LaMarcus Aldridge returns to his hometown tonight as the Portland Trail Blazers (30-9) take on the Dallas Mavericks (24-17). Both teams are coming off a victory last night, with the Blazers winning in San Antonio and the Mavericks winning in Phoenix. In this second regular season matchup between Portland and Dallas, the Blazers will try to tie the season series and move to 2-0 on their current road trip.
The Trail Blazers had an outstanding performance in San Antonio last night. Not only did they match their season average offensive output but they continue to focus and improve on defense. San Antonio has the sixth best points per game average in the NBA at 104.6. The Blazers were able to hold them to 100 points last night. It was very important for Portland to start their tough four game road trip on the right foot. They were able to accomplished that and moved to 5-0 this season vs. Western Conference division leaders. Now the focus must be on Dallas and playing at American Airlines Center, where they have only won three times in 20 tries.
The Dallas Mavericks hope to rekindle some of their magic they found in Portland on December 7th. That first matchup was thrilling and included 18 lead changes. It came down to the last possession and Monta Ellis made the most of it. Ellis drained a 21-foot jump shoot at the buzzer to give Dallas the 108-106 victory. The Mavericks have struggled to play consistent basketball this season but have found a way to win as of late. They have won four of five, shooting 51 percent and averaging 112.2 points during that stretch.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- No injuries to report
- Jose Calderon (knee) is listed as day-to-day after suffering a right knee contusion last night in Phoenix
- Devin Harris (toe) is expected to make his season debut tonight. He has been sidelined all season as he recovered from surgically repaired toe.
- Gal Mekel (knee) had surgery yesterday to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and will be out indefinitely.
Key To The Game
Wesley Matthews. Matthews does not receive enough praise from the national media. If you watch the Blazers play every night, you know that Matthews is a massive key to their success. He is having one of the best seasons of his career and might be in line for the NBA’s Most Improved Players award. He is averaging career highs in 3-point percentage, 2-point percentage, and points per game. No one would consider Matthews one of the league’s best in terms of offense. Yet he is ranked first in the league in offensive rating at 125.3. Offensive rating is calculated as an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions. His last effort against the Mavericks is one to forget about. He only scored four points and was 2-10 from the field. Matthews must be engaged and try to establish his offense early.
Slow Down the Guards. Dallas has two of the most lethal guards in the game when they are on. Monta Ellis, who is known purely as a scorer, will look to get into a rhythm early. If he is able to drive into the lane and connect from distance from the start, the Trail Blazers will have a hard time cooling him off. Devin Harris may be in line for his season debut. Harris is another one of those scorers. He has bounced around from team to team but he always brings strong offensive play. Lastly, the Blazers need to make Shane Larkin feel like a rookie. In Phoenix last night, Larkin played some of his best minutes after Jose Calderon went out with a knee injury. Larkin put up a career-high 18 points in 27 minutes of play. He will continue to see minutes in Calderon’s absence and the Blazers can’t sleep on him.
Bench Production. Last time these two teams met, the Blazers bench was nearly non-existent. The Blazers bench put in 15 points compared to the Mavericks bench that had 23 points. The spark off the bench for the Blazers is usually Mo Williams. However, it seems that lately Thomas Robinson has been a huge lift. If you look at the box score, it would still seem that Williams is our best option in relief. Robinson does not stuffthe stat sheet but he does provide hustle and normally a big time put-back dunk. Stotts seems to like the Robinson-McCollum rotation and I have to agree. If the Blazers want to improve to 2-0 on this road trip, the bench must be able to produce.