Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle preached before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers that the his team needed to mesh together as the injuries piled up. "You’ve got to pick up the slack as a group," Coach Rick Carlisle said. "Right now, the challenge for us is to get better defensively. That’s gonna help trigger a lot of good things for us. And that’s gonna be the biggest part of being successful with where we’re at at this moment." Defense and Unity were critical to stay in the game, but Jason Terry's explosion in the fourth quarter capped off the game as the Mavericks defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 84-81.
The Dallas Mavericks got the unfortunate news that Caron Butler would miss the remainder of the season due to to a ruptured right patellar tendon. They had little time to reflect on the loss of Butler as they had to go up against the Portland. Dallas had won 18 of 21 straight home games against Portland coming into tonight's game. Without Butler and Dirk Nowitzki, who missed his fifth consecutive game due to a sprained knee, the Mavericks took to the court looking for their second consecutive victory and second win over the Blazers this season. Dallas won their last match-up against Portland on December 15 with a 103-98 home win.
To start the game, the Mavericks looked very sluggish on both sides of the floor and ultimately fell behind 14-6 which led to a timeout by Rick Carlisle. Before that timeout, Portland made 5 of their first 6 shots and they were mixing it up by scoring inside and outside. "I think we just kind of calmed down, got into the flow of things," said Tyson Chandler. "We had a game-plan coming out and there was a little confusion on where we were coming from...once we got that settled in, it was a good night for us." The intensity for Dallas went up on both ends of the floor after the timeout and the Mavericks got themselves back into the game. Tyson Chandler was extremely effective in the middle and that opened things up for his teammates. Coming off the bench, JJ Barea pushed the tempo and it paid off to where Dallas was able to end the first quarter tied with Portland, 24-all. Chandler went 4-4 from the field in the opening quarter while the rest of the team went 6-16.
JJ Barea continued pushing the ball in the second quarter and really created transition offense for the Mavericks. Brendan Haywood was effective on both ends of the floor, displaying a nice hook-shot and playing strong defense going up against LaMarcus Aldridge. Dominique Jones got minutes for the second consecutive game and played the small forward position in the three-guard lineup with JJ Barea and Jason Terry. Jones continued to display impressive court vision as he went in to the lane. Jason Terry was able to get his first bucket at the 7:24 mark and gave the Mavericks a 31-29 lead. The bench really stepped up over the course of the second quarter and allowed Dallas to maintain a lead throughout the quarter. "I thought their production was timely," Carlisle said when describing the role of the bench. In addition to the bench play, the Mavericks team defense put the clamps on the Blazers. In the first quarter, Portland shot 11-22 from the field and they shot 6-19 from the field as the Mavericks led 43-40 going to halftime. To further cement the fact the Dallas D cranked up the intensity, the 16 points that Portland scored marked a new season low by an opponent in the second quarter, the previous low was 17.
The third quarter saw both teams struggle to get things going offensively. Tyson Chandler was scoreless in the second quarter but regained his dominance in the paint with multiple put-back dunks. He netted his 6th double-double of the season, 12 points and 10 rebounds with 5:11 left in the third quarter. At that point, DeShawn Stevenson took over the scoring responsibilities as he attacked from inside and outside. Stevenson finished the quarter with 9 points on 3-6 shooting. The pace continued to stay slow as the Mavericks took a 62-60 lead going into the final quarter.
Both teams continued battling back and forth as neither team was really able to take control in the early portion of the quarter. Jason Terry hit a huge three-point shot to beat the shot-clock to give the Mavericks a short-lived 70-69 lead. It appeared that shot got Terry going though as he scored 5 quick points in the final quarter. Portland had a 75-72 with 5:25 left and Dallas did everything they could to keep inching closer to Portland. Jason Terry hit another three-point bucket to tie the game up at 77-all with 2:33 left to go. "That's Jet, fourth quarter is his show," Chandler said when describing Terry's performance. Terry orchestrated the final three buckets to secure the win. He made a jumper to take the lead, drove into the lane and kicked the ball out to Stevenson for an three-point make and then Terry hit a jumper to seal the victory. "The first (made basket) is always good but it's always the last one you go home with," Terry said with a big grin on his face. Terry scored 12 of his 18 points in the quarter, shooting 5-8 from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc. For the night, Terry shot 8-19 from the field and 2-5 from beyond the arc.
Tyson Chandler has been getting high percentage looks all season and was shooting 68.8 percent from the floor on the year before the game against the Blazers. But as of late, he’s been even more impressive. Over his last seven games, Chandler has gone a remarkable 28-of-32 (.875) from the field. Tonight, Chandler finished 7-9 from the field and recorded his sixth double-double of the season as he finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. It was his second-consecutive double-double and the Mavericks are now 6-0 on the year when Chandler records a double-double.
Prior to the game against Portland, DeShawn Stevenson was shooting a career-best 46.5 percent (46-99 3FGs) from beyond the arc this year. The highest percentage he’s ever shot from long range in a season was 40.4 percent (74-183 3FGs) in 2006-07. The most 3-pointers he’s made in a season is 158 (158-413 3FGs, .383), which he recorded in 2007-08 while with the Washington Wizards. Adding tonight's performance, Stevenson has already made 50 three-point shots. He tallied just 54 triples (54-216 3FGs) in his two previous seasons combined. He’s connected on five 3-pointers in a game twice this season, marking his season-high. Tonight, he finished the game scoring 18 points on 5-12 shooting from the field including 4-9 from beyond the arc. "All our guys love him and he stands for what we need to be about right now, and that is just hanging in, being tough, having gut to step into big shots and he was great," Carlisle said as he described what Stevenson means to the team. "Defensively, he is just going to give it to you every night." This was the second consecutive game that Stevenson started at the small forward position. It should be noted, Stevenson said there was no real difference between playing the shooting guard and small forward position. "In our offense, the (shooting guard) and the (small forward) are basically the same."
Neither team really took control of the game as there were 11 lead changes in the game, the game was tied 10 times and neither team managed to create a double digit lead. The 81 points allowed against Portland tied a season low for points allowed, they did so as they hosted the Utah Jazz on December 3rd. "The one thing we can do as a team is get better defensively," Carlisle said. "Other than the first few minutes of the game, I thought we really battled. We played a really gritty type of game, and that's what we're going to have to do."
The Mavericks will practice on Wednesday as they prepare for their final match-up of the year against the Oklahoma City Thunder.