Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Dallas Mavericks.

After a month away with a new baby and one final DNP-Dad, it feels good to be back. Things are a bit different since the last time I was here: Arron Afflalo is no longer a Nugget, Nicolas Batum is no longer a pumpkin, and both Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland are no longer on the shelf due to injury. But hey, at least Meyers Leonard is still as handsome as ever.

As for the Blazers? Well, they’re rolling. If Phil Jackson is to be trusted, Portland can now call themselves elite—they made it to forty victories before dropping twenty, sitting at a cool 40-19 on the season. Shout-out to DeAndre Jordan for forgetting how to play basketball and letting the Blazers sneak away with a win last night.

Third place in the Western Conference? A four-game winning streak, including three against tough Western playoff squads? Back to back nights on national TV? Dang, if this is what happens when I step away for a month, I might need to take an indefinite leave of absence and let the Blazers make a run at the title.

The Mavericks are firmly entrenched in the Western Conference playoff hunt, but this team is kind of a mess. Chandler Parsons is hurt. Their frontcourt is so thin they have to give minutes to the reanimated corpses of Amar’e Stoudemire, Richard Jefferson, and Charlie Villanueva. Worst of all, mid-season acquisition Rajon Rondo has been a bust—his biggest contribution has been getting in a fight with coach Rick Carlisle and getting suspended by the team for his behavior. Oof.

Tonight’s game is nationally televised, which of course means good Rondo is going to show up, mess around, and drop a triple-double. Dude both knows when he has eyeballs watching him and how to have a good day.

I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager all I own on Damian Lillard both scoring more than five points and grabbing less than eighteen boards tonight. I don't know what kind of Reggie Evans voodoo cursed him last night, but there's no way he comes close to that stat line again.

A huge thanks to Brian for keeping my seat on press row warm while I was away!

11:02 - After turnovers from each team, LaMarcus Aldridge got the scoring started with a twenty foot jumper from the elbow. 2-0 Blazers.

9:13 - There is quite a large assortment of Mavs fans here tonight, and they have reason to cheer after Dallas ripped off an 8-0 run. 8-2 Mavs.

8:18 - LaMarcus three-pointer alert. 10-9 Mavs.

6:16 - Aldridge must love playing against his hometown team—dude is on a tear to start the quarter. That's nine points already, and his shooting woes from last night are a distant memory. 13-12 Blazers.

4:23 - Al-Farouq Aminu sunk a three. Based on how those shots looked pre-game, the Blazers will live with that shot every single time. 17-12 Mavs.

2:53 - Attention Dallas coaches: neither Aminu nor Jefferson are going to be able to play power forward tonight. Aldridge will get his shot off every single time, just like that turnaround he sunk with ease. Timeout Dallas, probably to get some sort of player over 6'9" in the game. 17-17 Tie.

1:22 - The Mavs still haven't been called for a foul, and after Afflalo seemed to get hammered on a fast break attempt at the rim with no whistle, this crowd is letting the refs hear it. 21-17 Mavs.

0:00 - The Blazers are shooting 36% from the floor, as well as just 1-8 from deep. The Mavericks look...not good, but somehow they're up in this one. 23-17 Mavs.

11:29 - Hey, a foul! Not on Dirk hacking away at Chris Kaman on a layup attempt, but instead on Amar'e going for an offensive rebound. Hey, at least it's a call. 23-17 Mavs.

9:59 - Another foul, and this one resulted in Afflalo getting two freebies. He sunk 'em both, and the Blazers are on a 6-0 run to start the quarter. 23-23 Tie.

9:28 - More freebies, and that's now eight unanswered. 25-23 Blazers.

8:10 - Steve Blake versus JJ Barea is the greatest matchup of our generation. 25-25 Tie.

7:08 - Dirk is eating Dorell Wright's lunch in the post. Four straight points, two fouls drawn, and a couple thousand "oooohs" from the crowd on those Dirk fadeaways. 29-25 Mavs.

4:20 - This might be an exaggeration, but both teams missed about 87 shots in a row. and of course it's Rondo that breaks the scoring drought with a free throw line jumper. 31-28 Mavs.

