Skip to content

The Portland Trail Blazers cruised to a 140-123 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night at the Moda Center for the second straight game. Dallas All-Star Luke Doncic pitched for the second night of back-to-back shutouts. Damian Lillard, however, played, scoring 40 points with 6 assists in 37 minutes. Blazers forward Naseer Little returned to action after an extended injury layoff, going 3-5 for 10 on 3-point shooting. Jusuf Nurkic helped Lillard dominate in the fourth quarter, finishing with 20 points. Anfernie Simons and Jerami Grant also scored 20 goals each. Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored 28 in Doncic’s absence, but it wasn’t close enough to give his team the win. In fact, it was barely enough to qualify him as an average Portland starter tonight.

The teams combined for 75 free throw attempts in the game.

The win improved Portland’s record to 21-22, keeping them in the Western Conference playoff race despite a five-game losing streak.

First quarter

The Mavericks missed Luka Doncic in their early sets, but they didn’t have to work hard to make the Blazers read the same tactics that worked so well for them last night. In those situations, Dallas needed extra time to make plays; it wasn’t quite as smooth without their superstar. But a little later they found clear shots from the pass. There were plenty of three-point attempts, though they missed more than their share.

No matter what the Mavs did on offense, they weren’t going to stop Damian Lillard on the other end. Dame drove the lane like he owned it, shredding the Dallas defense into baby food mud. If Lillard didn’t score himself, forwards Jerami Grant, Josh Hart and Anfernie Simons were making hay against an extremely committed defense from Dame’s dishes.

The only development to mar the Blazers’ opening six minutes was Jusuf Nurkic, who picked up two fouls in less than four minutes. That took away from the pick-and-roll offense, forcing them to rely a little more on bald penetration or deep shots off the dribble. But when they got too happy with iso shots, Lillard would pull out of the lane and dine again. Then their attempts came freely.

Portland led 21-15 at 6:00, the beneficiaries of Lillard’s size and Grant’s scoring momentum.

Even with the edge, the Blazers still showed cracks. They had a hard time dealing with Spencer Dinwiddie’s penetration. Reggie Bullock wasn’t about to miss an open three-pointer. Those two combined for 13 points through the game’s first seven minutes. Hart picked up his second foul in the same span, joining Nurkic as a “Rookie in Perpetual Failure” contender. When Christian Wood started banging home dunks, the Blazers broke a little. Dallas trailed by 3 with 4:00 left.

With Lillard retreating a bit, Grant and Simmons tried to score for the Blazers in the final-middle minutes of the period. They were modestly successful. The Mavericks, who continued to miss open threes, helped the cause significantly as Dinwiddie picked up his second personal foul in a whistle-intensive period.

Head coach Chauncey Billups kept Dame in the balance of the first, playing alongside Shaydon Sharpe, Jabari Walker and the backups as they signed up. The success rate without key players was less than when Lillard had multiple options, but it served. Gary Payton II was active and disruptive. Drew Eubanks did the usual stand-up job on defense. Portland ended the period up 33-31 with late scoring slowing, turning a potentially great quarter into a good one.

Second trimester

Lillard tried to get the quarterback going in the first 90 seconds of the second, hitting a back-to-back three and getting fouled on another. He had the kick button on turbo, not waiting for any man to score. Both teams favored threes as Gary Payton II, Dallas guard McKinley Wright IV and (again) Damian Lillard all sank them in quick succession.

The scoring dried up and the game slowed significantly as the quarter reached its midpoint. Missed shots and high-speed whistles characterized the action. The most exciting developments for the Blazers were Nurkic’s game inside with the bully ball against smaller defenders and the long-awaited return of Nasir Little.

Both the pace and Dallas’ scoring picked up after 6:00. The Mavs ran the ball, drew a third foul on Nurkic and succeeded when Wood used his height advantage after Nurk sat down. Lillard kept scoring and the occasional assist, but things were drying up out of his hands for Portland.

But Dame had had enough. As Dallas continued to climb and run, he kept his cool, hitting every available target on his frequent (and unstoppable) routes. He would finish the half with 22 points and 5 assists. Dallas ended up selling the farm on defense to get the ball out of hand. Portland missed a few, but Hart and company pounded the offensive glass, giving them more opportunities. The Blazers bounced back a bit, but still led 61-54 at halftime.

Third trimester

Dallas went in and out to start the third. Their bigger players, Wood and Davis Bertans, scored inside the arc. Dinwiddie patted after three. Nurkic resumed his rampage in the second quarter, but it took nearly three minutes for him to pick up his fourth foul and end it. The Mavericks outscored Portland 16-8 in the first four minutes, and they got there almost immediately.

The lead wavered for a few minutes as the teams traded single points. A pair of threes from Grant gave Portland the lead back in the sixth minute. They led 77-74 with 5:59 left. Dinwiddie picked up his fourth foul at that point, giving Portland a potential weak spot on offense. Simons hit the ensuing free throws to make it 79-74, giving his team as much breathing space as they had all season.

Dallas tried to get some early offense to get the points back, but, missing point guards, couldn’t get off the floor on several possessions. Some clocked late. Others were interrupted by foul calls that led to Dallas’ free throws … about the only way they consistently scored. But Portland began to capitalize on turnovers, turning turnovers into quick points of their own. With 4:00 to go, the Blazers got the lead back to 7, salvaging a potentially disastrous quarter.

The story got better for Portland around the 3:00 mark when Little hit his third three-pointer of the game. The kid looked comfortable on the floor, especially on his open shots. Best of all, behind Little and company, the Blazers extended their lead again without Lillard on the floor. Even after returning at 2:00, Lillard didn’t take over. The biggest fireworks of the final 120 came from Shaydon Sharp driving baseline for a huge dunk at half court. That made the score 98-89, Portland.

Dallas got a three-pointer from Jaden Hardy and a routine three-pointer from Dwight Powell in the closing seconds, but the Blazers still led 98-95 at the third quarter horn. Wood had 11 in the Dallas era.

Fourth quarter

The fourth period opened with a short shot by Dame announcing his intention to win this one. On the next play, Grant fouled Dinwiddie on a three, allowing Dallas to get it right back. Dame then faced a one-and-one on the foul line on the J. Then Powell dived at the other end. Little then went awry while trying to push back in the sky. And Dinwiddie hit a spin scooper at the rim. Hu boy. It was going to be like this.

After that fumble, we got a big highlight as Dinwiddie picked up his fifth foul, getting in the way of a Nurkic drive. There was more than 10 minutes left on the clock. The Mavs let him go, for better or for worse.

Hardy and Lillard would both score on the next two possessions before Dinwiddie finally missed a jumper, snapping the streak for both teams. At that point, Portland led 109-103 with 9:30 remaining.

But that’s when the lid came off for Portland and the fireworks began. After Lillard and Nurkic combined for three free throws, Lillard hit a three and Nurk followed with one of his own. The top-ranked Ducks scored 9 points in 80 seconds to cut Portland’s lead to 15, 118-103, with 8:08 left. If Dallas has a run left, it should be huge.

When Lillard stole a pass on the next possession and Nurkic hit the post to complete the layup, any hope of a comeback faded. Dame and Nurk went Salt Bae for that win, and the Moda Center rocked the rest of the evening.



Stay tuned for an extended analysis of the game, coming soon.

The Blazers get Martin Luther King Jr. the day off before traveling to Denver to face the Nuggets at Pacific on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *