, Layman slashed to the rim for alley-oops as per usual, and Collins hustled for offensive boards to keep plays alive.
With Portland’s recent rotational changes, this five-man unit provided Stotts an option for his go-to reserves.
Rodney Hood Impresses Again
The Blazers missed their first four three-pointers of the game. Hood, the first substitute off the bench alongside Collins, confidently stepped up and hit a three to end the drought. He carried this confidence through halftime, hitting a few more shots and another triple.
Hood is an established offensive option - we already knew that. His defense has more questions, but today’s game showed his versatility. He pestered Dirk Nowitzki, preventing him from getting any shot attempts off. In the second half, he energetically trailed Doncic, not biting on his pump fakes and sticking close on step backs. Other than a few ticky-tack fouls, Hood played strong, smart defense.
Fourth Quarter Meltdown
The 33-game winning streak when leading after three quarters comes to an end. Thanks to a 21-point third quarter from Lillard, Portland entered the fourth ahead by 14 only to put up a dud. They failed to connect on a field goal for over 10 minutes and scored nine total points.
All ball movement ceased as the Mavericks blitzed the pick and rolls, doubling the ball handler and rotating a wing defender to pick up Nurkic. The pressure on Lillard and McCollum to make things happen reminisced of last year’s playoff series; Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless provided no support on the wings, so Portland’s go-to pick-and-roll offense was stifled.
No rest for the Blazers, who fly to Oklahoma City tomorrow. After that, they get one day off, and a matchup with the Golden State Warriors at the Moda Center Wednesday. Then it’s eight days off for the All-Star Break.