Pro hoops' hottest franchise takes the floor for the second straight night, as Portland hosts the Dallas Mavericks in a meeting of Conference past and future. After breaking a club record for 3-point shooting in an annihilation of Utah just 24 hours ago, Portland is—as Wesley Matthews put it last night—"feeling it."
After all, the Blazers have won nine straight at home and 15 of 16 overall. Their commitment to defense and rebounding is obvious, their magnanimous ball-movement evident. And while it may seem a disadvantage to play a rare home-and-home back-to-back game against a team that's been off their feet since Thursday, the in-rhythm Blazers probably don't mind a chance to keep things going.
"Everybody's buying in with an unselfish attitude," said LaMarcus Aldridge while standing in front of his locker last night after a 20-point, 15-rebound performance. "If we keep up this fun play, anything's possible."
That likely includes victory over a Dallas side that's won four of five against Portland, including two of the last three here. Can a Blazers squad that's put history behind them all season take do it again. There's only one way to find out (that's not true, but humor me): Click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe all the action—on and off the floor.
Dallas Mavericks (12-8)—Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis on guard. Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki up front. Samuel Dalembert at center.
On the bench: Shane Larkin, Bernard James, Ricky Ledo, Jae Crowder, Wayne Ellington, Vince Carter, Gal Mekel, DeJuan Blair
Portland Trail Blazers (17-3)—Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews on guard. Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge up front. Robin Lopez at center.
On the bench: Dorrell Wright, Will Barton, Meyers Leonard, Earl Watson, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Allen Crabbe, Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson.
PREGAME: Don't expect the curb-stomping we saw last night. While Utah was a team Portland should've put away early (and most certainly did), Dallas should show a bit more life. Nowitzki was out shooting pre-game in front of a trio of German fans who flew into PDX for this very event. Two held signs that read: "Super German" and "8537 km, 13-hour flight, just for you!" Which goes to prove my longstanding theory: Germans love
David Hasselhoff Dirk Nowitski.
One change from the announced lineups: Dalembert is a late scratch, so Blair will crack the starting lineup.
FIRST QUARTER: We're underway...and Portland wins the tip.
10:53—Aldridge being guarded by Nowitzki here early and misses his first two shots. The Mavs strike first as Ellis scores on a nifty little reverse lay-in.
10:11—Portland on the board as Lillard shakes-and-bakes and squares up to drain a 20-foot jumper. We're tied at 2.
8:48—A nice start for the fresh-legged Mavs. Nowitzki drains a 3 from the top of the key and on the other end, Ellis with a steal and breakaway. He's fouled by Lopez, who gave chase. Ellis hits both and Mavs are on a seven-point run to lead 11-4. Blazers a bit more flat than they were last night.
7:00—Lillard with his first flash of brilliance of the night. He splits a pair of defenders twice and makes his way to the rim for a layup. After a fruitless Mavs possession, Lopez follows up an Aldridge miss with a tip-in and Portland pulls within a possession. Mavs lead 15-12.
6:17—Timeout on the floor after Aldridge brings the crowd to life with a big-time dunk. Dallas leads 17-14, and coach Rick Carlisle wants to nip any home momentum in the bud.
5:42—Vince Carter checking in for Dallas as Calderon steps to the line and hits one of two free throws. Portland has missed its first five 3-point attempts, which is a tad unlike last night. Batum's last attempt was short and right—a sign of some fatigue?
4:52—Maybe not. Nice ball movement by Portland ends with Batum draining a 3 from the left wing. Mavs still lead by three, and Portland needs 16 more of those to tie a franchise record.
4:03—Portland with its first lead as Aldridge drains one from one of his many favorite spots. Nice stop and pop by the big man.
3:44—After a Dallas bucket, Williams drives and takes on three defenders for a layin. Blazers lead 25-24 as the rhythm picks up for both sides.
2:48—Timeout on the floor after Dalembert travels on a spin move under the basket. Mavs lead 26-25 behind eight points from Ellis. Lillard also with eight, which leads Portland in the early going.
1:52—For some reason, Williams is guarding Nowitzki. An unsual strategy pays off, though, as Wiliams pokes one away from the big German while he tries to post up. Dallas retains the ball but with only five seconds on the shot clock. Crafty.
1:22—Nowitzki with a turning jumper that's shades of Aldridge's un-guardable fadeaway. Dallas leads 28-26.
0:42—Blazers on the break and Matthews throws a pretty no-look bounce pass to Aldridge, who jams it home two-handed.
0:29—Another Mavs miss, another Blazers break. This time it's Wright going strong and scooping for a layup. Portland finishing the quarter with some momentum.
