Do not adjust your television sets, or look twice at the Boxscore. The Portland Trail Blazers got squashed by a phenomenal (even for them) 128-78 score against the Dallas Mavericks tonight. Luka Doncic scored 25 points in the third period alone, matching Portland’s production in the frame. Doncic would finish the game with 39. The Blazers were led by Drew Eubanks with 18. Doncic nearly outscored Portland’s entire starting lineup himself. They had 44 between them.
If you missed the action and really want to know, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, four trends told you everything you need to know about this game, and about Portland’s performances the last couple weeks in general.
Not taking care of the ball has become a Portland staple. Tonight they committed 17 turnovers for 24 Mavericks points. That makes winning a non-starter no matter how well they shoot.
Portland’s lineups have been on the wrong end of the talent gap since the February trade deadline. They made up for it with unselfish play and energy. Those characteristics gave the Blazers a fighting chance at getting high-percentage shots and getting up more attempts than the opponent.
Turnovers bleed away both of those opportunities. Not getting a shot up is a disaster when your defense can’t stop the other team. Under these conditions, after a couple of opponent buckets, the victory becomes like galaxies at the edge of the universe, receding from us faster than we can travel. No matter how much energy you put into the endeavor, you’re never going to catch up.
Many aspects of Portland’s futility can be expected. You know they’re going to be streaky on three-pointers, have trouble scoring, and struggle with taller opposing players.
But during the “fun” stretches of this late-season run, you could count on Portland giving extra effort on the glass. Limiting opponents to one shot keeps the scoreboard debt lower. It also makes a shaky defense look better.
The Blazers aren’t even close to rebounding supremacy nowadays. Opponents are feasting on second and even third shots. Dallas had 9 offensive rebounds tonight, which doesn’t look too bad until you consider the Blazers only had 24 defensive rebounds total.
After a certain point, it was like the Maverics didn’t care what kind of shot they got. They knew they’d get another, right away. This took the teeth out of Portland’s already gums-heavy defensive attack.
Some teams have shot well against the Blazers this season. Others have amassed points by shooting a ton of threes. Dallas did both. They went 20-45, 44.4%, from the arc. That’s 60 points on threes. Portland had only 34 points in the second half, total, and 78 for the game.
Dallas would have beaten the Blazers by 6 if you only counted their three-pointers and free throws. That’s how bad it was.
Damned if You Do...
As we mentioned in the quarter-by-quarter recap, Portland’s offense looked horrible tonight. They’re neck-deep in a Catch-22. They have almost no capacity to score one-on-one. Iso moves are the death of them. The clanks off the rim resounded through American Airlines Center whenever Portland attempted a jumper. That was better than the results when they tried contested inside shots, most of which never reached the rim.
BUT...the Blazers were foiled in their attempts to share the ball by a Mavs defense that was quick, aggressive, and always seemed to know what was coming. The turnovers we mentioned above plagued Portland whenever they tried to pass.
This game can be summed up as a choice between bad shots and no shots at all. That’s a difficult way to play, an impossible way to win.
The Blazers return home for their 82nd. and mercifully final. game of the season on Sunday at 6:30 PM vs. the Utah Jazz.