Tonight at 5:30 p.m. PST, the Portland Trail Blazers look to snap their six game road losing streak when they visit the Dallas Mavericks. Coming off two home victories, the Trail Blazers hope to prove they can win on the road again. The Mavericks will be without guard Rajon Rondo as he sits with an orbital fracture. The game can be seen on CSNNW and heard on Rip City Radio 620 AM.
The road struggle is real for the Trail Blazers. They have not won on the road since playing the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on January 5th, and even that game was difficult to win. The loss of Lopez definitely has not helped their chances to win on the road but with the big man back in the middle, the Trail Blazers seem to be a different team. Coming off a blow out win against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday (108-87) the Trail Blazers embark on a two game road trip and play on back-to-back nights, visiting the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow.
The Mavericks swept their three game season series against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday with a dominating 101-78 victory. The most impressive part of that victory is that both Nowitzki and Rondo were sidelined. It was Rondo’s third straight absence due to injury but Nowitzki was out so he could rest. Nowitzki will surely be ready to go tonight. In the first meeting of the season between the Trail Blazers and Mavericks, he had a team-high 17 points, as Portland prevailed 108-87.
There are many factors to look at in this second meeting with the Mavericks. First, Lillard needs to find his rhythm before the All-Star break. He came up empty from behind the arc for the second straight game on Thursday, going 0-5. With Rondo out of the lineup, Lillard should have the upper hand against Barea. I’d like to see Lillard in attack mode, not from behind the arc, but driving to the basket. The best thing for a shooter in a slump is to see the ball go through the net. Convert high percentage shots and the deep ball come later.
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Secondly, the Trail Blazers need to control the boards like they did in first meeting. In that game, the Trail Blazers out-rebounded the Mavericks 53-34. Over the last four games against the Mavericks, they have out-rebounded the Mavericks by an average of 17.3 per game. With Kaman questionable with back issues, Lopez and Aldridge will have to take the reigns on the glass. Against the Suns, the Aldridge had 13 rebounds while Lopez had 12. They both must continue to excel in that area for the Trail Blazers to win this matchup.
Finally, the bench production might be the biggest factor. Dallas Head Coach Rick Carlisle goes deep into his bench almost nightly. Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts’ rotation is unpredictable. In the first meeting, both coaches used eight reserves. Stotts used seven reserves on Thursday but four of them only played two minutes each. Carlisle also used seven on Thursday but his bench produces more regularly. The Mavericks are 13th in the league in bench scoring at 34.3 points while the Trail Blazers are 28th at 25.5 points.
The team that can win the rebounding battle, get better production out of their bench, and get hot from distance will win the game.