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2 things as the Mavericks beat the Trail Blazers, 115-109

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The Mavs took care of business at the AAC and knocked off a playoff team.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Five games remained coming into tonight, and the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the two remaining playoff teams the Mavs had to face. Dennis Smith Jr. got Dallas on the board with a pull-up jumper, but the first quarter signaled the return of J.J. Barea. In about nine minutes, Barea scored 11 points and made all three of his triples. He single-handedly kept the Mavs in the the opening quarter that saw six lead changes. The Mavs and Blazers were all tied up at 22 through one.

The Mavs opened the second quarter on a 9-0 run, but the Blazers evaporated that lead as quckily as it appeared, tying the game at 35 with a little under seven minutes to play in the quarter. Neither team could gain any separation, but onn the Mavs final possession of the quarter Dirk drained a three at the top of the key to give the Mavs a 50-49 lead at the half. Dallas survived a 13-point half from Damian Lillard thanks to Barea’s 15 points through two quarters.

The Mavs jumped out to an eight point lead early in the third quarter with Dennis Smith Jr. hitting a three and a tough runner off the glass. But the Blazers slowly chipped away at the lead and eventually surpassed Dallas for one possession on a Zach Collins jumper with 3:30 remaining in the quarter. But the Blazers lead was short-lived, and the game saw it’s 14th lead change on a Dirk midrange jump shot that lead to a Maverick 7-0 run. Dallas eventually outscored Portland by three in the quarter to take a 82-78 lead into the fourth.

Both teams traded buckets throughout the fourth quarter. Dallas even stretched it’s lead to six with 6:30 remaining, and then Lillard checked in and promptly buried a three. But the Mavericks stayed the course, hit a few threes and pushed the lead up to seven with five minutes remaining. The Blazers threatened the Mavs lead a few times, but with Yogi Ferrell and Maxi Kleber hitting threes late in the fourth, the lead was never surrendered. The Blazers played the foul game late, but the Mavs survived and evened the season series with a 115-109 victory. Dallas was led by Smith Jr. with 18 points, but all five starters scored in double digits and Ferrell chipped in 15 off the bench.

Dennis was brilliant

The close to Smith Jr.’s season is very encouraging.In the last 12 games he’s averaging 18 points and nearly six assists. Even after he struggled with efficiency for most of the year, he’s finishing on a tear, and tonight he kept rolling to the tune of 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He shot 8-of-15 and 40 percent from deep. It’s now the fourth game out of five that he’s shot 38 percent or better from deep. He looked fine playing off the ball with Barea, set up his teammates when he played the one and was active on the boards. Oh, and he did this:

The tank made no progress

This was an outright puzzling game. Portland probably has the three seed locked up, but they played poorly. They shot 10-39 from deep in a pitiful shooting display. Dallas, with nothing to gain by winning basketball games, managed to squander an Orlando Magic win, which set the Mavericks up to sit alone with the fourth best odds in the draft lottery with a loss against the Trail Blazers. Rick Carlisle certainly could have done more because Kyle Collinsworth only played two minutes and Johnathan Motley didn’t play at all. Let me repeat that. Motley, one of the Mavericks two-way players didn’t play at all. He’s played in five games since the all-star break. It’s hard to be mad at a team for winning, but the Mavs need to realize who they are. Unfortunately, wins like this are a mirage, and the Mavs are the traveler stranded in the desert and appear to see water in the horizon. Make no mistake, this win means nothing.

The Mavs face the Magic tomorrow night in a game that separates the men from the boys in the Great Tank Race of 2018.