The Portland Trail Blazers left their defensive game plan and most of their self respect leaking on the floor on Wednesday night in a blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic scored 41 and Kyrie Irving 29 as the Mavericks dissected and demolished the visitors from Portland. Dallas had 78 points at the half and cruised on to a 126-97 victory.
If you missed the action and have a high tolerance for pain, you can read our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are other factors that played into the outcome.
Pace and Physicality
From the start of the contest. the Mavericks seemed intent on bullying the visiting Blazers. They played with a physicality that the Blazers just couldn’t match. It first showed up in tough battles for rebounds but eventually morphed into a Mavericks parade into the paint. All night Dallas absorbed contact, bounced off of Blazers, and continued onward to score at the rim. Portland had no such luck, crumpling and throwing up looping attempts every time their bodies hit an opponent.
Adding insult to injury. the bigger, more muscular-seeming Mavericks also outran Portland. Their older guards and forwards beat the Blazers down the court on multiple occasions, making one scratch the head and wonder what youth and athleticism are for.
Dallas ended up with a 52-36 advantage in paint points and a 28-14 edge on the break. No matter how well the Blazers shot (and they didn’t shoot well), they weren’t going to overcome that. If this effort doesn’t have Head Coach Chauncey Billups rapping classic DMX in the locker room, nothing will.
Solving the Lukic’s Cube
In Portland’s first two games against the Mavericks, they seemed committed to double-teaming the ball out of Luka Doncic’s hands. It didn’t exactly work, as Luka’s 40-point triple-double in their last meeting testifies.
Tonight they eased up on the tactic, preferring to let Toumani Camara try to take Doncic one-on-one, shading a defender nearby to help in case Doncic drove, and switching on screens to keep hands in his pocket.
This approach was no more effective than the other. Doncic had 30 of his 41 in the first half alone. But the other cost was Kyrie Irving’s production. Dallas’ “other” guard got to feast on Portland’s off-brand defenders. He started out with easy threes, then turned it into a buffet of strikes. Irving finished shooting 10-19, 4-8 from distance.
Simons Offense or Bust
Throughout the evening, the only Portland scorer the Mavericks respected was Anfernee Simons. With some reason too...he started off hot, getting the Blazers out of an early-game drought with deadeye shooting. But the Mavericks gave Simons the same treatment the Blazers once gave Luka, doubling him consistently. Not only did his scoring dry up, Portland’s did too. Once Simons was out of the loop, the Blazers got stuck with super-tough attempts from him, plus Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe shooting over the top. It didn’t work.
Respect to Simons for commanding attention. Woe unto Portland that he couldn’t break the defense himself and that nobody else came close to stepping up.
Simons ended up leading Portland’s starters with 15 points on 5-16 shooting. He shot 1-7 beyond the arc Sharpe scored 16 on a far more efficient 6-12, but he hit only 1-5 from distance himself. Henderson shot 2-11, scoring 7.
The Blazers tried to make do with a center tandem of Ibou Badji and Duop Reath tonight. Each had isolated moments of okayness, but overall it was a disaster. They had trouble keeping containment in the paint, let alone helping on the perimeter. Dallas bigs knocked them around. Every time Portland’s centers got within six feet of a driver, they fouled them. It was not a pretty sight.
And that was before Reath got tossed with 1:30 remaining in the second period for a Flagrant 2 off of a seemingly not-that-intentional elbow swing on a turn-around that connected with the nose of Josh Green.
The centers ended up with 2 points and 6 rebounds combined tonight in 21 total minutes of play.
Jabari Walker started the second half in a desperate attempt to made something work. He finished with 4 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes before leaving the game with a knee injury.
The first half of this game was marred by a never-ending buffet of whistles. Some of them came from Portland being out of position, but frankly some of them I just didn’t understand. Any breath of a whisper of a baby doe’s eyelash lilting near a Mavericks player drew a foul. It ended up sustaining Dallas’ attack and shredding apart the remnants of Portland’s pretense at defense.
Dallas ended up shooting 41 free throws for the game. 25 of those came in the first two quarters.
For better or worse, the Blazers draw the Mavericks again on Friday night, again at 5:30 PM, Pacific.