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3 things as the Mavericks lose to the Trail Blazers, 117-108

Dallas continued to do that thing where they fall behind early, make the game close at the end but still lose.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

While the big boys (Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors) battled it out on ABC in primetime, the Mavs and Trail Blazers duked it out in some late Saturday night hoops.

After the Mavericks took a brief two point lead in the infant stages of the game the Trail Blazers caught fire in the opening quarter. The Blazers shot 62 percent from the field and knocked down six of their eleven three point attempts. The Mavericks, on the other hand, shot 32 percent, but thanks to five offensive rebounds, they were able to score a handful of second chance points to keep the Blazers from blowing the doors off the game in one quarter. Damian Lillard led his squad with 13 points and was unconscious making all five of his shot attempts. Maxi Kleber led the Mavs with seven. The Blazers led after one, 33-20.

With Lillard taking a breather in the second quarter, C.J. McCollum was able to shoulder much of the scoring load. He shot 5-of-7 in the quarter to give him 13 points in the first half. Dirk Nowitzki heated up and scored 11 points in the first half on an efficient 4-of-6 shooting. However, the Mavs as a team continued to shoot poorly, and Harrison Barnes was held scoreless missing all seven of his shots. The Blazers stretched their lead to as many as 18 and ultimately took a 62-45 lead at the break. Oh yeah, Lillard was still perfect through two quarters and led the Blazers with 18 points.

The Mavericks opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run, trimming the lead to as little as eight. But as was the case most of the night, Lillard and McCollum had answers. The Blazers lead hovered around 11 for some time before a barrage of Wesley Matthews’ three pointers cut the lead to five. But Damian Lillard responded in a way as only he could knocking down shots, including one from about 35 feet. Portland was able to maintain a double-digit lead for much of the quarter but the biggest development of the game occurred with Lillard finally missed a shot with less than 30 seconds left. Barnes came alive and scored the final six points of the third frame to cut the lead to twelve as the Blazers took a 91-79 lead into the fourth.

The two teams went back and forth through the first half of the fourth quarter with the Mavs cutting the lead to single digits a few times. Things got chippy when Evan Turner “shoved” Salah Mejri at the tail end of a possession. Dallas was awarded three free throws, but only made one missing a big opportunity to close the gap. Unfortunately, the refs were heavily involved the rest of the way out on a phantom goaltending call and a few more technical fouls. The Mavs kept clawing back, but the Blazers eventually put Dallas away on the backs of Lillard and McCollum. Matthews, Nowitzki and Smith Jr. all scored 20-plus points but, Dallas fell to 15-31 on the season while the Blazers marched on to 25-21 record.

The Trail Blazers backcourt was too much

We can argue if Lillard and McCollum work well together, if they are good enough to make the Blazers competitive again, or whatever you want. We can even argue if Lillard should get his first all-star nod (He should). Tonight, they were brilliant. Lillard especially played out of his mind not missing a single shot until the final seconds of the third quarter. Dame finished the game with 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including seven three pointers.

McCollum was fantastic in his own right scoring 26 points. In a league where playmaking is paramount and having multiple ball handlers is always important, Portland sports one of the best back courts in the league.

Portland’s three-point shooting buried the Mavericks

The Mavs’ only lead came in the opening minutes of the game when they led 4-2. After that, it was Portland from there on out thanks to a storm of three pointers. Every time Dallas made a run and cut the lead close, the Trail Blazers seemed to answer every time with a back-breaking three pointer. On the night the Blazers shot 50 percent from deep and made 18 total three pointers. Per the broadcast, that’s the most threes a Mavericks opponent has made this season.

A silver lining?

The first half was miserable. Lillard literally didn’t miss a shot, and when he was resting, McCollum did his damage. The Mavericks got pounded on the boards, gave up a plethora of three pointers and failed to make any impact on either end of the floor. But the second half was different. Dirk caught fire, Barnes started contributing and Dennis Smith Jr. pushed the pace and put constant pressure on the Blazers defense.

After a poor shooting start, the Mavs shot 61 percent from the field in the second half. Smith Jr. scored 17 points, Matthews scored 14, Dirk pumped in 10 and Barnes chipped in 8 points in the final two quarters. The Mavericks weren’t able to make much ground mainly because the Blazers outscored the Mavs by 21 behind the arc. Even though the Blazers had an 18 point lead at one point, Dallas was able to cut the lead to five in the final five minutes, making this the 14th consecutive clutch game. The Mavericks just don’t have the talent to dig themselves out of early holes, but they came close tonight.