Featuring All-Stars Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic, tonight’s matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks was expected to light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree on the Fourth of July. It lived up to its billing, too. The teams combined for 240 points, 50% shooting from the floor, and 45% shooting from the arc. When it was all said and done, though, neither Lillard nor Doncic would become the player of the game. A resurgent CJ McCollum gave Portland 32 points, including 7-13 shooting from the arc, to give his team a 125-119 victory.
Doncic put up 38 points for the Mavericks in the loss, Lillard 31. Carmelo Anthony gave Portland 18 points off the bench.
The opening of this supposedly high-scoring matchup was...not so high scoring. Both teams had trouble connecting, as each did a good job on the opponent’s ultra-octane point guard. Luka Doncic scored, but only on deep threes. Lillard had a couple shots go in, but CJ McCollum did actual damage, hitting from mid-range and then from three. After that, Dallas couldn’t watch Dame and he started stroking more. And after that, all heck broke loose. Lillard started roasting the Mavs from distance as the forwards hit wide-open shots. The increased offensive tempo aided Dallas’ scoring too, but not as much as Portland’s. The second unit didn’t fare as well, however. They couldn’t close out at the arc as the Mavericks got out their long-distance blowtorches. Dallas hit 7-11 threes in the first, Portland 8-12. The Blazers led 37-33 after one.
McCollum continued on fire as the second began, stroking a pair of threes, signaling that it was his night, all night. Portland’s defense continued to play permissively, though. Doncic sliced through the lane while the Mavericks support staff mopped up jumpers. Does your offense look incredible but you’re not sure it matters? That’s so Portland.
The Mavs started to lose their composure mid-quarter, earning a pair of technical fouls. Enes Kanter added to their woes, scoring inside against almost no resistance. But Dallas’ threes continued to fall, and as long as that happened, they could stay in the game. The Mavericks had no inside game towards the end of the period, though. Their threes kept them close, but without Doncic ruining the Blazers in the paint, jumpers couldn’t put them ahead. Portland led 64-60 at the half.
Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony brought their A-games to the third period, while McCollum continued to hum. Portland looked good on the offensive end...everything advertised or imagined when this team was put together. But Holy Bacon Bits, did Dallas have a fun time in the paint on the other end. 8 minutes into the period, the Mavs had a half-dozen makes in the lane with zero misses. They were also shooting 50% from the arc at that point. Again, the cumulative effect was like eating tons of ice cream; it tastes so good, but you know this is gonna be bad for you at some point. That point came in the final three minutes of the period, when the Mavs rolled off 10 points to take the lead in what had been a virtually-tied game. Anthony came to the rescue for Portland with a buzzer-beating three, but that still left the Blazers down 98-93 heading into the fourth.
The opening minutes of the fourth went back and forth. Both teams kept most of their prime players in, Dallas sensing that victory would be easier if it were decided early, Portland determined not to let it happen. That did not include Lillard, who had experienced a scary moment with three minutes left in the third, when Josh Richardson landed on his knee when Lillard was on the floor. Gary Trent, Jr. made up for Lillard’s absence, coming out of hibernation to hit a three and a mid-range jumper, then McCollum buried one from deep. Trey Burke hit a couple on the other end to answer. It was obvious that furious scoring would continue through the final buzzer.
Blazers fans breathed a twin sigh of relief mid-quarter as McCollum hit another three and Lillard checked back in the game, apparently ok. The Dallas lead remained stubborn, though, floating between 4-6 points as the clock continued to dwindle. Then Lillard hit Rodney Hood for a three with 4:26 left to cut the lead to one. There would be no escape from an exciting ending.
But then a funny thing happened. The Blazers started to defend. A Lillard steal led to an Anthony dunk. Then Trent, Jr. blocked a Doncic jumper, followed by a Lillard score. The lead was Portland’s again. The Mavericks were on their way to a sub-40% shooting quarter. Meanwhile Lillard kept on scoring. Portland led by 3 as the 2:00 mark passed. Dallas kept trying threes, but couldn’t hit them. Then McCollum capped his night with a three with 1:17 remaining. Portland led by 6 and the Mavericks were in trouble. Trouble became doom as Robert Covington buried a three from the corner off of an offensive rebound, putting Portland up 7 with 34 seconds left. The Blazers looked happy. More importantly, they looked good when it counted.
The victory was Head Coach Terry Stotts’ 500th in the NBA.
The Blazers will face these same Mavericks on Sunday night at 7:00 PM, Pacific.