The Portland Trail Blazers took down the Dallas Mavericks for the second straight night 140-123 at Moda Center on Sunday night. The win brought their record to 21-22 on the season. The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who had 40 points for his fifth straight game with 30 or more. Behind Lillard, the trio of Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, and Jusuf Nurkic scored 20 points each.
The Mavericks dropped their second straight game, and fell to 0-5 without Luka Doncic on the season. They were led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 28, Jaden Hardy’s 25, and Christian Wood’s 23.
If you missed the game, catch up with our quarter-by-quarter recap. Once you’re done with that, here are some observations from tonight's game:
Dangerous Mavericks Squad
Yes, the Mavericks were 0-4 without Doncic (now 0-5), but nothing is more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose. Playing an opponent on the second night of a back to back with a major roster shake up in the middle is a tough task. There’s little time to prepare for a totally different lineup. Portland’s double-team-focused defense of last night had to change direction for this game. Adding back in Christian Wood was another wrench in the Blazers’ plans.
The Blazers never knew where the next shot would come from because a team playing without their star has to find other ways to score. Tonight that scoring came from rookie Jaden Hardy who had a career-high 25 points. The Blazers were able to shut down most other options for the Mavericks, and were awarded with a win for their troubles, but it looked dicey for a little while before the game got blown open in the fourth.
Welcome Back Nassir Little
Nassir Little played his first game since late November, and his presence was immediately felt in his return. He was full of energy and contributed every minute he was on the floor. He had one of his best scoring nights of the season with 10 points in 16 minutes, most of which came from behind the arc. (He made three three-pointers.)
Little looked like someone who was excited to be back on the court. He played solid defense throughout, and was rewarded with a steal and two blocks for his efforts on that end. He gave a boost to a Blazers bench unit that has needed energy recently.
Dame Time Continues
Damian Lillard added 40 points onto his ever-increasing career total tonight. That marks five straight games of at least 30 points for Lillard. Once again he did it on an efficient shooting performance, making 10 of his 17 shot attempts, going 4-9 from deep, hitting all 16 attempts from the foul line. He torched the Mavericks all night, regardless of who they threw at him in an attempt to slow him down.
The Blazers offense has looked great in these last two games against Dallas. Dame has been the driving force behind that growth.
Aggressive Josh Hart
Just a few days after Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups said Josh Hart needed to be more aggressive on offense, Hart had one of his highest-volume shooting nights of the season. He shot just 3-11 and finished with 8 points, but the way he looked on offense was a positive sign. Hart shot without hesitation. He dribbled with purpose and got to his spots on the floor. He kept the ball moving and made the right passes, even if they didn’t lead to assists. That’s not to mention the twelve rebounds and two blocks he added with his hustle play.
Overall it was one of Hart’s more impressive offensive showings, despite the poor shooting. If he continues to play with the confidence he has in the last few games, he will likely prove even more important going forward than he has so far.
Taking Care of the Ball
The Blazers won the turnover battle tonight, coughing up the ball only seven times in the contest. For a team that just came off a five-game losing streak where turnovers were one of their biggest issues, that is a breath of fresh air. Dallas had only 10 points off of turnovers on the night, and allowed 17 to Portland. The Blazers were able to play the game at their pace without worrying about making up points that were given away.
The Blazers were able to put away the Mavericks early in the fourth quarter with the starters still on the court. Prior to that, Dallas was able to stick around, causing disruption and making sure Portland’s starters couldn’t log long stretches together. Nurkic picked up two early fouls that limited him to just three minutes in the first quarter. He finished with four fouls on the night. Grant had five of his own, and saw stretches where he had to sit on the bench to avoid fouling out of the game. Once the Blazers starters were able to play together, they went on a huge run to pull away.
All five starters for Portland had at least a +19 plus minus rating, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers are back in action Tuesday, January 17th in Denver. The game between the Nuggets and the Blazers tips off at 6:00 p.m. PT.