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Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Preview

Portland travels to the Big D for two games against the Mavericks.

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers opened 2024 and their seven game road trip with a thud, falling 109-88 to the Phoenix Suns. Things certainly aren’t going to get easier for Portland any time soon. Between tough opponents, a road trip schedule that has them going coast-to-coast while bouncing between south and north, and a long injury list, the odds of success seem very long indeed. At least they get to stay in the same city for a few days.

The Dallas Mavericks will be the host for the next two games, the first on Wednesday and the second on Friday. The Mavericks will be extra-motivated after having a nightmare in their last game on Monday against the Utah Jazz. This Dallas team shouldn’t be losing by 37 to anyone, but that is exactly what they did, falling 127-90. The Mavericks are a tough matchup for the Blazers in the best of times, but facing them after a humiliating loss ups the degree of difficulty substantially. This one has the potential to be uncomfortable.

Portland Trail Blazers (9-23) at Dallas Mavericks (19-15) - Wednesday, Jan. 3 - 5:30 p.m. Pacific

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Robert Williams III (out), Deandre Ayton (out), Anfernee Simons (questionable), Duop Reath (questionable), Toumani Camara (questionable), Moses Brown (questionable)

Mavericks injuries: Maxi Kleber (out), Dante Exum (doubtful)

SBNation Affiliate: Mavs Moneyball

Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions

icrra:

Assuming the Blazers get the full roster back soon, is it finally time to leave Scoot Henderson in the starting lineup? If not, when or why will they make that change?

I don’t have any inside information about what the Blazers will do, but perhaps I can add a perspective about why they might not want to make the change as soon as many might like. This year about about growth and development. That should be abundantly clear. What might not be so clear is that it’s not just rookies who have room to grow and develop. One thing I’ve belatedly recognized is that Simons’ best position is point guard. When he plays point he crushes it, and he’s still getting better at it. Scoot is visibly developing coming off the bench right now. The Blazers have all of the time in the world to see what Scoot can become. They don’t have as much time with Simons. If I’m the Blazers I start Simons at the 1 and have Scoot coming off the bench until Scoot forces the issue or the Blazers decide to move on from Simons. As long as Simons is playing at a very high level and Scoot is making progress there is no downside to this recent status quo.

OldSchoolBlazermaniac:

Would we really have this many regulars sitting so often if we weren’t a lottery team? Or is this just an incredibly unlucky year for the team’s health? A lot of “late scratches” has me wondering.

I have no inside information that I can document. However, what we seem to be seeing and hearing is that it’s a combination of both bad luck and of taking extra precautions that might not be taken if the Blazers were near the top of the standings. Clearly some of the injuries are documented, have an expected recovery time, and in fact the players in question have returned in that expected recovery range. I’ve seen no evidence that a healthy player has been scratched for tanking reasons or anything like that this season. Nevertheless, it certainly seems like the team is being extremely conservative when it comes to players making their return after injury. This isn’t keeping players sidelined to lose games but rather an effort to reduce the risk to near zero of re-aggravating an injury. When the importance of winning any particular game is so low it makes it a lot easier to take things slowly and be absolutely sure that an injury is in the rear view mirror.

What To Watch For

  • Luka Doncic. Doncic had an incredible December, averaging 37.5 points and 11.1 assists, shooting 48.8% from the field and 38% from deep. He had a bit of a clunker by his standards to open up 2024, scoring “only” 19 points and shooting 30% from the field in a disastrous loss to the Jazz. I wouldn’t recommend betting on Doncic having a second substandard game in a row.

What Others Are Saying

Getting inexplicably smoked by Utah to kick of 2024 had Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball searching for answers.

The simple explanation for that abomination of a basketball game is that throughout 82 games, it’s going to be like that sometimes. “That”, of course, is a near-total no-show embarrassment of a performance from the basketball players who earn a living playing the sport. Perhaps the team managed to find a good time on New Year’s Eve, despite it being a Sunday night in Salt Lake City. Perhaps they were just tired from a roach trip. Perhaps they underestimated their opponent.

Noah Weber of The Smoking Cuban writes that Dallas wants to upgrade the power forward spot currently held by former Blazers Derrick Jones Jr.

Although no names have been mentioned regarding Dallas’ trade targets, it is clear that they want to upgrade their frontcourt next to Dereck Lively II. Someone like Siakam would be an awesome addition and fit, but any upgrade at this position could thrust the Mavs into NBA Finals contention.

From out of the NBA to starter for the Mavericks. Doyle Rader of Forbes looks at a rejuvenated Dante Exum.

Exum earned his role as a starter with timely buckets, consistent effort on the defensive end and the ability to create for himself and teammates. Moving him into the starting five permanently gives Kidd and the Mavericks an additional ball handler on the floor, taking some of the pressure off Luka Doncic, who regularly sees double teams.