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Mavericks vs. Trailblazers Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on Portland

The first of a two-game mini series

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

The Dallas Mavericks (24-19) heads to Portland (19-22) to face another team desperate for a win. The Trailblazers have lost five in a row, and have only two wins in their last 10 games.

The task remains tall, as Dallas is still thin in their rotation. Josh Green and Dorian Finney-Smith have made progress, but neither looks likely to be available for the first game. Add to that Dallas is coming off a double overtime marathon against the Lakers that saw all five starters play 47-plus minutes.

Upside down

Historically, Portland has been a turnstile on defense; content to try and outshoot opponents on the strength of their star, Damian Lillard. Not all that unlike Dallas, to be honest. However, we are living in strange times. For the last 10 games anyway, Portland has flipped the script. They’ve got the fifth-best defensive rating and look to be making a concerted effort to run teams off the three-point line.

They’re giving up just 26.8 three-point attempts per game over that span, by far the lowest in the league. And most of those are coming above the break, as they allow only seven of the coveted corner three per game.

Based on their record over those 10 games, Portland has yet to see this strategy bear fruit, but that kind of defensive intensity against a Mavs team with tired legs who are going to be looking to chuck up a lot of threes? It just might work if Dallas gets lazy.

Pick your poison

Dallas has been buoyed a bit by a seven-game winning streak fueled by some less-than-competitive teams, but even still, they look like they’ve developed some promising trends. The two-man game between Doncic and Christian Wood has been especially fruitful.

With Wood in the starting lineup, over the last 10 games, Dallas leads the league in 2-pointer field goal percentage at 60.6 percent. Dwight Powell also deserves a mention here, as he’s shot 44-of-56, over 78 percent, from the floor since December.

So Portland will be facing a decision - keep trying to run Dallas off the three-point line and give the NBA’s most efficient 2-point scoring team run wild, or try and keep Luka and company out of the lane.

Who’s the new guy?

For nearly a decade, a game against the Portland Trailblazers has meant planning for Damian Lillard. He’s had some solid co-stars along the way, but he has been, and remains, the head of the spear. However, there’s a new name emerging in PDX: Anfernee Simons.

The fourth-year player is averaging over 20 points per game for the first time in his career and is shooting over 37 percent on 10 three-point attempts per game (which is actually down from the 40 and 42 percent seasons he had the last two years).

And, funnily enough, he’s the NBA’s leading scorer from left side, above-the-break three-pointer. The Luka spot! The audacity!

Dallas is going to have to dig deep on tired legs to try and keep both Lillard and Simons contained.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally Sports at 9:00 CST.