The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Dallas Mavericks for the second straight night, 140-123, on Sunday night at the Moda Center. The win moved their record to 21-22 on the season. The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who scored 40 points in his fifth consecutive game of 30 or more. After Lillard, the trio Jerami Grant, Anferni Simons and Jusuf Nurkic scored 20 points each.
The Mavericks dropped their second straight game and fell to 0-5 on the season without Luka Doncic. They were led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 28, Jaden Hardy’s 25 and Christian Wood’s 23.
If you missed the game, catch up with our quarter-by-quarter recap. When you’re done with that, here are some observations from tonight’s game.
Dangerous Mavericks Squad
Yes, the Mavericks were 0-4 without Doncic (now 0-5), but nothing is more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose. Playing an opponent on the second night in the middle of a major roster shake-up is a tough task. There is little time to prepare for a completely different lineup. Portland’s two-team defense last night should have changed the course of this game. Another key to the Blazers’ plans was the addition of Christian Wood.
The Blazers never knew where the next shot would come from, as a team without their star had to find other ways to score. That scoring tonight came from rookie Jaden Hardy, who had a career-high 25 points. The Blazers were able to shut down most of the Mavericks’ other options and earned a win for their troubles, but it looked a little difficult until the game broke open in the fourth.
Welcome back Nassir Little!
Nasir Little played his first game since late November and his presence was immediately felt on his return. He was full of energy and contributed every minute on the floor. He had one of his best scoring nights of the season, scoring 10 points in 16 minutes, most of which came from behind the arc. (He made three three-pointers.)
The kid looked like someone who was excited to be back on the court. He played solid defense throughout and was rewarded for his efforts in that direction with a steal and two blocks. He gave a boost to a Blazers bench that has been in need of energy lately.
Dame Time continues
Damian Lillard added 40 points to his ever-growing career total tonight. That marks five straight games of at least 30 points for Lillard. Again, he did so while shooting efficiently, making 10 of his 17 shot attempts, going 4-9 from deep, hitting all 16 of his attempts from the foul line. He torched the Mavericks all night no matter who they threw at him in an effort to slow him down.
The Blazers offense has looked great in the last two games against Dallas. Dame has been the driving force behind that growth.
Aggressive Josh Hart
Just days after Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said Josh Hart needed to be more aggressive on offense, Hart had one of his highest shooting nights of the season. He shot just 3-11 and finished with 8 points, but the way he looked offensively was a positive sign. Hart fired without hesitation. He dribbled with purpose and got to his spots on the floor. He kept the ball and made the right passes, even if they didn’t lead to assists. Not to mention the twelve rebounds and two blocks he added with his excitement game.
Overall, it was one of Hart’s more impressive offensive displays, despite the poor shooting. If he continues to play with the confidence he has in the last few games, he will likely be even more important than he has been.
Take care of the ball
The Blazers won the turnover battle tonight, coughing up the ball just seven times in the contest. For a team that just came off a five-game losing streak where turnovers were one of their biggest problems, it’s a breath of fresh air. On the night, Dallas held just 10 points off turnovers and allowed 17 points to Portland. The Blazers were able to play the game at their own pace without worrying about scoring the allotted points.
The Blazers were able to put the Mavericks away in the fourth quarter with the starters still on the court. Until then, Dallas was able to hang around, causing disruptions and making sure Portland’s starters couldn’t hang together for long. Nurkic picked up two early fouls that limited him to just three minutes in the first quarter. He finished the night with four fouls. Grant had five possessions and saw stretches where he had to sit on the bench to avoid offside fouls. When the Blazers’ starting lineup was able to play together, they made a big run to pull away.
All five Portland starters had at least a +19 plus-minus rating, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers are back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in Denver. The game between the Nuggets and the Blazers will begin at 6:00 p.m.