The biggest development from this win is not a happy one — star guard Kyrie Irving went down with a right foot injury late in the second quarter and did not return to the game after nailing two free throws to give the Mavs a 56-46 lead.
After Irving’s injury, the Blazers (6-14) found ways to hang around until the final buzzer sounded, whittling what was once a 19-point lead early in the second quarter all the way down to one at one point in the third. Portland guard Anfernee Simons hit a leaning floater with just under 10 minutes to play to make it 99-98 and give Mavs fans everywhere palpitations.
“The opposing team seeing that — it gives them life a little bit,” Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said in postgame interviews. “We took their best punch. Happy that we still have 77 on our side.”
Simons led the Blazers with 30 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Shaedon Sharpe added 24 points and nine boards in the loss. Luka Dončić led all scorers with 32 points and dished 10 dimes as the Mavs outlasted the upset-minded home side.
Here are four stats that tell the tale of the Mavs’ escape from Portland with a win and what’s left of the roster intact.
20-2: Mavericks run in the first quarter
It looked like a blowout early, and it was encouraging to see the Mavericks show up to squash an inferior opponent by getting out to a great start in Portland. With the game tied 8-8 just 4:28 into the proceedings, the Mavs went on a 20-2 run over the next four minutes.
Hardaway and Seth Curry both hit their first 3-pointers of the game before Dončić hit two of his own during the run that gave the Mavs an early 28-10 lead. Dallas made four of its first eight from distance, while Portland struggled out of the gate, going just 1-of-7 from 3-point territory in the first quarter.
The Mavericks’ deft touch from outside keyed them to their 37-22 lead after the first quarter.
18-12: Portland’s advantage from three
But oh how the turntables. Someone must have toggled Dallas’ off-switch to start the second quarter because for the rest of the game, the Mavericks shot just 8-of-31 from 3-point land. Despite not shooting a very impressive percentage overall, the Blazers dominated the Mavs from 3-point land in the final three quarters, making 17 of their next 46 (36.9%) as a team.
It’s a tough task to get outshot on the 3-point line by the Trail Blazers, who are 28th in the NBA in 3-point shooting (33.7%) as a team, and even tougher to do it when you make four of your first eight from deep. But the Mavericks somehow achieved both those dubious distinctions against the Blazers.
23: Points scored by Dante Exum
With the Blazers whittling the Mavericks’ lead down to nearly nothing and Irving on the shelf, Dončić needed running buddies. Hardaway is one he’s leaned on both in recent seasons and through the first quarter of this year, but he may have found a new one.
Dante Exum had his second-best career scoring night in the win at Portland, but more than that, he was a playmaker when Dallas desperately needed one. He scored 23 and hit both his 3-point attempts, which was a welcome development after some shaky shooting to start the season, but he also handed out seven assists and pulled down six rebounds in the win.
“When Ky went down, it was about everyone getting involved,” Exum said during postgame interviews. “And I’m glad we did. Coming to a new team, learning to play with Luka, Kai, D-Live, it’s just about getting comfortable, and I’m starting to get my stride.”
2: Games in a row without surrendering a lead
Here’s a fun one to end this thing on. By hanging onto that one-point lead in the fourth quarter and extending it for the 13-point win instead of surrendering it, the Mavericks have completed a two-game stretch without giving up the lead.