The Portland Trail Blazers hoped to avenge their blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night as the two teams faced each other once again this evening. Dallas came into the game without All-Star point guard Luka Doncic. Portland came into the game with their own list of injuries, plus all the energy of a Twinkie-smoking walrus. The net result was a 139-103 Dallas victory.
If the Blazers hoped for some rendition of, “From hell’s heart I spit at thee,” they ended up with boogers down their waistcoat instead.
Jerami Grant led Portland with 18 points. They shot 41.1% from the floor, 32.5% from the three-point arc. Dallas replied with 58.3% overall shooting, 44.7% from distance.
If you missed the action, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are other observations from the game.
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Can’t Guard Guards
Doncic not playing in this one didn’t hurt the Mavericks much, as the Blazers showed once again that they can’t defend any guard in a Dallas uniform. As would be expected, the Mavericks’ attack started with Kyrie Irving. He shot 10-18 from the field for a game high 24 points. But Tim Hardaway Jr. (8-14, 19 points), Doncic’s substitute Jaden Hardy (8-14, 19 points), A.J. Lawson (4-8, 14 points), Brandon Williams (2-3, 7 points in 9 minutes) and former Blazer Seth Curry (4-9, 9 points) also did damage. Guard penetration was real trouble, but not any more so than the three-point shooting. The accuracy of Dallas’ guards was incredible. They slammed the door on the game before the Blazers had much of a chance.
Part of that backcourt scoring came from Dallas’ full court attack. For the second straight game they feasted in transition against the helpless Blazers. Turnovers contributed; Portland committed 19. But the Mavericks also ran off of Portland misses, often putting two players down the floor while the Blazers mustered one, at best.
Dallas scored 36 on the break tonight. There’s no way to beat, or even keep up with, an NBA team when you cede that many easy buckets.
This wasn’t a footspeed issue. Some of it might have been attention, but Portland’s emphasis on offensive rebounds once again worked to their detriment. Watching the point guard flail helplessly as the only defender back on 2-on-1 fast breaks got old, quickly.
You can tell the Blazers don’t have any kind of regular crew in the big man rotation. Their paint defense was, charitably, atrocious. Dallas scored 64 in the lane. Every time their feet touched paint, they had at least two options to progress the play. The lane might as well have been the Old Country Buffet for them. Portland was forced to compensate by sending everyone down low after drivers. That’s when the Mavericks’ three-point shooting went from 33% to 45%. Ugh.
One Bad Quarter
The Blazers are in the habit of starting games poorly. ceding opponents huge leads which, then spending the rest of the night trying to dig out. After repeated pleas, points of emphasis, and public complaints from Head Coach Chauncey Billups, Portland managed to avoid their “one bad quarter” habits tonight.
They did it by putting up two.
The Blazers allowed Dallas to get out to a 36-28 lead after 12 minutes of play. Trailing by 16 at the half, they gave up a 40-16 third period which turned a near-blowout into a full-on rout.
Watching the coaching staff trying to deal with the problem was like watching someone play Whac-a-Mole, only to have the furry critters leap out of the machine and eat them whole.
Amid this extended, multifaceted collapse, Chauncey Billups finally appeared to snap. When Portland turned that 16-point halftime deficit into 20 by the 7:45 mark in the third period, Billups pulled his entire starting lineup as one. Anfernee Simons was the only exception, as he was shooting free throws at the time. He came out a possession later.
It was a dramatic, and ultimately ineffective, move, as Dallas expanded the lead to 30 soon after. But it was a rare display of pique from a coach who’s tried to keep calm and at least semi-positive through a difficult season.
Centers Backwards-R Us
The Blazers continued their Center by Committee campaign tonight as Deandre Ayton remained on the injured list. Duop Reath scored 16 and provided a willing outlet for offense when Dallas chose to leave him lightly guarded. Ibou Badji was not very effective on defense, particularly when pulled to the perimeter. He had 2 rebounds and 0 points in 18 minutes of play.
The Blazers get out of Dallas now, heading to Brooklyn to face the Nets on Sunday with a 12:00 noon, Pacific start.