Portland Trail Blazers (16-12) vs. Dallas Mavericks (14-14)
The Portland Trail Blazers have won three in a row and are looking to equal their longest winning streak of year with a win in Dallas. This is one of those games that might be hard to keep in proper perspective. It’s an 82 game season and the result this one will largely be forgotten in a few months. Yet if the Blazers win it will be hard for folks to not overreact. With some very winnable games coming up the Blazers are poised to make a run in the standings. A win against a decent Dallas team on the road could light the fuse. On the other hand, a loss might cool some jets significantly.
The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand are asking a lot of questions. What’s missing? Who can they trade for? Was last year’s playoff team a fluke? Luka Doncic is playing at a very high level but the team isn’t. They haven’t given up though, it’s just some nights they seem to have it and other nights they don’t. It feels like the Blazers are a better team right now, but it was Dallas who came out on top the last time these two teams met in Dallas last month by a score of 117-112.
Trail Blazers vs. Mavericks - Friday, December 16 - 5:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Gary Payton II (out), Nassir Little (out), Drew Eubanks (probable)
Mavericks injuries: Maxi Kleber (out), Josh Green (out), Davis Bertans (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball
- Luka Doncic. By most measures Luka is having a fantastic season. Currently second in the NBA in scoring at 33 point per game, he’s also in elite company with assists at 8.7 per game, good for fourth in the league. He’s going to have an impact on the game. That doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily going to beat you single-handedly. He’s not an elite three point shooter and he’s below average from the free throw line. Dare him to shot from deep and foul him to prevent easy baskets and you’ll make him earn everything he gets and give your team a fighting chance.
- The battle of the charity stripe. Both teams are elite at drawing fouls. Dallas is second in the NBA at 22.5 fouls drawn per game, while the Blazers are tied for fourth at 21.7. On average Portland commits just under 1 fewer foul per game. Even better, the Blazers shoot a better percentage from the free throw line, 77.6% vs. 72.7%. Foul shots could well be the difference in this game.
- Dallas may live or die by the three. Luka Doncic is a constant. Mavericks’ three point shooting is not. They take a lot of them: 41 per game compared to the Blazers 32.8. Shocking I know, but when Dallas makes them they tend to win. Over their last seven games, when Dallas shot over 35% from deep they won. When they didn’t, they lost. Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood are both shooting over 40% for the season. It’s imperative that they get run off the three point arc.
What Others Are Saying
With Dallas currently not looking like a team that can go deep in the playoffs, Chinmay Vaidya of Draftkings Nation looks at some trade possibilities.
Dallas has tried to pair a second star with Doncic and it didn’t go well. Kristaps Porzingis was supposedly the missing piece but that experiment flamed out. Now, the Mavericks are left with Doncic and a revolving door of wing players. That works well in the regular season when those wing players are hitting their shots but it doesn’t do much in the playoffs. Here’s what the Mavericks can realistically offer in trades.
Tim Cato of the Athletic (subscription required) examines the indifferent start to the season for Dallas.
But 28 games into this season, a proper reckoning of this team’s present and future feels due. Dallas was 16-18 at one point last season, but this year’s slow start feels different for two enormous reasons: 1) the absence of Jalen Brunson and 2) the presence of second-half Luka Dončić. That the Mavericks are struggling like this even while Dončić isn’t — something unrecognizable to the past couple of years — makes this start seem so much more dismal than the past two years. And while the clock to build a title contender around Dončić began the moment he was drafted, the ticks and tocks of the coming seasons prior to his potential free agency feel louder than ever.
Michael Mulford of Fan Nation says that Dallas might be looking to ship JaVale McGee.
Well, the Mavericks are 24 games into the season, and McGee has been hard pressed to find minutes while falling out of the rotation. His demotion was mainly due to his ineffectiveness on the glass and defending the rim — the main areas the Mavs brought him aboard to help with.