The Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks are two teams heading in different directions. Portland currently sits in the third seed in the bonkers Western Conference, having won 16 of their 19 games since the All-Star break. Dallas, on the other hand, is lottery bound. On paper, this game looks over before the opening tip. However, through sheer stubbornness, you can bet the Mavericks will hang around in this one—barring a scoring explosion by the Blazers’ backcourt—until they decide to throw the game in the second half.
Before that happens, here’s what to look for:
That backcourt tho
As mentioned, Portland has one of the most potent scoring backcourts in the league. (Have I said “backcourt” enough?) Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are combining to average 48.4 points per game this season. The Blazers, as a team, average 106.1 points per game. So, yeah. These guys are carrying the burden nightly but they’re up to the task. Only one other player averages double figure scoring for Portland: Jusuf Nurkic. He puts in 14.3 per game.
While the game plan might look simple — shut down Lillard and McCollum — this is still the Mavericks we’re talking about. Who is going to stop them? For his career, Lillard has poured in 22 points per game against the Mavs. That’s actually on the lower spectrum of his career scoring marks, but still isn’t anything to thumb your nose at. He’s also grabbed 4.3 rebounds and dished 5.9 assists against Dallas. Oh, and lets not forget the time he lit up the Mavs for 42 points last season.
McCollum might not catch fire quite the same way Lillard does but he still gets buckets. For his career, he averages 14.9 points against the Mavs and shoots 43.2 percent from the floor.
Harry B, bruh
There are lots of things to say about Harrison Barnes. Check Mavs Twitter and you will see a little bit of everything. One thing you can’t say, however, is that he doesn’t work his ass off to improve his game.
In his last 10 games, Barnes is averaging 22.3 points on 46.3 percent shooting including 45.3 percent from downtown. He’s also getting 4.4 rebounds and handing out 2.9 dimes. He’s doing everything. While it would be nice to see him get to the line more, he’s taking 3.9 free throws during this stretch and making 90 percent of them. Frankly, he keeps improving. Hopefully, it translates to next season as well.
Carlisle’s coaching tree
With the Blazers in town, that means Terry Stotts is in town. He was an assistant coach with the Mavs when they won it all in 2011. Now, he’s Portland’s head coach and he’s doing what can be considered his finest job in that role yet.
There are a few names that people will toss around for coach of the year honors this season. For what it’s worth, the smart money should be on Stotts. He has the playoffs locked up already and his team should be able to hold onto third place, keeping it out of the insanity that lurks just below in the standings.
Beyond that, the Blazers have the fifth best opponents points per game mark at 103.1 and eighth best defensive rating at 106.4. Add their 12th best offensive rating of 109.5 and you have a very real playoff dark horse on your hands.
Dallas has no business winning this game but hey, they had no business hanging with the Cavaliers for almost three quarters on Sunday either. Mavs gonna Mav, amiright?
Both Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell are listed as questionable for the game as of this writing.
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. Central
Channel: TXA 21, Fox Sports Go, or NBA League Pass