Two of LaMarcus Aldridge's teammates to be in the upcoming All-Star Game. Credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Game 28 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks

Blazers: 15-12 (2nd Northwest Division)

Mavericks: 16-11 (2nd Southwest Division)

Game Details: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX. 5:30 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazers Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1’’, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5’’, Marquette), SF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7’’, Alabama), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11’’, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11’’, Massachusetts)

Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup: PG Jason Kidd (#2, 6’4”, California), SG Vince Carter (#25, 6’6”, North Carolina), SF Shawn Marion (#0, 6’7”, UNLV), PF Dirk Nowitzki (#41, 7′, Wurzburg, Germany), C Brandon Haywood (#33, 7′, North Carolina)

I remember the first home game of the 09-10 season. Portland faced off against the Houston Rockets, the very same Houston Rockets that dashed the dreams of one of the best Blazer teams in nearly a decade. The Brandon Roy-led Blazers who won an astounding 54 games, grabbed home court in the first round of the Playoffs, and had the Rose City thinking Conference Finals, Championships, retribution for the years of underachievement following back-to-back exits in the Conference Finals in 98-99, 99-00.

Beating Houston to start the season didn’t take the sting out of losing Game 1 of Blazers/Rockets 08-09 (and let’s be honest that single game was all it took), but it felt good. Luckily for Portland, and for Portland’s fans, we weren’t subjected to seven straight games against the Dallas Mavericks (six in the Playoffs, one to start the next campaign). That kind of overexposure can be a bit hard to handle.

Unluckily for Portland, they find themselves once again in a position to make a move in the standings, establish a bit of a road rhythm, and absolve themselves of losing two straight at home, and they have the unenviable task of having to face Dallas in Dallas. The Mavs are a team Portland has never beaten easily; Dallas has never been a place the Blazers play very well. Hopefully Saturday night that will change. These Blazers need a road win in the worst way. And they need to get it now.

Why now? Because this season is nuts, and its going to get more nuts as the days fly by. Portland came into Friday’s game against the Hornets in NOLA in the ninth position in the Western Conference, one place out of the Playoffs. Following a hard-fought win, in which the Blazers did all they could to not win before actually winning, Portland vaulted Denver and Utah–the Nuggets have been in a tailspin since losing Danilo Gallinari and Utah has dropped three straight–and are for the first time in awhile not fourth in the Northwest Division and are sixth in the West. One win; a jump of four places.

It’s been like that all season. It will continue to be like that until this thing is over. The Blazers can do themselves a service by making the move from around six to around four in the West, that way when they lose, which is inevitable, and they fall four spots it will be from four to seven not six to out.

This Maverick squad isn’t quite the same Mavs squad that added another chapter to the LeBron is not Micheal book, but they’re also not the same group that was slow to get rolling after the lockout, losing its first three to start its championship defense. Dallas is still Dallas. They can still win.

The Blazers probably shouldn’t look to either of their Playoff victories over the Mavericks–for obvious reasons those game scripts are unrepeatable–but there is a game that might just be worth looking back on to get some sense of how to win in the big D. On Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 LaMarcus Aldridge set a then career-high of 35 points in Dallas in a valiant 103-98 loss. That game introduced LA as the leader of this Blazer team, a label that he’s fully embraced, all the way to the All-Star Game.

And that’s how Portland can beat Dallas. LA can play like an All-Star. The Mavs gave up Tyson Chandler in the off-season, so they aren’t as strong inside as they once were. LaMarcus can take advantage of that.

Utilizing all advantages given to them by the Mavericks is the other way the Blazers will win this game. And the biggest advantage Portland has, other than LA, is their age, or relative age. Dallas is old, and getting older by the day. They played last night in Minnesota, and two nights before that in Denver. They won both of those games, but now they’re on game three in four nights. Hopefully the Mavs will have some tired legs.

Here’s a couple things I’ll be watching for:

  • Who does Dallas roll out: The Mavs have an interesting roster. Lamar Odom is the newest major addition for Dallas, they also have Delonte West. Those guys have their moments. The Mavs also have guys like Rodrigue Beaubois and Ian Mahinmi, too, up and down players that can have an impact. And of course there’s Jason Terry. These are all bench guys. And they’re all players that might be able to go off against Portland. A few of them are also guys that, like Roddy B against the T-Wolves, can be saddled with the totemic DNP-CD.
  • LaMarcus in Dallas: LA’s from Dallas, Texas. He always plays better in Texas. LaMarcus didn’t have a great game against NOLA. He’s actually had two of his worst scoring games of the season, following a season-high 39 in Portland’s robbery loss to Oklahoma City. I imagine that LA is hurting to have a big night. Playing in Dallas, getting selected for his first All-Star team, struggling in back-to-back games for the first time this season? That might be the perfect formula for a huge night.
  • Will anybody be watching: My guess is most of the big-time NBA fans will be busy Saturday night, watching Jeremy Lin go head-to-head with Ricky Rubio. Probably NBA League Pass has seen a significant uptick in membership in the last 48 hours. Let’s hope it’s because they all appreciate a fell good story, and not because they want to see the game that ends Lin’s unbelievable run. Speaking of unbelievable, Danny Chau of Hardwood Paroxysm had this to say about his personal feelings on Lin. Very well said.

Also, if Portland loses this game, we’ll always have this:

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Tags: Blazers Mavericks

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