Four-Pointer: Previewing the Portland Trail Blazers

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Will the hot-shooting Blazers spoil the return of Devin Harris?

What has Rip City done lately?

The Blazers are in the midst of a four-game win streak having posted wins over the Magic, Celtics, Cavaliers, and most recently the Spurs. Oh, and they were on the road when they beat San Antonio which makes the win all the more impressive. Portland was led by LaMarcus Aldridge who scored 26 points on 50 percent shooting. He also pulled down 13 rebounds.

Wes Matthews contributed 24 points to the effort and Damian Lillard poured in 21 points and dished out eight assists. Not to be outdone by his teammates, Nicolas Batum had a near triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.

What's the biggest matchup to watch?

Though they will likely spend little time guarding each other, the key matchup of the game is between Dirk Nowitzki and Aldridge. They are two of the premier power forwards in the game and have somewhat similar styles of play. Both players are the cornerstone of their team's offense and the face of the franchise. LMA leads the way for Portland, scoring 23.9 points per game while hauling in 11.2 rebounds. Dirk, having passed Monta Ellis, leads the Mavericks in scoring at 21.3 points per game and pulls down 5.8 rebounds.

Which Mavericks player might be due for a big game?

While he probably won't fill the stat sheet, this is a huge game for Devin Harris. Reports are saying that tonight's game will be the first time that Harris returns to the court after undergoing toe surgery in the offseason. With the recent loss of Gal Mekel and Jose Calderon's status unknown after suffering an injury in last night's win over the Suns, Harris' return could not come at a better time.

While it will obviously take time for Harris to get back into game shape, playing time will go a long way in building his confidence. It will also allow him to become re-acclimated to his teammates and the game. Here's hoping for the best.

What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Blazers?

Once again, this is the same old story for the Mavs. To be successful against Portland will require Dallas to do several things that they really aren't good at, namely play defense. The Blazers shoot the fourth most 3-pointers in the league and connect on 39.8 percent of those shots. That is the second best 3-point shooting mark in the league and they have also made the most threes in the NBA. It would behoove the Mavericks to try and limit the Blazers' opportunities from downtown. However, after seeing Samuel Dalembert close out on a 3-point shooter last night against Phoenix in yet another broken defensive play, slowing down the Blazers' barrage from deep may be a bridge too far for the Mavs.

What Dallas has going for them is their ability to score in droves. Portland is not a great defensive team so the Mavs will have their opportunities to score, possibly in droves. It is the second night of a back-to-back where both teams traveled. There will be some sluggish legs out there tonight but the game should still be high-scoring. It wouldn't be shocking if this one came down to the last shot like the last time these teams faced-off and the "Monta Miracle" (I am coining that now) took place.

What do you think will be the keys to the game tonight? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

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