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5 Observations from the Blazers’ Thrilling Win Over the Mavericks

Damian Lillard notched 34 points in the Trail Blazers’ tight 121-118 victory over the Mavericks.

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers secured their fourth consecutive win after outlasting the Mavericks 121-118 on Sunday. Led by Damian Lillard’s 34-point outing, the Blazers ended the four-game winning streak that the Mavs entered the contest with. Across from Lillard, Luka Doncic recorded an impressive night of his own. The 21-year-old star notched 44 points in the loss. In the end, it was Lillard’s late-game heroics that proved to be the difference.

Here are five observations from the Blazers’ victory over the Mavs.

Big Game Dame

Lillard’s run with this injury-depleted squad is truly special. Against the Mavericks, Lillard overcame two noteworthy obstacles: the Mavs’ high-powered offense and an officiating crew that appeared content with allowing a plethora of contact underneath. In the first quarter, he was met with little resistance as he weaved through the Mavs’ weak pick-and-roll defense. The help never arrived and if the screen was set, Dorian Finney-Smith struggled to close the gap once Lillard headed downhill.

As far as the officiating struggles went, Lillard’s frustration boiled over in the form of a technical in the first half. The Mavs consistently bodied Lillard at the rim and the whistles remained silent for long stretches.

In the second half, Lillard channeled his first-half frustrations into a masterful performance. He recorded 23 of his 34 points in the second half. In typical Lillard fashion, he saved his best for last. With under a minute to go and the game tied, Lillard pushed the Blazers back in front with terrific three-pointer.

Luka Shines Just as Bright

Luka Doncic entered tonight’s contest averaging 31.6 points per game in the month of February. Outside of his final miss, he did not disappoint on Sunday. Buoyed by his rare combination of old-school moves inside the arc and his accurate three-point shooting, Doncic hung 44 points on Portland’s defense—his third 40-point outing in five games.

The sky is the limit for the talented 21-year-old, but Sunday’s result belonged to Lillard.

Defensive Improvements

I know it seems odd to list this observation underneath a segment devoted to Doncic, but the Blazers’ defense played with energy throughout the night. Even when Doncic was racking up points, Robert Covington did his best to make things interesting. Outside of Doncic’s scoring, the Mavs were forced to make multiple passes before attempting a shot. From the opening tip, Portland’s forwards pursued rotations with purpose and crashed the glass in an attempt to limit second-chance points.

Yes, the Mavs still shot 49.4 percent from the field. But the degree of difficulty on those shots is noteworthy. Hopefully Sunday’s effort is a sign of things to come.

Signature Supporting Cast Moves

The offensive contributions from Enes Kanter, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. stood out in a big way tonight. In the Blazers’ 45-point third quarter (a feat that tied the franchise record), Kanter put together stretches of post play that made the entire game look like it was unfolding in a different decade. From decisive drop steps to quick turnarounds, Kanter feasted on the Mavs’ interior defense. The big fella finished the night with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Simons, who went 4-of-6 from distance for 12 points, is on the cusp of reaching a new level. He was decisive with his decisions and he did his part to keep the score level when Lillard rested. Thanks to his work off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot opportunities, Simons has the foundation to keep this streak running.

Trent’s reliable step-back three-point shooting came through once again. When the Mavs looked like they were going to put together a lead-changing run, it was Trent and Lillard that halted their advance. The former Duke standout connected on six of his 13 field goal attempts for 17 points.

Turnover Control

Due to a sloppy second quarter, the Blazers entered the locker room with nine turnovers—only two shy of their per game average this season. The third quarter played out in a much different fashion. Thanks to Lillard’s steady work at the point of attack, the Blazers committed just two turnovers in the frame. By controlling possessions and limiting mistakes, Portland built a 12-point lead in the third quarter—a margin that proved crucial once Doncic hit his stride down the stretch.

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The Blazers continue their current road trip on Tuesday with a visit to OKC to face the Thunder.