Damian Lillard leads Blazers into a shootout victory over Dallas Mavericks, 134-131

by Kevin Nesgoda

As the day progressed things had to be getting a little tighter in the minds of the Portland Trail Blazers. They watched as the San Antonio Spurs spanked the Houston Rockets, then the Phoenix Suns beat the Philadelphia 76ers, and then Memphis fell to Boston creating a four way tied for 8th place in the West.

With all this happening the formula for Portland to make it to the weekend as the eighth seed became simple. Win twice today and Thursday to play on Saturday. Win once on Saturday and the Lakers would be waiting for them on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

To get that first of two wins this week the Blazers had to take on Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and the 7th seeded Dallas Mavericks.

Damian Lillard scored 61 and Carmelo Anthony had a big 26 points as the Blazers defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 134-131.

The Blazers are now in possession of the 8th seed.

First Quarter Thoughts

Luka Doncic is such a special player. He’s going to be one of the better players to ever grace the hardcourt in the NBA. I’m predicting possibly a top five player of all-time. This is why I question putting CJ McCollum on him to start the game. CJ is one of the worst defenders in the league.

The Mavericks did anything they wanted to start the game off. Luka was hitting wide open threes, Porzingis scored 16 and was abusing Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic. Dallas raced out to a 31-23 lead and were on the verge of breaking the game wide open.

Gary Trent Jr. and Hassan Whiteside checked into the game at this time and the Blazers defense really ratcheted up the defensive intensity. Portland began to force turnovers and missed shots, running out from there. They finished the quarter on a 15-0 run.

Portland has a 38-31 lead going into the second.

That was the best I’ve seen Portland play defense all season long. Imagine if they could keep that up for a full game.

Second Quarter Thoughts

The Blazers continue with solid defense to start the quarter. They can’t get any shots to fall though. Carmelo Anthony is playing inspired defense though. This is the toughest amount of defense that I’ve seen him play in years, if ever.

I am really enjoying the the urgency in Melo’s game today. He’s getting the ball when he has an offensive end and making the Dallas defenders pay with his patented back down and turn around jumper. On the defensive end he’s been really physical and moving whomever he is guarding off their spots. Also, has quick hands and making life difficult.

Speaking of making life difficult, Stotts took our advice and put Gary Trent Jr. on to Luka Doncic. Luka does not look comfortable with Trent on him. While CJ was on him he was getting to the basket with ease, making crisp passes, and knocking down threes. With Trent on him he looks hesitant because Trent has become his shadow.

Gary Trent Jr. has earned himself a starting spot next year.

Nurkic and Collins are both struggling to make shots in the paint. It’s amazing how many easy inside buckets they have both missed.

Damian Lillard is not guardable by the Mavericks. He’s getting to the hoop any time he wants to. It seems like any time the Blazers run a high screen the Mavs overcommit to the three point line and then Lillard goes right to the basket for any easy layup.

Lillard had 25 points at the half and the Blazers take a 66-58 lead into the break.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Terry Stotts made an in game adjustment for the first time in six years. He benched Zach Collins in favor of Gary Trent Jr. Trent rewards that decision immediately by causing Luke Doncic to turn the ball over and then pick up a quick foul.

Lillard started the quarter hot too. He hit his first three shots to give him nin in the first four minutes and 34 overall for the game. I expected Rick Carlisle to make a change at how the Mavs were defending the high screen and roll that has been giving Dame wide open looks, but they didn’t and it has cost them.

On the offensive end, Carlisle did make a change. He’s running high double screens and forcing switches on the Blazers defense. This gets Trent off Luka and on to CJ, Dame, or Nurkic. This allowed Luka to get to the basket or find easier passes to teammates for easy baskets.

The Blazers for some reason decided to stop guarding Kristaps Porzingis on the three point line again. He knocked down threes on consecutive possessions to start a Mavericks 11-0 run to give the Mavs their first lead since the first quarter. He had 14 in the quarter and 30 overall up to this point.

Third quarter woes continue to haunt the Blazers this season. It is by far their worst quarter all season and then they usually have a huge hill to climb in the fourth. With a couple big shots by Melo and Dame, the Blazers actually got a lead back just before the end of the quarter.

Melo and Dame have combined for 59 through three quarters and only Trent and Collins were the only other Blazers in double-digits scoring.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Once again CJ is having a stinker of a game. He’s 2-11 with five points. His defense is also putting a lot of his teammates in really bad positions. Gary Trent Jr. has had two to guard two guys at one because CJ wasn’t really guarding anyone at the time. This led to a wide open three by Delon Wright. Trent can’t guard Luka nd Wright at the same time.

He’s a great defender, but not that great.

Maxi Kleber has come in and gotten into the Blazers’ heads. He’s instigated some stuff with Melo and Whiteside.

Zach Collins hasn’t been great on the high switches either. His instinct is to dive to the hoop on the screen, but this leaves numerous Mavs open on the three point line and it’s not like CJ is defending anyone.

The Blazers defensive communication has been downright awful in this quarter. Everyone outside of Gary Trent Jr. is in the wrong spot and they are giving up easy baskets all over the floor or causing stupid fouls to let the Mavs shoot free throws.

This is what I get for praising their defensive play in the first quarter. You knew the Blazers could not keep that type of defense up all game, but you had to hope they didn’t swing completely the other way and attempt to become the worst defensive unit ever.

The defense is something that can’t be fixed overnight either. They are going to have to start out by getting a solid defensive coach on the bench and trading away CJ and Collins.

Damian Lillard then got into a back and forth shootout with the Mavs. Dame and Melo traded three pointers in the final couple of minutes, then Dame drew four Mavs to him on the three point line and dished to Whiteside to get the Blazers a 132-130 lead with just a minute left.

Play of the game might have been when Gary Trent Jr. drew in Porzingis into an offensive foul on a break. Porzingis fouled out and he was the only automatic Mav on the floor all night. Well, I take that back, with 4.5 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a charge as Dorian Finney-Smith knocked down a three that would have given the Mavs a 134-132 lead.

Next Up

Thursday (8/13) in a win and in game against the Brooklyn Nets at 6:00 PM PST.

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