3:57 - The crowd is losing it, and both teams are livid. Lopez had his armed hacked on one end by Tyson Chandler, but there was no foul called. The Mavs raced the length of the court, Batum blocked Richard Jefferson while drawing a lot of body, and again there was no foul called. The refs are definitely letting them play tonight. 33-28 Mavs.

3:57 - It looked like we were about to have another wedding proposal on the jumbotron—a guy dropped to his knee, but instead of pulling out a ring he asked his lady if she would get him another beer. Just...just kill me now. 33-28 Mavs.

2:13 - If not for Aldridge and his 15 and 6, the Blazers would be dead. Good thing the Mavs don't have a power forward that can guard a lick. Charlie Villanueva in the post? Heh. 35-32 Mavs.

1:28 - Dame can't find the bottom of the net to save his life. After going 1-13 last night, he's started tonight 0-2 and just missed a golden opportunity for a three-point play. Instead, he picked up the foul and sunk the two freebies for his first points on the night. 35-34 Mavs.

0:00 - Not a bad finish to the quarter, with the Blazers reeling off a 12-3 run. They forced a few turnovers, made a few buckets in transition, and finally looked like the dominant team. More of that in the second half, please. 40-36 Blazers.

10:00 - Ugh. Matthews leaked out into transition...and did something to his leg as he planted and tried to drive to the basket. It's hard to tell from the replays—it didn't look like an ankle injury, but that's how he reacted as he hit the deck. Timeout Blazers, and Wesley had to be helped off the court. Please be okay please be okay please be okay. 40-40 Tie.

9:45 - Of course Lillard's first basket of the night is a double-clutch pullup that he tried to draw a foul on. Yep. 42-40 Blazers.

8:43 - Dame for three, and all my worldly possessions are safe. I knew I could make that more than five points bet safely. 47-42 Blazers.

7:59 - Dame for another three! Goodbye, shooting woes. 50-44 Blazers.

5:44 - Robin Lopez swatted a Monta Ellis layup on one end, which ignited a Portland fast break. Dame dribbled behind the back, rifled a pass to a streaking Batum, and Nico picked up three the old-fashioned way. 56-47 Blazers.

4:23 - It was just announced that Matthews will not return with a left foot injury. Ugh. No other updates at this point. Now it's the waiting game to hear how bad the injury is, which is hopefully not bad at all. Please be okay please be okay please be okay. 58-49 Blazers.

1:43 - After a few failed attempts, Afflalo finally picked up his first bucket out of the post. Devin Harris can't guard him there, and the Blazers—despite the absence of Matthews—have built their largest lead of the game. 64-51 Blazers.

0:00 - The crowd is quiet, the Mavs are a step slow, the Blazers are firmly in the driver's seat, and....HOLY SHIT, someone just sunk a half-court shot for a free car!! What?! Of the hundreds of games I've been to, that's the first time I have seen that happen. Wow. 71-57 Blazers.

11:23 - Uh oh, Woj just tweeted that there are serious fears about Wesley's injury. No. I'd trade a million made half court shots for him to be healthy. 73-59 Blazers.

8:29 - Batum: made three. Dallas: timeout. Twitter: no new updates on Matthews. 78-63 Blazers.

8:22 - Alonzo Gee with his first highlight play for the Blazers, picking off a pass and taking it the length of the court for a thunderous dunk. 80-63 Blazers.

4:46 - Rondo with a twenty-foot jumper (he can make those?!), and it is suddenly nervous time here in the Moda Center as the Mavs have chipped their way back into this one. 83-73 Blazers.

3:46 - Remember when Batum couldn't hit a three? Me neither. 88-75 Blazers.

1:57 - Finally, something interesting in this fourth quarter! Raymond Felton checked in and this crowd serenaded him with boos. If it wasn't for the half court shot, that would have been the loudest this place got all night. 92-75 Blazers.

FINAL: 94-75 Blazers. Yep, the Mavs aren't that good. Of all the Western Playoff teams they are the worst, and the Blazers dispatched them with ease. The biggest story of the night, though, is going to be the health of Wesley Matthews. Fingers crossed that his MRI comes back negative.