There's only one reason you would write the lead of your recap in the third quarter: if one team is so ridiculously far behind that the game is clearly over.
The third quarter ended with the Mavericks down 104-70, and that might as well have been the final. A mild fourth quarter comeback cut the score to just 127-111, but the game was never in question.
But the Blazers didn't mess around in this game from the opening tip-off, trailing for the first two minutes until taking the lead for good. There's wasn't any defense the Mavericks could throw at them that worked against the crisp ball movement and advantageous shooting -- and trust me, Rick Carlisle tried every trick in the book. The man-to-man had too many mismatches and the zone didn't cover enough ground. The Blazers took advantage of a LaMarcus Aldridge double team with quick ball movement and picked apart a half-court trap in the fourth quarter with advanced passing.
After the dust cleared, Portland scored 33+ points in three straight quarters and were already figuring out what they wanted to eat after the game by the third quarter. Perhaps the best bit of imagery that came out of this game was Robin Lopez, laying stretched out next to the bench without a care in the world for almost the entire first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
If anything, the Mavericks might have been better playing their bench all game. A group that could only be described as "energetic" -- Larkin, Ellington, Crowder, Wright and Blair -- pestered the Blazer subs enough in the final quarter, forcing Terry Stotts to reinsert his starters at around the four minute mark after the lead was cut to 15.
But other than giving the loyal fans who chose to stick around something to cheer about, it didn't accomplish much. The Blazers offense picked up right where the left off and put the game away.
The play on the court overshadowed the triumphant return of Devin Harris, making his season debut with the team he spent his first four years with. Harris looked out of the flow of the game, but clearly healthy after missing the first 41 games of the season. In one of the few bright spots, he hit a stepback jumper in isolation to beat the first quarter buzzer.
There's little more I can add to this game story. For literally any stat you could think of, Portland did it better. They cleaned the glass, got Dallas out of rhythm on offense and, most importantly, executed on offense just like it was a morning shootaround.
- Even though the game was all wrapped up for 17ish of his 23 minutes, Shane Larkin played great basketball once again tonight. It wasn't as in your face as his career night against Phoenix, but "Stellar Shane" (it's going to catch on) had nine points on six shots while adding four assists. For two and a half months, Larkin has hesitantly tried to find his way in the NBA, but he now finally has the confidence to play his game and do it well.
- Portland's ball movement is elegant and beautiful to watch. Terry Stotts has this team playing at the peak of their abilities, and that's impressive. It's unselfish basket and was really impressive to watch.
So elegant. http://t.co/CPLcNHWnJi— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) January 19, 2014
- Did you realize Damian Lillard leads the NBA in made three pointers!? First in makes and he's still seventh in percentage (another wow! moment: Klay Thompson and Steph Curry come in No. 2 and 3, respectively. Damn, they're good).
- Vince did this:
Old man Vince can do some young man stuff. http://t.co/Lzd0FoLtla— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) January 19, 2014
- Props to that fourth quarter lineup for taking it to the Blazers second (third?) unit and forcing the starters back into the game. Also, I wonder how bad Jae Crowder's percentages would look if you took out made shots in garbage time.
- Quoteboard bright and early tomorrow. See y'all then.