The Portland Trail Blazers entered the Moda Center on Saturday night in dire need of a win, facing Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Portland was riding a 5 game losing streak and almost zero confidence. Dallas posted a 24-19 record, Doncic averaged 37.5 against the Blazers this year and plenty of boos.
However, it didn’t matter what the respective teams had in the bag at tip-off. Portland put this game there midway through the third period thanks to a potent inside-outside offense, Damian Lillard’s 36 points and tremendous energy plays and defensive spurts from role players Josh Hart and Gary Payton II.
Every player who took the field played loose and easy as Portland won 136-119. Lillard shot 11-20 from the field and 10-10 from the foul line for his points, which moved him past Glen Rice and tied with Julius Erving for 74th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Anfernie Simons scored 21 points on 6-12 shooting, going 6-6 from the foul line, coming off strong court commitments. Jusuf Nurkic made 3-of-5 three-pointers, 9-of-15 shooting overall, to add 22 points and 11 rebounds for Portland.
Doncic scored just 15 points on 7-19 shooting in the loss. He had 10 assists. Poor shooting and impatient passing were both byproducts of Portland’s blitzing offense against him.
The two teams combined for 92-170 shooting from the field and 39-87 from the arc, an offensive performance.
The first period started rough for the Blazers. A Josh Hart miss from beyond the arc and traveling fouls on Hart and Jerami Grant accounted for 3 of their first 4 possessions. The Mavs hit a pair of threes on the other end and jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead in the first three minutes. Then Jusuf Nurkic soared over the horizon like Superman, hitting a three-pointer to bring the Blazers right back up, and suddenly the building sprang to life.
In the process, the Blazers tried to solve Luka Doncic’s problem by charging him early as soon as he got near the top of the arc (or caught it below). They stopped Doncic a bit, but Anfernee Simmons also picked up two quick fouls in the process. It’s safe to say they won’t be able to keep up that tactic all night.
But Damian Lillard started scoring at the other end, not waiting for his team to get into trouble before providing a platform for victory. He led Portland in a 9-0 victory that inspired the Blazers. Some of the Mavericks’ shots hurt, but Dallas needed those shots to keep going, not take the lead. Portland took a 15-13 lead into the quarter.
Dallas’ three-pointers left them in the middle portions of the quarter. When they ran plays, they tended to succeed. They settled instead. In Portland, those attempts were sped up and scored easily, turning those caroms into a surprisingly fast offense. Lillard continued to pour it on. Hart finally got it right on the break. The Blazers were great on offense.
The long threes eventually started to fall for the Mavs, keeping them in touch, but there was no question who scored better. Drew Eubanks played active defense inside. Turnovers also helped weaken the Mavericks’ defensive strength. Dallas ended up making eight threes in the period, including two in the final 30 seconds by Davis Bertans and Frank Ntilikina, but Lillard’s 11 points did enough to counter that. The Blazers also had 8 fast break points. Portland led 31-30 after one.
Gary Payton II fumbled to start the second half, stealing runs. Simons was back to take the quarter break with some nice shots. Dallas also didn’t offer much of a threat on the glass at all, allowing Portland to rebound, pivot and make instant runs. Portland took the threes Dallas offered, but otherwise didn’t get hung up on them, continuing to attack the rim. Shaydon Sharp had fun attacking the freewheel, especially when he got close to the rim. With just over 4:00 left in the second, the Blazers led by 10, 46-36.
Hart continued to play an active role, pushing the pace in the middle portions of the period as Eubanks collected defensive stops as if they were shells on a beach. Although Dallas scored on non-Eubanks attempts, the Blazers held onto their lead at 6-8. They attacked the rim first, then switched to rebounds rather than keeping the ball in the perimeter. This was true for Lillard, Simmons, Hart and pretty much everyone leading Portland’s offense.
When did Lillard actually start? transformation those drives were horrible for dallas. Dame converted an and-one with 2:48 remaining, sending Mavericks center Dwight Powell to the bench for his fourth foul and giving Portland a 62-49 lead. Improbably, Lillard would make two more relatively uncontested shots in the quarter (and a couple of free throws), giving him 24 at the half and giving the Blazers a 71-56 halftime lead.
When the Blazers started the third period with a shot by Josh Hart, a three by Lillard, and a shot from Jusuf Nurkic to Jerami Grant, it was clear the Mavericks weren’t interested in defending well enough. to return Their own blows fell. Reggie Bullock hit a corner three and Doncic hit a layup over Nurkic, but they only needed them to keep going.
Hart continued to be a key part of the attack, whether in the field, in the end, in the half or on the break. The Blazers seemed to make a concerted effort to step up their Swiss Army Knife a little bit in situations where it mattered.
Bullock continued his game-long hot streak from three as the period wore on. Doncic made a shot. Spencer Dinwiddie took advantage of his size, all but ignoring Blazers defenders when he got hot. It all combined to push Portland’s lead to 11, 95-84, with 3:00 left in the period.
The Mavs didn’t get any closer, though. Good ball movement in the midcourt, much of it due to Payton’s lack of Damian Lillard, gave the Blazers open lanes and even more wide-open threes. The Blazers cut the lead to 18 within two minutes. They finished the period 106-90.
The opening play of the fourth quarter for Portland was a three by Jusuf Nurkic. Their next play went like this.
- Jusuf Nurkic made another three-point attempt with an air ball.
- Jabari Walker got the offensive rebound, cut under the bucket and tried to put it back in, but instead put it under the backboard.
- Walker threw it again against three defenders, but it went completely over the basket with no hope of success.
- The injector had gone over there, grabbed it from the air, and jammed it into the house.
Shaydon Sharpe then hit an open three and Nurkic hit another dunk at halftime.
Were the Mavericks coming back? No, they weren’t.
Doncic did his best with points and assists as if he were trying to make an All-Star team, but the lead was too big, Dwight Powell’s foul play was too high and Portland’s energy was too dominant for Dallas to make shots. .
With 7:00 left, Lillard and Doncic got into a little scuffle at the rim before Lillard drove hard and switched to short. That gave Day his 36th point and Portland an unassailable 21-point lead. Tim Hardaway Jr. was carted off to the locker room with an ankle injury, ending a perfectly awful night for the Mavs. The benches emptied as Dallas surrendered, Nurkic took a few more shots for fun, and that was the ball game.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the game, coming soon.
Tomorrow evening at 18:00 in the Pacific Ocean, the “Blazers” will take on the “Mavericks” in another game.