The Blazers took care of business on Wednesday night, defeating a slumping Dallas Mavericks team. While the outcome was rarely in doubt, the night was notable because it was likely the final Portland appearance of NBA hall of fame legend Dirk Nowitzki. The big man got cheers throughout the night and in the waning minutes the Moda Center crowd chanted, "We want Dirk!" Coach Rick Carlyle complied and put Nowitzki in for a swan song of sorts as the crowd got to its feet. Damian Lillard had another great night with 33 points and 12 assists and the Blazers coasted to a nice 118-126 victory.
Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic led all Dallas scorers with 24 points. He's clearly a superstar in the making and it was fun to watch the 19 year old play, even if it was a game which his team didn't seem invested in winning. Indeed, this is the time of year when some teams can barely conceal the fact that losing is more in their long term interest. Portland, fortunately, is not one of those teams. They are hot in the playoff race and Wednesday turned out to be a nearly perfect night for them as all of their close rivals, OKC, Houston, and San Antonio, lost.
It was the Blazers' second game in a row without star shooting guard CJ McCollum, who is out for at least another week with a knee injury. Lillard and center Jusuf Nurkic connected on several great pick and roll plays in the first half, seeking to make up for the lack of McCollum scoring. Other players stepped up as well. Harkless and Aminu hit their threes and Curry scored 20 points on the night.
Here's a look at some of the fans populating the Moda Center halls:
These folks came from Yakima and Seattle to witness the great Dirk Nowitzki one last time:
She said she didn't dye her hair red for the Blazers, but it works all the same:
These two drove all the way from Spokane to see Dirk. There really was a lot of Dirk love in the house.
The second half was unremarkable except for the aforementioned Nowitzki standing ovation. The Blazers played well throughout, and starters like Lillard and Nurkic got some needed rest in the fourth quarter. Jake Layman, who began the game slowly, caught fire and hit three three-point shots in a row. Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons got some playing time and everyone went home satisfied.
The Blazers face a tougher challenge against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Detroit is in the thick of the eastern conference playoff race and has a brutal front court duo in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Every game counts in this final stretch as the Blazers hope to secure home court advantage in the playoffs. They currently sit in fourth place in the West, a game and a half behind Houston and a game and a half ahead of OKC and San Antonio. Saturday's match-up versus Detroit will be here in Portland, so get your butts in the Moda Center, Rip City!