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Jerami Grant Returns, But Luka Doncic Blitzes Blazers

Who has a solution for Luka? Not Portland.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers welcomed power forward Jerami Grant back into the starting lineup as they faced the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. The result was one of their more impressive offensive outputs of the night. Grant scored 27 and Anfernee Simons a team-high 33. Portland scored 120 points altogether. But they couldn’t stop Dallas from scoring 131 in return pasting a fairly routine loss on the helpless Blazers.

Luka Doncic registered a triple double with 40 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Dante Exum and Tim Hardaway, Jr. proved just as deadly in their own ways, putting up 18 and 25 respectively. They made sure the Blazers couldn’t gain ground even when Doncic sat.

Portland ended up shooting 50.0% from the field in the loss. The shot only 21.9% from the oh-so-fickle three-point arc, though.

Here’s how the game went.

First Quarter

Jerami Grant wasted no time making his presence known, hitting a three on his way to scoring 7 of Portland’s first 11 points. Deandre Ayton had the other 6, as the Blazers took advantage of their restored frontcourt. As you might expect, given the big man scoring, the Blazers were moving the ball crisply. Dallas’ defense was nowhere to be seen.

The Mavericks kept pace on the other end, though. In a sense, they were getting lucky. The Blazers did a good job of keeping them to mid-range and farther shots. Those fell at a greater-than-normal rate, a cruel joke for Portland, as they finally appeared to be putting a complete game together.

At the halfway mark of the period, the Blazers were shooting 9-12 (75%), the Mavericks only 5-23 (42%), but Portland led only 20-16.

The Blazers picked up the tempo after the mid-quarter timeout. They forced turnovers and converted, scoring 7 points in a single minute. Dallas called a panic timeout after.

Portland’s bench unit stumbled just a tad when they took the floor, fully assembled for the first time in weeks. They gave up a couple of easy buckets to Dallas. After a brief surge due to even more excellent passing, they settled into a small net minus, in part spurred by Dallas leaving Luka Doncic on the floor through the end of the first.

When the first period horn ended, Doncic had an obnoxious 22 of Dallas’ 36 points. But Grant had 11 and Anfernee Simons 10, and the Blazers led 39-36 after one.

Second Quarter

Tim Hardaway Jr. continued a strong first-quarter run by canning two straight threes at the opening of the second, giving the Mavericks the lead. When Seth Curry hit a third just seconds later, Head Coach Chauncey Billups called an, “Uh oh!” timeout.

Portland’s offense started becoming more labored at the same time. The excellent passing from earlier all but disappeared, as they devolved into covered, isolation looks. The more they missed, the more Dallas pushed their own offense.

If the Blazers had a saving grace, it came via the defense of Matisse Thybulle. He was a one-man wrecking machine, disrupting Dallas sets like Captain Kirk against a troublesome computer. Thybulle keyed run-outs for badly-needed cheap offense.

Even so, the bell was tolling for the Blazers as the Mavericks extended their lead even with Doncic on the bench. Dallas never stopped hitting threes. When they also began matching Portland’s paint scoring, things got ouchy. The Blazers missing every three they threw up didn’t help.

The Mavericks built a 10-11 point led and kept it most of the quarter, even when Portland’s starters checked back in.

Jerami Grant kept the Blazers afloat as the minutes dwindled towards halftime, but even with him making Mavericks defenders into so many traffic cones, Portland couldn’t generate enough offense to keep up with the visitors. Dallas led 74-63 at the half.

Third Quarter

Luke Doncic hit a foul-line jumper on the opening possession of the third period. That prompted Coach Billups to call a timeout exactly 18 seconds after leaving the halftime locker room. It was a stark message, an attempt at a wake-up call.

On offense, the trumpet sound got results. Anfernee Simons made a concerted effort to get in the lane. Portland scored repeatedly in the lane. They even picked up some fouls.

But the defense never quite clicked. Portland gave up shots down the middle, similar to the ones that Coach Billups had protested at the outset. They blitzed the ball out of Doncic’s hands as much as possible, but they couldn’t recover to other drivers or shooters fast enough. They lost control of the lane on that end even as they gained it on their own.

Simons’ personal scoring power brought the Blazers from double-digits down to within 9 with 5:46 remaining, but the defense just wasn’t stepping up enough to make the inroads stick. Scoot Henderson rammed the ball down the heart of the lane. Dallas led by double digits. Thybulle hit a deep shot. Dallas led by double digits. It seemed like the more highlights the Blazers generated, the bigger the gap got between them and the leaders.

When the smoke cleared, Henderson had 9 in the period but Dallas led 110-99 heading into the fourth quarter. Portland was shooting 53% at that point, but still trailed by 11.

Fourth Quarter

Scoot Henderson took the lane as his personal property at the start of the fourth, bringing the Blazers back within single digits once again. But Dante Exum and Tim Hardaway, Jr. took over where Doncic left off, pounding the Blazers inside and out to keep the scoring flowing on Dallas’ side of the floor. Once again, it was one step forward, one and a half back on the scoreboard for Portland. A 7-point lead at the 9:45 mark became 13 again by Portland’s timeout with 6:45 left.

Simons and Grant scored after the timeout, bringing the lead down to 8 once more as the clock passed 5:00. Within 90 seconds, Luka had it back to double digits. Ever tried to run up a sand dune in Florence? The Blazers were doing it in sweatsocks.

Portland got it down to 9 one more time in the final three minutes, but a Derrick Jones, Jr. alley-oop with 2:00 left pushed it back to 11, in effect ending the game.

Up Next

Stay tuned for extended analysis coming soon!

Boxscore

The Blazers welcome the Golden State Warriors on a back-to-back, Sunday night starting at 6:00 PM, Pacific.