0:00—Blazers lead 30-28 after trailing by as many as seven. Lillard leads Portland with eight, followed by Aldridge and Lopez with six apiece. Ellis has seven, Calderon and Nowitzki with seven each. Mavs shooting 60% to start.
SECOND QUARTER: Robinson in for Aldridge.
10:57—Vince Carter sighting! He's scored the Mavs' last four points. The first on a layup, the second after a whirling miss that's rebounded, passed back to him and drained from the baseline. Straight-out-the-last-century ballin' right there.
9:33—Robinson showing a bit of range on his first bucket. Drains one from 20 feet and holds his arm up LIKE A BOSS. If that shot slowly becomes part of Robinson's game, the second year former Lottery pick could be scary.
8:53—Blazers with a turnover after Robinson loses control and Freeland tips it out on a save attempt. Timeout on the floor as Portland commits its eighth TO of the night. It's a back-and-forth affair so far: We've had eight changes so far.
7:11—Robinson with a double-clutch layup after a dish from Lillard. Mavs miss and Portland gets it back on their end. Lillard draws a three-shot foul on Ellis, who does not like the call. Lillard hits all three to give Portland a 40-39 lead.
6:22—Lopez fights for two straight rebounds and collects. He drops in a put-back layup and Carlisle runs halfway onto the court to take a timeout. Blazers lead 42-39, their biggest lead of the night.
5:47—Pretty plays on both ends. First Ellis with a wild, circus-like reverse layup. On the other side, Lopez with a nice backdoor look to Robinson, who jams it two-handed.
3:13—Carter goes strong to the hole and lays one in left-handed. More veteran craftiness on display and Stotts takes a timeout as Dallas leads 47-46. Portland nearly doubling-up the Mavs on the boards (21-11), but Dallas is shooting 57% from the field to keep this one airtight.
2:51—Lillard with a line-drive 3 for his 17th point. Blazers lead 49-47 and Lillard is quite good.
1:14—Batum with an airball, but Lopez is right there to leap and put it in. He's got a double-double already.
0:26.8—Timeout on the floor after Marion breaks away and dunks one home. Blazers will have the ball with five seconds on the shot clock when we get back to action, but the Mavs lead, 55-51.
0:22.5—Lillard draws another foul on Ellis, who once again disagrees. The former hits both free throws and the Mavs take a timeout, still up two.
HALFTIME: Dallas up 55-53. Lillard leads the Blazers with 19 points, but the Mavs are shooting 58% from the field. They have three guys—Ellis, Dirk and Calderon—in double-figures.
THIRD QUARTER: And we're back at it...Dallas with the ball to start the half.
11:44—Marion hits a 3 to start the second-half scoring. As ever with the 14-year vet out of UNLV, it's function over form.
10:09—Lillard on the break but loses it. Aldridge is there to pick it up, and he's fouled on the way to the hoop. He'll hit both of his free throws to pull Portland within a possession. Dallas up 62-59.
9:23—Nowitski nails his second 3 of the night. This, one possession after a one-footed fallaway that you can't do much about. Dirk is still Dirk, and Dallas still leads.
8:14—Blair with two straight buckets to give Dallas a 10-point lead, their biggest of the night. Dallas' bench loves seeing the 260-pound Blair nabbing a couple contested buckets, and they're on their feet. So is Stotts, who calls a timeout. Dallas leads 71-61 and if Portland isn't careful, the Mavs might put the home team in a hole.
7:57—Blazers' first possession after the timeout results in a turnover on Aldridge. He's being double-teamed right as the pass gets to him, and it's giving LA some headaches tonight.
6:03—Aldridge backs down Nowitzki and draws a foul? No, the ref calls it all ball and Portland retains possession, but the crowd here wanted Dirk's fourth foul. Blazers inbound and Matthews follows a miss to pull Portland within five, 71-66.
4:51—Batum nails a wide-open 3 the Blazers have cut the Dallas advantage to two points. Mavs grabbed a 10-point lead then started taking bad shots. With Nowitzki on the bench, Portland has taken advantage, and it looks like this one will be back-and-forth 'til the final horn.
3:57—Blazers with a steal and Aldridge finds a cutting Batum beneath the basket for a two-handed dunk. Blazers on a 10-0 run after trailing by that many, and we're tied at 71.
1:52—Batum with a double-clutch lean-in 3 to give Portland the lead. That's a tough shot, but Batum looks like he's dialed in, the most fresh-legged of the Blazers. He has 15 now, and Portland leads 74-73.
