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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview

The Blazers look to bounce back after some rest.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (13-19) vs. Dallas Mavericks (15-17)

The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Dallas Mavericks at home for the first game of a two game home stand. The Blazers come into this contest six days after their loss to the Pelicans which snapped a two game win streak. The Mavericks are coming off of two straight losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.

Monday, December 27 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out), Cody Zeller (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Robert Covington (out), Ben McLemore (out), Dennis Smith Jr. (out), Trendon Watford (out), Keljin Blevins (out), Damian Lillard (questionable)
Mavericks injuries: Luka Doncic (out), Tim Hardaway (out), Maxi Kleber (out), Trey Burke (out), Reggie Bullock (out), Josh Green (out), Willie Cauley-Stein (out), JaQuori McLaughlin (out)

SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball

What To Watch For

  • Who’s actually playing? The two teams have sixteen total players listed as out, and a possibility for a seventeenth with Lillard listed as questionable. This could see some unconventional lineups see significant time together. The Blazers have already picked up three players on ten-day contracts in Jarron Cumberland, Cameron McGriff, and Brandon Williams. The Mavericks in their last three games have started the trio of Sterling Brown, Jalen Brunson, and Frank Ntilikina who only started ten combined games, all from Brunson, before this stretch of starts.
  • Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little. Both Portland youngsters have been enjoying career highs pretty much across the board. If Lillard doesn’t play then both will most likely get the start. Both will play major parts in the offense of the Blazers in this contest, whether or not they start. Some unconventional lineups could feature parts of the two young players’ games that have previously not been able to be featured in such a prominent role.
  • Jalen Brunson. Brunson has been on a tear since he has been thrust into a starting role. Over his last seven games, Brunson has averaged 21.1 points per game to go along with 7.3 assists. The lack of other options has given Brunson the ability to showcase every aspect of his game. The Blazers will have to contain the machine that Brunson has become. If the Blazers can force the Mavericks to have to rely on players not normally in their rotation, they could force them out of their comfort zone on offense.

What Others Are Saying

Matthew T Phillips of Mavs Moneyball talked about the scoring coming from typical secondary options in the Mavs offense.

With the team lacking essentially everyone else who should be tasked with scoring in an NBA game, both Brunson and Porzingis needed to have big games. 27 points is fine but given the number of touches they were given and the urgency they should have felt given the lack of surrounding talent it simply wasn’t enough. Still, finding a way to score despite not having their best games can be a positive. Porzingis especially, as he was 11-of-13 from the free throw line showing a heightened level of aggressiveness (and a very active whistle on both sides).

Mavs Moneyball’s Josh Bowe talks about the “Replacement Mavericks” and how their energy on the court.

So while these replacement Mavericks aren’t more talented, there is something fun about seeing new players on the roster for the first time in four years. They’re playing very hard, hustling to earn a more permanent job. The team even feels more athletic, which is also another fun side effect. The expectations are also out the window — instead of feeling some internal existential crisis every time Hardaway or Porzingis miss a three pointer off a beautiful Doncic pass, it’s much easier to just live in the moment and enjoy this ragtag group coming together and putting up some impressive efforts with basically zero preparation. The Bucks had to seriously earn this win and this group handled a Timberwolves team that still had Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell. What should have been an 0-2 stretch with two ugly losses has somehow turned into 1-1 with two tremendously hard-played games.