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Lillard Wins the Battle, Mavericks Win the War

Damian Lillard goes off for 47 points, but the Blazers fall to Luka Doncic and company to spoil Trevor Ariza’s first game in Portland.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On a night where two teams set an NBA record for most combined three-pointers made, the Portland Trail Blazers ended up on the losing end of their contest with the Dallas Mavericks, falling by a final score of 133-125. The Mavs scored 78 points in the first half alone, and all five starters finished in double-figures—led by 27 points from the recently-tabbed All-Star starter Luka Doncic.

Damian Lillard followed up his franchise-record 61-point performance on Monday with a game-high 47, but didn’t get enough help from Portland’s supporting cast as the Blazers dropped their third game out of their last four attempts.

First Quarter

The Mavs got off to a hot start—grabbing an early 19-11 lead by the seven-minute mark. Lillard kept the Blazers afloat, scoring nine of the team’s first 11 points while going 3-3 from downtown. Dallas then caught fire from distance, hitting nine of their first twelve three-point attempts to extend the lead to double digits. Portland was slowly able to chip away at the deficit, with the Mavericks leading 45-37 after the opening frame and both teams shooting over 65% from the field.

Second Quarter

With Lillard on the bench to begin the quarter, Portland’s offense ran through Carmelo Anthony in the post—with mixed results. Both teams remained hot from the perimeter, and Dallas’ lead remained intact. When the Blazers started to cool offensively, the Mavs took advantage of a porous defensive front, attacking the rim and embarking on a 13-4 run to go up 17 points at the five-minute mark.

Portland responded with a 7-0 run of their own to pull back within ten. The teams went back-and-forth over the final few minutes. A turnover-ridden final sixty seconds for the Blazers saw Dallas go on a 5-0 run and take a 78-63 into halftime. Doncic led all scorers with 20 points at the break, doing most of his damage at the rim.

Third Quarter

The Mavericks stated the second half on a 15-5 run as their lead ballooned to 25 points. However, Lillard keyed an 11-0 Blazers response, launching a pair of deep threes and forcing Dallas to call timeout at the six-minute mark. The run continued after the stoppage, and Portland pulled within single digits, as their defensive intensity picked up to correspond with the offensive explosion. Dorian Finney-Smith snapped the 17-0 run with a corner three at the three-minute mark to put the Mavs back up 11, and they led 103-90 entering the game’s final frame.

Fourth Quarter

Kristaps Porzingis came alive at the start of the fourth, scoring seven of Dallas’ first nine points in the period before being pulled at the 7:30 mark. Running a Porzingis-free offense didn’t slow down the Mavs; they extended their lead to 18 within another minute of action. The Blazers were never able to make any kind of extended run from there, and Dallas held on for the 133-125 victory.

Stars Shine

In a match-up of two of the game’s brightest stars, both Lillard and Doncic lived up to their top-billing status. With CJ McCollum missing his third straight game due to injury, Lillard almost single-handedly kept the Blazers within striking distance for much of the night. He was lights-out from distance—going 8-15. He also added six rebounds and eight assists to out-shine his wunderkind counterpart, who had an impressive performance in his own right.

Doncic shot just 2-11 from distance—a stark departure from the last meeting between the two teams—but was able to get to the rim with ease against a lackluster Portland defense. The All-Star went 9-14 on two-point field goal attempts, chipping in six rebounds, nine assists and two steals. Unlike Lillard, Doncic was able to rely on his teammates in the second half after a monster first.

First Impressions

While Lillard didn’t receive a lot of help, the recently-acquired Trevor Ariza stepped up in a big way in his Blazers debut. Defensively, he was tasked with trying to contain Doncic, a herculean task for even the league’s best stoppers. The 34-year-old struggled to stay in front of the MVP candidate at times. The Mavs were able to draw defensive switches on screens—leaving Portland’s slower big men on Doncic—to further exacerbate the matter.

Offensively, however, the veteran shined. He got out to a quick start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter alone, and finished with 21 on the night, second on the team behind only Lillard. Ariza went 7-11 from the field, including 4-6 from distance—a marked improvement from the production the team had become accustomed to with Kent Bazemore in the starting lineup. He was particularly lethal on catch-and-shoot attempts, something the Blazers have been lacking at the position since Rodney Hood’s injury.

Bench Battle

Portland’s bench struggles have been a well-documented issue this season. Thursday night was no exception. While Gary Trent Jr. tallied 20 points on 7-10 shooting (6-7 from three), nobody else in the second in the second unit got it going. Coach Terry Stotts utilized only three players off of the bench. Neither Nassir Little nor Wenyen Gabriel logged a single minute in the game.

Mario Hezonja went 0-4 from the field in 14 minutes and Caleb Swanigan took just two shot attempts. Swanigan was able to pull down five rebounds, playing with good energy, but was unable to keep up defensively with the quicker Mavericks. This particularly became an issue when he shared the court with Hassan Whiteside.

Meanwhile, Dallas got tremendous production from Maxi Kleber (15 points on 6-9 shooting), Jalen Brunson (17 points, 4-5 from three) and Delon Wright (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists) to convincingly win the battle of the benches.

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The Blazers are off until Sunday, when they host the Indiana Pacers at 6 p.m. PT.