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3 things as the Mavericks survive against the Trail Blazers

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Dallas was pretty dominant through three quarters, but Portland made it interesting late.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a convincing win against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks (11-10) were back in action against the Portland Trail Blazers (13-10). The Dallas defense was stingy in the first period forcing the Trail Blazers into four turnovers. The Mavs also outrebounded Portland 14-7 en route to a 34-20 lead after one.

The second quarter opened with a Portland three-point play, but the Mavericks responded with a 6-0 run of their own. The Dallas bench was able to push the lead to as many as 17, and the starters were able to keep pace giving the Mavericks a 60-45 lead at halftime. Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan led the Mavericks with 11 each while Evan Turner paced the Trail Blazers with nine. Had it not been for some questionable foul calls, the Mavericks easily could have led by 20-plus after two frames.

The third quarter was mostly a back and forth affair. The Trail Blazers were able to trim the Mavericks’ lead to 10 points on two separate occasions and even slice the lead into single digits on a Damian Lillard and-one. The Trail Blazers were able to keep the game closer on the scoreboard than it actually was thanks to 15 third-quarter points from Lillard, but the Mavericks slammed the door shut at the end of the quarter. Dwight Powell canned two threes and Maxi Kleber threw down a put-back dunk as the Mavericks closed on an 8-2 run. After three Dallas held an 87-73 lead.

Like the third quarter, the Trail Blazers kept the game close, only this time, they almost kicked the door down cutting the lead to six points. Damian Lillard was phenomenal in the second half scoring more than 20 points in the two quarters alone. Fortunately, the Mavericks were able to escape with a victory, but the game should have been put away early in the fourth. But at the end of the day Dallas won 111-102 marking their eight straight victory at home. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 21, but DeAndre Jordan put up a monster 12 point, 17 rebound double double. The Mavericks are cruising, winning five of the last six and nine of the last 11.

Damian Lillard overcame early struggles

Lillards final point total looks nice, but it’s not really indicative of the game he had. Last season against the Mavericks, Lillard flamed Dallas for 29 points per game, so it was peculiar to see him struggle in the beginning like he did. For the night Lillard scored 33 points with eight assists and eight rebounds. However, he shot 10-23 from the field and 2-8 from three. Lillard also made many trips to the free-throw line, connecting on 11 of 12 attempts. In the first half Dennis Smith Jr. gave Lillard fits. He fought through screens and closed space in a blink. It was a really impressive defensive effort from the second-year guard.

While it’d be nice to be able to give the Mavericks all of the credit, frankly, Lillard missed some easy looks. He just looked out of sync, and thus the Trail Blazers looked out of sync. But in the second half he gave the Mavs and all of the fans in the AAC quite a scare when he popped off for 15 points in the third quarter and continued his resurgence into the fourth quarter. The Mavericks had multiple chances in the second half to put the game away, but Lillard kept it interesting. That’s what superstar guards do, but his struggles in the first half made the mountain just tall enough for the Mavericks to walk away with a victory.

The Dallas bench is elite

It’s quite amazing what Rick Carlisle can do with this bench unit. Aside from Devin Harris, the J.J. Barea, Dorian-Finney Smith, Powell and Kleber collection were once a group of afterthoughts. Now, after a little time in Dallas, they’re part of the most lethal bench squad in the entire NBA. The Trail Blazers were knocking on the door of a comeback a few times in this game, but the bench rescued the Mavericks each time. For the game the second unit outscored Portland’s 38-25, but it really is amazing how dominant this group is. Kleber had a particularly strong third and fourth quarter. He was active on the glass, swatted a shot and gave the bench a burst of energy it missed while he was injured. He and Powell were instrumental in ballooning the Mavericks third quarter lead to as many as 19 points.

Luka Doncic put the nail in the coffin

For the majority of the game, Doncic was relatively quiet. He didn’t disappear, but it ws the kind of quiet that you notice when you look at the box score and see he still has 15 points and eight rebounds. But in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Doncic shut the door on any Trail Blazer comeback attempts. With the Trail Blazers down only two possessions and only a minute left, Doncic pulled the step-back three out of his bag:

Soon after that, Doncic slung a full court, one-handed pass to a streaking Smith for the jam.

Doncic finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists and made the most important imprints in the final minute. That’s clutch.