Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Dallas Mavericks. 78 games down, four to go, and a week from now the Blazers will likely be starting the playoffs against _______ (fill in any team's name there, you just might be right).
It's an exciting time for Portland, who currently is clinging to the number sixth seed in the crowded Western Conference standings, and the Blazers can sweep the season series against Dallas by winning tonight. Oh, but if the Blazers lose, it's back to the lowly eight seed and a possible first round date with the World Champion Lakers. There is plenty on the line tonight...
Portland's three previous victories over the Mavs—a team, in previous years, they always struggled with—were all impressive wins for the Blazers. There was their short-handed victory in Dallas (the night Joel Przybilla's knee exploded), Andre Miller's 52 point domination, plus a late March win inside the Rose Garden where the Blazers held Dirk Nowitzki to 15 points. Throughout the season the Blazers have played some of their best games against this Dallas team. But can they do it in four consecutive games?
In addition to not wanting to drop four games to the Blazers, Dallas can clinch the Southwest Division title with a win tonight coupled with a San Antonio loss.
Given the looming playoffs, the majority of press row is being reserved for various NBA team scouts on assignment. I'm considering feeding them all the wrong information about the Blazers throughout the night. "LaMarcus Aldridge? Oh yeah, dude is tough as nails." "Nicolas Batum? Can't hit a three to save his life. Leave him unattended in the corner." "Travis Diener? I have no idea who that is, sorry."
10:23 - The last time they were in town Caron Butler was fined $25k for his sailor talk on the court (possibly directed at some fans, the league is really vague when issuing punishments after the fact). Regardless, he's quick out of the gate tonight with a quick three in front of Batum. 3-2 Mavs.
9:01 - Speaking of jawing at the officials, Brandon Roy breaks out the attitude after he was hit on a layup attempt. It didn't matter though, Roy scoops up the loose ball for an easy dunk. 7-5 Blazers.
7:16 - With an early steal and a great move under the basket, Andre Miller is winning the battle of dusty old point guards with Jason Kidd. Soon Jerryd Bayless and Jose Juan Barera will duke it out for the role of most annoying backup point guard. 13-10 Blazers.
5:47 - Batum pick up a tough call on a blocking foul against Jason Terry. That's two for him and he has to sit. Meanwhile Terry misses both free-throws. Ball don't fabricate. 13-12 Blazers.
4:02 - It hasn't been his year, but when it comes to shooting a lightning quick three-pointer with a hand in your face—logic be damned—few do it better than Rudy Fernandez. You handsome bastard, you've done it again. 18-16 Blazers.
1:52 - Nowitzki ties the game from the charity stripe, and Butler puts Dallas ahead on a fastbreak layup. 20-18 Dallas.
1:07 - Fight! Fight! Juwan Howard plows over Eduardo Najera and throws a slap/punch. Technical for old man Howard. Juwan is such a gentleman, I'm surprised he didn't just slap him with his gloves and ask for a duel. 22-18 Mavs.
0:12 - Portland's offense is dead in the water, but Marcus Camby is more than willing to slap a Brendan Haywood jumper into the second row. It's not much, but it'll do. 23-18 Mavs.
11:30 - Technical now called on Rudy Fernandez. That thug. Portland has gone nearly six minutes without scoring. 24-18 Mavs.
9:35 - Don't want to be that guy but Ken Mauer's whistle is not going Portland's way tonight. This Blazers team rarely gets this frustrated at the officials. They fight for calls like any team, but they seem derailed by the calls going against them. 24-20 Mavs.
8:17 - Bayless make up for clanking another jumper by stripping Barea of the ball. Portland's bench is a mess these days. You can't find three streakier shooters than Webster, Rudy, and Bayless. Too bad all three are ice cold these days. Not a good sign with the playoffs on the horizon. 28-22 Mavs.
6:19 - Portland is shooting 32%, Dallas 29%. This is hardly the battle between two playoff teams we expected. 30-26 Blazers.