0:00—Mavs close the quarter strong, but this one is primed for a great finish. Crowder nails a 3 (seriously) to give them a two-point lead, then James hits a one of two from the line to put Dallas up 79-76. Four Blazers in double figures, led by 19 from Lillard. Batum has 15, Aldridge 13 and Lopez has 10 and 10. Dirk leading Dallas with 18, followed by Ellis and Calderon with 15 apiece.
FOURTH QUARTER: Blazers will start with it.
10:38—Aldridge with a baseline jumper on a nice behind-the-back look from Williams. Blazers within one and the Mavs turn it over on the other end when Carter travels.
10:03—Nowitzki drains a 3 after Aldridge cheats a bit on defense and gets caught. Dallas up 82-78 as Dirk throws the first dagger of the final quarter.
8:40—Carter is blocked by Lopez under the hoop but maintains possession. He then finds Mekel open on the wing, and the rookie drains it from 3-point land. Ouch. Dallas leads, 85-78. Can Portland muster another run? They need one.
8:25—That's not how you start it. Aldridge gets it on the baseline and is double-teamed. He gets tied up trying pass it and is called for traveling. 16th turnover of the night for Portland.
8:01—Now James is looking like LeBron (OK, not really). He goes strong to the hoop for a reverse layup put Dallas up nine.
6:52—Lillard slashes to the rim and scores to pull Portland within five. Carlisle will take a timeout after Portland scores four straight, and it looks like we're in for a bit of a finish here.
6:01—Lillard with a fadeaway jumper. On the other end, James again goes right to the hoop and scores over Lopez. I'm talking about Bernard James here, folks. He has five points and six rebounds after sitting the whole first half.
4:34—Blazers with three straight stops, but they can't convert on any of them. Blair leaks out after Lillard's reverse attempt goes long, and Blair goes to the line. He hits one of two and Dallas leads by six.
4:26—Lillard cuts the lead in half with another 3. He has 26 on the night.
3:58—And now Lillard ties it! A huge 3-pointer from the top of the key and we're tied at 94. Lillard drains, then throws a spinning right-handed punch at center court. Crowd loves it, and Lillard is pumped.
3:44—Nowitzki quiets the crowd with a 20-foot jumper. Dallas up two.
3:04—Nowitzki again. Daggers.
2:29—Lopez scores one down in the paint, and after a Nowitzki (barely) miss from the top of the key, Batum draws a foul. He hits them both, and we're tied at 98.
2:15—Nowitzki got the matchup he wanted and hits a fadeway while being fouled by Lillard. He converts the free throw and Dallas leads 101-98.
2:00—Batum answers. Spinning jumper.
1:41—Dallas looks like they turn it over twice, but Ellis ends up with it and nails a 3 from the right corner. Huge. Mavs lead, 104-101.
1:02—Dallas with the ball after Aldridge tips it out trying to avoid Blair on the floor. Tough break there, but the Blazers can't dwell—they need a stop.
0:45.5—Nope. Nowitzki with a fadeway from 12 feet and that might do it. Dallas leads 106-100 and Portland will need some magic if they hope to sweep this homestand.
0:39—Batum with a 3! From right in front of Dallas' bench. Here we go...
0:09.1—Ellis misses and Portland will bring it down without a shot clock. Williams somehow gets a wide-open threeeeeeeeeee(!) but he leaves it short. Crowder gets the rebound and is immediately fouled. Dallas will take a timeout and Portland is really up against it now.
0:06.8—Ball inbounded to Ellis, and Matthews and Lillard trap him. He appears to lose it out of bounds, but the ref gives it back to Dallas. They'll take another look here and we'll have a crucial instant replay call coming. It appears the ball went off Ellis, but Matthews might've been out of bounds when he touched it. We'll see....And it's BLAZERS BALL. Portland trails by three, but will have the final shot here. Dallas might be well advised to foul, but they better be careful.
0:01.9—Lillard hits! A 3-pointer to tie it up! They'll take another look, and Lillard's foot was very close to the line there. He was forced to double-clutch with Marion breathing down his neck and somehow manages to step in and hit the cluuuuuutch shot. That's 32 on the night for Lillard...or will it be 31? CALL STANDS—IT'S A 3 AND WE'RE TIED UP. Dallas will have it with enough time to catch, dribble and shoot, but we might be headed to overtime.
0:00—Ellis with the game winner! He takes the inbounds pass, curls to the top of the key and drains an open jumper to win it. What a finish.
FINAL: Dallas wins, 108-106, on an absolutely dagger-riffic game winner from Ellis. Portland showed some fight. They trailed by six in the final minute, but closed the gap to tie it with less than two seconds remaining on a Lillard 3. But Ellis has the last laugh and Dallas escapes with a heartbreaking loss for Portland fans.