The Dallas Mavericks, in control for most of the game, withstood a 6-0 Portland Trail Blazers run in the game’s final 38 seconds and hit the buzzer-beater to avoid overtime. The Blazers lost 106-108 in a game where bounces weren’t going their way, shots weren’t falling, and Dallas had more than a few turn-back-the-clock moments from its aging superstars. Credit Dallas for the good game and the good win.
Damian Lillard was amazing most of the while, making all 9 of his free throws (all in the first half) and finishing with 32 points and 5 assists. His miracle leaning three with 1.9 seconds would have sent the game into overtime had it not been for Monta Ellis with some heroics of his own. Lillard also finished 5-9 from three.
LaMarcus Aldridge was bullied out of his favorite spots most of the game, but had 13 rebounds to go with 19 points on 7-16 shooting. Dallas found much success sending double-team coverage from the baseline to disrupt Aldridge’s touches. It affected him all game.
Nicolas Batum tore it up during a crucial third-quarter run, had 12 points in that period alone, and finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. He was demanding the ball and looking for his shot, taking 17 shots and hitting 8 of them. He was also 4-10 from deep.
Wesley Matthews had a very tough shooting night, but tried to make up for it with classic Matthews hustle. He was 2-10 for just 4 points, but added 7 rebounds and 4 assists. After the game, he said “If I didn’t go two for whatever the hell I shot, it would have been a different game.” Thanks to Ben Golliver for the quote.
Robin Lopez was his usual steady self. When the energy flagged early in the game, it was Lopez who gave them a spark. He had 14 and 14 with 2 blocks in a solid performance.
The Bench didn’t wither in the sight of a much worse Mavericks bench, so there’s that. Thomas Robinson looked okay with 6 and 3 in 10 minutes, and he does look like he’s (slowly) learning to play within himself and slow the game down mentally. If he could see the court and make decisions a little better, his other-worldly athleticism would be of great use. Mo Williams was 3-9 for 6 points and some questionable moments mixed with amazing ones. That’s Mo for ya. Joel Freeland was there, as were some other guys who were forgettable in limited minutes. The Bench didn’t allow any backbreaking lapses in a game when the Blazers were down (or it felt like it) pretty much the whole time.
- Lillard, more and more, has been looking to take it to the rack and draw the foul. Earlier in the year those calls were few and far between, but the last few games it seems the ref’s whistles have been unfrozen. Lillard’s first-half 9-9 from the line is good evidence of that.
- Robin Lopez kept the Blazers afloat with offensive rebounds when their energy was dipping. He also did a great job of keeping the ball high on putbacks. Someone’s been doing his Mikan Drills.
- Monta Ellis tore it up for Dallas, finishing with 22 points, 15 in the first half. The Blazers didn’t really have anyone who could guard him. Lillard? Uh, no. Williams? No. They tried putting Matthews on him, and that was probably their best bet.
- The Maverick’s Dirk Nowitzki went into “Hand-of-God” mode late, draining fading long jumpers with such arc that they fell in nearly vertical. It was like water flowing. He finished with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists.
- Dallas was able to keep Aldridge out of it offensively with a delayed double-team that came from the baseline. I don’t know if he just couldn’t see it, or if his teammates were doing a bad job calling it out to him, but nearly every time it looked like he had it about stolen from him.
The Blazers came out flat, and allowed Dallas to run up a 7-point lead early. It didn’t help that LaMarcus Aldridge started 0-3, and the Blazers started 0-5 from deep. They woke up, starting to get handsier on defense and more urgent on offense, and Lillard was aggressive, getting fouled twice on drive and earning free throws. The Blazers ended the first up 30-28.
The second quarter saw a lot of back and forth, but you had the feeling that Dallas was always a bit in control. Their shot was certainly falling, and Dallas ended the half with 58% shooting to Portland’s 44%, but the Blazers were down just 53-55, winning the rebounding battle 25 to 15 and the free throw race with 14 attempts to just 4 for Dallas.
Damian Lillard had an eye-popping 19 points and was 9-9 from the line at the half, Robin Lopez had 7 (!!!) offensive rebounds and 10 total with 10 points for a double-double, and LaMarcus Aldridge was kept off-balance by Dallas’ quick baseline double-teams, but had 6 points to go with his 7 rebounds.
Aldridge was force-fed to get him started at the beginning of the second half, but Dallas was able to cut through Portland’s defense in a variety of ways.
Nowitzki decided to take over, and “had a happy feeling going” according to Blazer’s TV commentator Mike Barrett to push Dallas forward.
The Blazers fought hard, but Dallas fought harder and took it to the Blazers, who found themselves down 61-71 with 8 minutes to go in the third.
Then Batum got hot, and he finished with 12 points in the third alone. After gaining a slim lead the Blazers were down 79-76 going into the fourth.
The saving grace was that the starters had been resting, and no starter had yet played more than 28 minutes. One wondered if Coach Stotts had to rest them in order to play them more than usual in the fourth.
Aldridge made a long jumper to start the final quarter, but for the most part the Blazers’ open looks just weren’t falling, just as they hadn’t all game. It was an annoying number of “around and outs,” good shots that usually stuck but in this game stank.
Meanwhile, Dallas used Vince Carter three times in a row and failed to convert on any of them, then decided to shoot some threes and cashed them, forcing the Blazers to call timeout down 78-85.
…so where was the run?
It flittered away like LaMarcus succumbing to a double-team again and turning it over. The Blazers’ offensive boards saved them, one from Lopez and one from Aldridge, and they pushed the tempo trying catch the Dallas defense out of position. Lillard’s laid-out, heavily guarded, switching-hands in the air layin forced Dallas to call time, their lead trimmed to 89-84 with 7:22 left in the game.
Nowitzki started hitting long jumpers, one after the other, but the Blazers kept fighting, gutting it out to tie it at 98-98 with 2:20 left.
Most foul for the Blazers, Nowitzki unleashed some wizard-level jumpers, giving Dallas a 6-point lead with 45 seconds left. Two thoughts: Nowitzki’s style of play ages nicely (as should Aldridge’s), and the game was looking pretty hopeless for Portland.
Then Batum hit a three with 38 seconds left. The Blazers got a stop. They got an open Mo Williams three… and it didn’t fall.
Emotions boiling, the Blazers foul, down three, with just 9 seconds left. Portland had a foul to give, so Dallas inbounded, and after some good Blazer defense the ball went out of bounds.
The call on the floor was Dallas ball. The Blazers jumped up and down, screaming that it went off Monta Ellis. The refs went to the monitors, and the replay showed the ball hitting Ellis and hitting the out of bounds line… and the call was… REVERSED.
6.8 seconds left, the Blazers down three.
Their out of bounds play went to Lillard…. Lillard hanged in the air at the top of the key and…. HIT THE THREE.
But was his foot over the line? One angle was inconclusive… another angle was inconclusive… you couldn’t see the toe from the best angle which was from directly behind… and the call was… UPHELD.
And while the refs would play an integral role aiding Portland’s comeback, those opportunities wouldn’t have been created if not for Blazers hustle.
It was tied at 106 with 1.9 left. The Blazers had fought back from 6 down with 38 seconds left. But Nowitzki had been unstoppable. Could Portland finally catch a break and force overtime?
Dallas inbounds to Ellis… and he’s open… and it’s good.
Game, Mavericks. A well-deserved victory for Dallas, and a bummer for 17-4 Portland, who at least get to face the 4-18 Utah Jazz again on Monday in Salt Lake City at 6 p.m. PST.