The Dallas Mavericks took on the Portland Trailblazers tonight at the American Airlines Center and helped Rick Carlisle earn his 500th career coaching victory. It might not fully heal the wound left from last Tuesday's gut-punch game that ended in defeat after an admitted bad call on O.J. Mayo and last-second shot from LaMarcus Aldridge, but it is a victory.
Kicking off the final homestand before the All-Star Break, Dallas welcomed in the visiting Portland team with some friendly defense(or lackthereof), and the first quarter had the feel of a shooting expedition, with the Blazers hitting six bombs from behind the line, and Dallas three. The score would be 33-27 after one, ending with the sixth and final three for Portland from Damian Lillard. 12 points in the quarter from O.J. Mayo would keep Dallas afloat.
The second quarter would see the scoring barrage continue, as Mayo would add eight more to his ledger and Vince Carter would electrify the crowd with a pair of dunks and signature "rev my motorcycle engine"(or is it him crying?) celebration. Mayo's 20 points would come on 8 of 9 shooting, as Portland had no answer for him defensively. Despite that efficiency, Dallas would still be down by four at the break, as 10 Blazer free throws maintained their cushion.
In the third quarter, Portland began to go a little cold on offense, and Dallas would take their first lead of the game on a Dirk Nowitzki three a minute and a half into the period. A back and forth affair saw the lead seesaw back and forth, when Portland would go on a 10-0 run from the five minute mark to the one minute mark, leading 80-72 before a pair of threes from Jae Crowder and Vince Carter, along with a pair of Crowder freebies, made it 82-80 entering the fourth and final quarter.
There, the bricks continued for Portland, and Dallas would gain the lead for good with under nine minutes left on a Dirk Nowitzki jumper, and gradually build on that lead until the final buzzer. A Roddy B sighting saw the tantalizing Frenchman hit a big three, grab an even bigger offensive rebound later, and knock down four of six free throws to ice the game when Portland entered desperation mode. Vince Carter would also hit a big jumper with the shot clock winding down and Portland within three to make it 99-94 with just 26 seconds left. Along with Roddy, O.J. Mayo would hit a pair of free throws to help seal the deal and give Dallas its 21st victory on the season and coach Carlisle's 500th for his career.
On a team level there were some impressive numbers tonight. Dallas committed just 8 turnovers(though Portland had even fewer with 6), and outrebounded their opponent 46-42. They also shot a blistering 10-20 from beyond the arc, led of course by the terrific shooting of O.J. Mayo, who was lethal coming off curls as well as spotting up. Mayo had a few mistakes with his dribble(and got away with a play where J.J. Hickson snuck up from behind him for a near-steal; the kind of play that should never happen to a good team), but was largely responsible for keeping Dallas in it in the first half when Portland was on fire.
Shawn Marion continued his very strong play of late with another double-double, and Marion really came on strong in the fourth when the team needed him, as did Vince Carter, who helped Dallas gain a large advantage in bench scoring with 17 big points. He returned after missing one game with a flu-like illness. As for the other guys who have recently missed time, it was the second straight poor shooting night for Dirk after his return from injury, and Chris Kaman is still "unreturned" from his ailment, as he is being held back until he passes his concussion test. Bernard James got the start again in place of Kaman as the "tone-setter", and played 18 decent if unspectacular minutes. Brand would spell James and get the lion's share of minutes, grabbing 10 boards and blocking a pair of shots.
Neither Brand nor James had much of an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge, who poured in 27 in the latest homecoming torching(blazing? Maybe I'm taking that theme too far with this one, since trailblazing doesn't actually mean setting something on fire, though that would have made the old "Oregon Trail" game much cooler). Luckily, Aldridge would not have the chance to hit the second game-winner against Dallas in as many weeks. For Portland, Wes Matthews would go 5-12 from three for 21 points, and Rookie of the Year(we can go ahead and call this one, yeah?) Damian Lillard would be next in line with 19 and three treys of his own. Portland, like Dallas, would hit 10 bombs as a team, but took 30 shots to get there.
The Mavericks get two days off before taking on Golden State(again) Saturday night, with Atlanta and Sacramento following them before the All-Star Break. With the trade deadline soon after, it is fair to say that this homestand will have far-reaching implications for the near-future of this team. So stay tuned!
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