The Portland Trail Blazers faced the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night without having to worry about perpetual 40-point scorer Luka Doncic. After broiling the Blazers with 41 on Wednesday night, Doncic sat in street clothes for this game.
It hardly mattered, as Dallas outworked, outshot, and outran the Blazers for a 139-103 victory. Kyrie Irving stepped in with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists to lead the Mavericks. Jerami Grant led the Blazers with 18.
The loss marks Portland’s fourth straight loss this year to Dallas, a season sweep. It was an odd outing, highlighted by an unusual moment of coaching pique. Below you can read how it went, but first...
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The Blazers got off to a better start tonight than they did on Wednesday, with Toumani Camara and Duop Reath hitting threes around a pair of Scoot Henderson scoops. Their pick-heavy offense appeared to stymie a depleted Dallas “D”, But Portland’s defense didn’t look much better. They allowed repeated shots at the rim. Dallas missed a couple, but that was more luck than anything.
Portland making their first three triples might have been fortuitous, but they also needed those points to keep up with Dallas’ production. Despite hitting almost all their shots, the Blazers trailed 17-15 with 7:15 remaining.
At that point, Kyrie Irving threw it into fourth gear, scoring his 12th point of the period on a near-unstoppable pull-up from mid-range. Portland called timeout and commenced group intercessory prayer in the huddle.
Non-Kyrie-Irving Mavericks missed their team’s next couple shots. They were open but couldn’t hit. The Blazers also missed more heavily covered attempts. The result looked the same on the scoreboard—not many points either way—but there was no doubt whose defense was working better. (Hint: not Portland’s.)
What the halfcourt couldn’t yield, transition did. The Blazers coughed up the ball for a couple layups, allowing Dallas to extend their lead towards 10. They reached that margin with 2:30 left as Derrick Jones, Jr. stole an errant pass for a breakaway dunk. They kept the edge for the remainder of the period.
Dallas led 38-26 after one.
Kyrie Irving hit another three to start the second, but Toumani Camara and Anfernee Simons struck back in kind, bringing the margin back down to 7 with 9:00 left. A possession and a half later, Duop Reath hit a hook to cut it to 4, 41-37. What the starters couldn’t accomplish for Portland, the second unit managed.
The teams spent the next couple minutes turning over the ball, either overtly or via offensive fouls. The slowed pace bought more quality minutes for the Blazers to catch up. Head Coach Chauncey Billups, seeming to sense the opportunity, checked starters back in fairly quickly. It didn’t stem the turnovers or jump start the scoring, though.
Dallas wasn’t quiet for long, especially not with the shots the Blazers were allowing them. A lane shot and a three pretty much exceeded all the scoring both teams had accomplished over the last three minutes, pushing the lead back over 10 again. A Seth Curry layup off a Jerami Grant miss left the scoreboard at 52-41 with 4:35 remaining.
To this point, Anfernee Simons had been all but silent. Jerami Grant was scoring regularly—the took over at the end of the second—but having to bump and bang for every isolated attept.. The Mavs left Duop Reath open and he took plenty of shots, for better or worse. Grant led the Blazers at the half with 18, courtesy of that late-quarter barrage Reath had a dozen himself. But containing Portland’s other scorers was more than enough for the Mavericks to maintain their 63-53 lead into intermission.
Dallas tried to run away with it at the start of the third. A couple of makes at the rim and a corner three gave them velocity. Fortunately for Portland, they couldn’t hit the remainder of their three-point attempts, else they would have been long gone. Unfortunately, the Blazers couldn’t hit theirs either. And Portland seemed intent on getting the scoreboard back with the long ball. A 0-4 start left the Blazers vulnerable to the mini Dallas run. The Blazers called an early timeout with 9:43 remaining, down 16, 69-53.
Nothing improved after that huddle. When the deficit hit 20 with 7:45 left, Billups pulled the ENTIRE starting lineup save Anfernee Simons, who was shooting free throws at the time. Simons would come out at the next stoppage. Apparently, the coach had had enough.
The result was two straight easy buckets for Dallas and another Blazers timeout. After that came a litany of turnovers and bungled plays from Portland. Just after the 4:00 mark, Dallas had the lead to 34.
When the horn sounded at the end of the period—a mercy, all things considered—the Blazers had endured a trip down the wrong end of a 40-16 quarter. At that point they trailed 102-69. That’s right, Portland had finally caught up to the score the Mavericks had approximately 10 minutes prior.
Put another way, the Blazers technically could have made up their halftime deficit in the third period. Given their offensive production, they just had to hold Dallas to an NBA record zero points in order to manage it.
The fourth quarter started sloppy and choppy. That favored the Blazers, who hit a couple shots for a nice little run. Perspective: it got them within 30.
The upside, if there can be one in a game like this, is that the fourth period provided a nice chance for rookies and G League Blazers to get some run. Rayan Rupert played big minutes. Scoot Henderson didn’t look bad. There you go, small positives out of a big THUD.
Stay tuned for extended analysis coming soon!
The Blazers get out of Dallas now, heading to Brooklyn to face the Nets on Sunday with a 12:00 noon, Pacific start.