5:23 - I don't think Portland is going to top the 40 point mark by the half. At least, not at this rate. It's hard to come back from a seven point lead when you have only scored eight points in the last 10 minutes. 33-26 Mavs.
1:22 - A Blazer run? About damn time. Portland inches closer to the 40 point mark with a three from Bayless, then an Aldridge layup (while getting fouled). But guess who missed the free-throw? 42-37 Mavs.
0:19 - Not sure how Butler misses two close layup attempts, but Roy fairs better, as he drains a jumper as the half expires. 40 points? Not quite. 42-39 Mavs.
10:22 - Camby tumbles over a camerman in the first row, but his hustles pays off as his pass hits Miller for Portland's first basket of the half. 44-41 Mavs.
9:04 - Batum has a chance to tie it with a three, but his shot falls short and then he looses the rebound to Kidd. Looks like this half is going to be just as ugly as the first. 46-43 Mavs.
7:07 - After Butler pushes the lead to seven, Batum answers with a three. Portland just needs a little momentum, but they've struggled all night when it comes to scoring on consecutive attempts. 52-48 Mavs.
6:00 - Roy completes an and-one and Portland trims the lead to one. On the next play Aldridge hits a jumper and Portland takes the lead. There's that momentum. 53-52 Blazers.
3;14 - How the whistles have turned. After getting 10 more free-throw attempts in the first half, Dallas is quickly in foul trouble in the third quarter. Miller hits a pair and Portland is up by a basket. 56-54 Blazers.
2:00 - This game is ugly. Not quite Nets vs Timberwolves ugly, but it's hardly the playoff preview we all expected. Bayless steps out of bounds, then on the following play, Howard bobbles a wide open pass under the basket. 56-56 tie.
0:55 - Woah, Nowitzki gets away with leaving his feet before he goes up for a jumper. Which he makes, of course. Farewell momentum, farewell Blazers lead. 58-56 Mavs.
0:03 - Or not. Rudy nails a three and Portland wrestles back the lead going into the final dozen minutes. 59-58 Blazers.
12:00 - If Portland wants to win this game they might want to stop Nowitzki and let someone else do the scoring for Dallas. The big German has half of the Mavs' 58 points.
9:47 - Some nights Bayless is a blessing: an offensive spark off the bench. Tonight he is a liability. Sloppy turnovers, bad shooting, and poor choices as the shot clock winds down. 62-61 Mavs.
6:11- Ouch. A three from Eduardo Najera just seems to hurt more than when other Dallas players hit one from beyond the arch. It might as well count as four points. 67-65 Mavs.
4:47 - Andre Miller is one for 10 shooting on the night. Perhaps it's time he shoot shooting. 69-66 Mavs.
4:16 - Miller hits a shot, then gets a technical for mouthing off. That three in the game for Portland. Again, what a bunch of thugs. Also, I think someone threw something on the court as well. I'll be live blogging this riot as it progresses. I'm gonna steal me a television set! 70-68 Mavs.
3:40 - McMillan gets a technical as well. Now Batum picks up a suspicious foul as well and this arena has taken a turn for the ugly. 74-68 Mavs.
2:56 - As bad as the officiating is tonight, I doubt the chants of "these refs suck" are going to help things. 74-68 Mavs.
2:22 - I'm currently taking inventory of all the things I'm going to loot when the Rose Garden riots tonight. I wonder how many Blazer players I can fit in my trunk? 77-70 Mavs.
1:35 - Following a possible no-call against Nowitzki, Aldridge converts a fastbreak layup while getting fouled. He makes the free-throw. 77-73 Mavs.
1:06 - Batum with a misses three and Portland is going to need a stop here if they have any hope. Normally this would be enough time, but not for a Blazers team shooting 37%. 81-73Mavs.
0:00 - And that about sums up the night. Four straight misses three-pointers and Dallas stuns the Blazers (and an angry Rose Garden crowd). Your final score Dallas 83, Portland 77.