The Trail Blazers two-game winning streak came to end after the Mavericks escaped Friday night with a 120-112 victory. Following CJ McCollum’s ankle injury that forced him to exit in the second quarter, Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony carried the scoring load for Portland. Not far behind that duo was Hassan Whiteside. The 7-foot center recorded an impressive double-double and added five blocks. For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 13 of Dallas’ 20 three-pointers.
In a common theme from this year, we anxiously await injury news. Until then, here is a second look at Friday’s result.
The Trail Blazers came out firing—leading to an early 12-3 lead. Defensively, Kent Bazemore started the night by harassing Luka Doncic end-to-end. Once he crossed halfcout, the Blazers weren’t shy about sending extra attention towards Doncic. Unfortunately, that aggressive approach led to foul trouble. After just four minutes, Mario Hezonja was summoned off the bench to replace foul-riddled Bazemore. Feasting off the reduced pressure, Doncic found his rhythm on the perimeter. Moving off screens and firing away, Doncic notched 14 points in the quarter.
The Blazers kept pace thanks to crisp passing and decisive play from Lillard. Both teams torched the nets from distance in the opening frame, but it was the Mavericks that closed the quarter with a slim 38-37 lead.
With Doncic on the bench, reserve guard Jalen Brunson picked up where the Mavs’ star left off. Brunson bulldozed his way to the rim, found teammates after the defense collapsed, and hit floaters over Portland’s post defenders. Brunson’s fast start to the quarter compounded the Blazers’ scoring trouble. After a free-flowing first quarter, Portland mustered just three points through the first five minutes.
The Blazers’ problems extended beyond cold shooting after CJ McCollum exited with an ankle injury at the eight-minute mark. With McCollum in the locker room, Lillard cut into the Mavs lead with vigor. Lillard recorded 11 points in the frame, but a wild final two minutes of action allowed Dallas to exit the first half with a 72-63 lead.
Both teams started the second half sluggish. Turnovers and contested shots plagued each team, leading to a single combined point through the first two minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. finally broke the deadlock. The crafty wing routinely found soft spots in Portland’s defense and posted 15 points in the quarter.
For the Blazers, they managed to climb out of a 17-point hole in the quarter to cut it to single digits. Stagnate for long periods, Portland’s offense relied on winning one-on-one matchups in the post. The Mavs finished the third quarter with a 98-89 lead.
The Blazers continued to close the gap on the Mavericks to start the fourth quarter. With Doncic on the bench, Portland’s defense did just enough to keep the momentum rolling. Offensively, the Blazers relied on Lillard-Whiteside pick and rolls to keep the Mavericks off balance. Once Whiteside started clicking, the Mavs quickly returned to a five-out look on offense, forcing the big fella into awkward spots.
Led by a combined effort, the Blazers pulled within two possessions for the majority of the final five minutes of the quarter. Unfortunately, they could not string together enough stops to regain the lead. Despite a spirited effort, Doncic’s deep three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining pushed the contest out of reach. The Mavericks escaped Friday’s game with a 120-112 victory.
- The three-point line posed issues for the Blazers on both ends of the court. After a promising 5-of-10 start from distance, Portland went 4-of-20 in the final three quarters. On the other end, the Mavs applied pressure with persistent spacing. When space wasn’t available off passes, the Mavericks punished opponents that were too often stuck going over the top of screens. Dallas finished the night with 20 three-points and Doncic reached a new single-game career-high with eight triples of his own.
- If the Blazers secure a postseason spot, the Mavericks provided a preview of the cumbersome matchups that lie ahead. Whiteside finished with 21 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks. But when Dallas wanted to take the big fella out of his comfort zone—they did. Maxi Kleber migrated to the perimeter, leaving Whiteside on an island, resulting in open shots from beyond the arc. If Kristaps Porzingis was in the fold, the effectiveness of that style would have been even more noticeable.
- Outside of relying on Lillard, the Blazers’ most reliable play was looking for Melo and Whiteside near the paint. Both frontcourt players had success exploiting mismatches inside the arc.
- Foul trouble tossed a wrench in Portland’s plans. It appeared that the Blazers were set to blitz Doncic all night. Two quick fouls on Bazemore altered that course after just four minutes.
- Once again, all eyes are on the injury report. McCollum’s ankle injury has the potential to leave Lillard as the last starter standing from the Western Conference Finals run. Nostalgia aside, the Blazers are dangerously thin when it comes to ball handlers.
The Blazers complete their current road trip against the Thunder on Saturday.