Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Dallas Mavericks. Could this game be a preview of the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs? It's quite possible, and Dallas is the team Portland would prefer to see in the postseason, as opposed to the infinitely more intimidating Lakers, Jazz, or Nuggets.

Time for some pretend playoff basketball...

For Portland, Rudy Fernandez (who sat Sunday in Phoenix) has been activated. His time on the court will be limited, probably capping out at around a dozen minutes or so.

Dallas is either the best team in the West not named Lakers, or a paper tiger. They won 13 in a row after acquiring Caron Butler and pals in a lopsided trade deadline deal with Washington. Then they dropped three of four, including a lopsided homecourt loss to the lowly Knicks. They are either great or mediocre, rarely anything in between. But when you see how stacked their roster is, it's an impressive accomplishment that the Blazers have won the two previous meetings this season, both of which were in Dallas.

10:22 - A Marcus Camby block on fellow elder Jason Kidd was nice, but the Mavs just reeled off a pair of buckets, while LaMarcus Aldridge's first shot was rejected by the giant paw of Eric Dampier. 4-0 Mavs.

8:26 - There is a lot of age on this court. Butler is the youngest starting player for Dallas and he just turned 30. Portland's vet combo of Miller and Camby just ran a fastbreak, which resulted in nothing bu disappointment as Camby clanked a pair of free-throws. 8-6 Mavs.

7:33 - Nicolas Batum with yet another block from behind. That leads to a three point play and a Portland lead. Meanwhile on the bench, Martell Webster begins cutting himself. 11-8 Blazers.

5:55 - Spotted at the game: Paul Allen in a suit. Not spotted at the game: Kevin Pritchard. Maybe they wanted KP to buy his own ticket? 15-12 Blazers.

4:54 - Batum with a three, then a flop (no foul) that ignited a fastbreak, and more points for the Blazers. Webster responds by cutting a little bit deeper. He just wants to feel something. 22-16 Blazers.

1:57 - Tough call for Portland and Dallas pulls within two. A travel and a foot on the line for Dallas, so perhaps the refs thought they canceled each other out. I'm pretty sure that is how that works. 25-23 Blazers.

0:01 - Camby with a jumper, then a steal and a flip to Bayless who scores with 0:01 on the clock. This might be a fake playoff game, but it's as loud as the real thing. 32-37 Blazers.

9:23 - Over the line violation? That is the equivalent of getting a technical for not tucking in your shirt. Bad Bayless. 36-35 Blazers.

9:00 - Miller with a ridiculous spin move through a sea of Dallas jerseys. That's seven points for him. 45 more to go to tie his season high against the Mavs. 38-35 Blazers.

7:25 - What a weird series of plays. First J.J. Barea crashes into the seats and makes a little girl cry. Then on the next play, the Mavs have an easy layup attempt get stuck on the rim. It becomes a jump ball, which Portland wins. Odd. 40-37 Blazers.

5:26 - Juwan Howard sticks a hand in the face of DIrk Nowitzki, bats the ball away, and frustrates the big German into clanking a jumper. Overwhelmed by the sheer gravity of the situation, Nowitzki flops to the court long after his shot rims off. 47-43 Blazers.

2:35 - Juwan jabs Dirk in the eye. By Nowitzki's dramatic reaction you'd have thought that Howard extracted his still-beating heart and held it up for display. Nowitzki deserves a best actress nomination for that performance. 51-46 Blazers.

0:40 - A pair of tough whistles against Roy: He gets shoved by the delicate hand of Eduardo Najera into Caron Butler, and is called for a foul. He then gets fouled on a jumper and buries the shot, but they wave off the continuation basket. That man is an All-Star to everyone but the officials. 55-51 Blazers.

0:09 - Jason Terry hits a three then gets a technical for taunting. What a stupid dumb baby. See what I just did there? No technical fouls for blog taunting. 57-54 Blazers.

0:00 - Roy takes it coast-to-coast for a layup as time expires. Wow, that was one great half of basketball. 60-54 Blazers.

10:30 - Roy would get less double teams if Camby could hit a wide open jumper. So far, he can't. 60-60 tie.

8:50 - But he sure can score near the rim. Camby tips the ball away from a pair of Dallas players, tips it again into the air, then tips that into the basket. I would have dislocated both my flippers (thanks for nothing, Thalidomide) on a play like that. 66-60 Blazers.

6:45 - Too bad Portland doesn't play this spirited against the other top tier teams in the Western Conference. On paper the Mavs have a vastly superior lineup, but not on the court. Case in point: Camby pump faking a defender, taking it to the rim and scoring while getting fouled by Shawn Marion. The lead is a dozen. 72-60 Blazers.

3:17 - Aldridge tips the ball away from Camby and to a wide open Butler. The lead is now down to five. A 12 point lead was too good to be true. 72-67 Blazers.

0:59 - Jason Terry's plastic mask is somehow scarier than the faceguards worn by other NBA players. It just glistens and makes everyone on the court uncomfortable. 78-75 Blazers.

0:00 - Rudy steals the ball away from the masked Terry and that's how the quarter ends. Twelve more minutes to go. 80-75 Blazers.

9:56 - Two minutes and counting and Portland has yet to score. Panic. 80-78 Blazers.

8:23 - Aldridge has had a tough time converting two foot jumpers underneath the basket. In fact, after dropping 14 in the first half, he has yet to score since the second quarter. He has a pair of free throws coming up, so perhaps that streak ends here. 84-80 Blazers.

7:48 - Aldridge hits his free-throws, and one play later is on the receiving end of a pretty alley-oop pass from Miller. Time out Dallas. 88-80 Blazers.

7:07 - Rudy feels no pain. He just converts a three, his first of the night. 91-82 Blazers.

5:14 - Inadvertent whistle? Over the line violation? Setting a pick out of bounds? Lots of weird calls from the officials tonight. 93-84 Blazers.

3:37 - Dallas has done a respectable job of clawing back into this game, but whenever they gain momentum or trim the lead to six, Portland rallies right back. Nice to see the Blazers offense play with a little purpose while holding a late game lead. 97-87 Blazers.

2:02 - Chaulpa points from Roy, then an airball from Dirk. That about does it. 100-87 Blazers.

0:00 - A very impressive victory for a Blazers team headed down the final stretch. Your final score: Portland 101, Dallas 89. Have a good night. See you next week.