Since Doncic has been in Dallas, Maverick vs Trailblazer games have never failed to produce some great moments in tight contests. In the 10 games between them over the past 3 seasons, the average margin of victory has been 5. 1 points, with neither team ever claiming a double-digit win. Until this season, the Mavs and Blazers have split the season series 2-2. There’s unfortunately no chance for that now, as this shortened season has the teams facing off only three times, and Portland already has two wins.
All that to say, you can count on Sunday’s game to be close. Each game against a Western conference team, especially one ahead in the standings, takes on more weight, and being able to walk away with at least one win against Dame and Co seems important. Early signs are that Dorian Finney-Smith may be re-joining the team, and with any luck he’ll provide a little extra defensive shot in the arm against Portland’s dynamic offense. And with any MORE luck, he’ll hit some corner threes, too.
Possession is 9/10ths of the win
On Friday, Dallas shot 54.3% from the field, 45.2 percent of their threes, and a fantastic 92.3% on their free throws. Portland countered with 47.3% from the field and 46.8% from deep. Oh, and 88% from the line for good measure. Both teams shot the lights out, there’s no arguing that. The difference? Portland took 93 shots and Dallas took just 82.
When you have two offenses like these, it really boils down to who gives their offense more opportunities to add points. That means winning the rebound battle (which Dallas lost 39 to 43) second chance points (which Dallas lost 5 to 10), and keeping turnovers down (Dallas coughed it up 12 times compared to Portland’s 6). Preventing Portland from running the board in those categories on Sunday is going to mean Dallas’ offense may just have enough gas to overcome the Blazers.
Much has been said about the importance of playing Kristaps Porzingis into a rhythm. For their part, the team seems dedicated to playing him for longer stretches - per his request - and trying to get him touches in the paint. It’s an ongoing project. But what about another Mav?
Our own @PandaHank recently found a worthwhile sad fact: Dallas is winless when Josh Richardson fails to reach double digits in scoring.
The Mavs are 17-6 when JRich scores in double-figures & are winless (0-7) in games when JRich fails to do so. Of those 6 losses, 5 were without KP, 2 were without both Luka & KP. #MFFL— Panda Hank (Nate Hinton Fan Account) (@pandahank41) March 19, 2021
Make that 0-8 after JRich contributed just 4 points in Friday’s loss to Portland. Before we focus too much on a guy who’s probably Dallas’ fourth scoring option, what this stat is more likely indicative of, in my eyes, is Dallas’ need for contributions from its starting five. In fact, the last time Dallas got a W against Portland, all five starters were in double digits.
The bulk of the offensive focus is always going to fall on Doncic and KP, but getting points from guys like Maxi, Richardson and Hardaway is what makes this team hum on offense (which is mandatory given its limits on defense, especially against a team like Portland.)
A New Blueprint
During this stretch of largely positive games the Mavericks have strung together in March, it feels like we’ve seen a pattern. Start slow in the first, draw even in the second, try not to fart to death in the 3rd, then snatch victory in the fourth.
That’s simply not going to cut it against a Dame Lillard-led team. Winning close games late is literally his whole thing. Dallas, knock on wood, has come a long way from its days of league-leading clutch time losses, but they haven’t exactly been coasting to wins much either. They entered the fourth on Friday with a 5 point lead. It wasn’t enough. We can beg and plead for them to play better defense down the stretch, but a better bet is to lean into what this team already does well, and pour on the offense early.