Mavericks deal Blazers a tough lesson — and a rough reminder

PORTLAND — It was messy. At times, it was downright ugly. In the end, it was a loss. And Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said it was a lesson learned.

Slogging through a tough game that was slowed down by 58 personal fouls and five technicals, the Blazers fell to the Dallas Mavericks, 83-77, Friday night at the Rose Garden before a sellout crowd of 20,693.

Portland was on the receiving end of four individual technicals, and a normally steady team lost its composure several times.

As a series of questionable calls bogged down what was supposed to be a dry run for the playoffs, Blazers coach Nate McMillan, Juwan Howard, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller all received technicals.

Several of the foul calls were met by a resounding chorus of boos, while everyone from McMillan to Miller avidly challenged the referees.

But McMillan did not spend his postgame press conference blaming the refs or wondering what if. In fact, he said he was in no way surprised by how the game played out. Before the contest, McMillan told his team that it would face exactly the type of tightly called contest it did against the Mavericks. And it would be up to the Blazers how they responded.

“Every call is going to be questioned, and you’ve got to stay calm
out on that floor and get to the next possession,” McMillan said. “You’ve got to be able to play that style of basketball, and you’ve got to be able to get to the next play.”

During a crucial 33-second stretch in the fourth quarter, Portland was unable to do so. Miller and McMillan both received technicals. And the Blazers watched a 69-68 deficit with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining slowly dissolve into a defeat.

“There were a lot of calls (where) guys felt that they were getting hit. And you’ve got to play through that in situations like that,” McMillan said. “A week from now, and I would say definitely our next three games … it’s going to be that type of atmosphere, and you’ve got to be able to play through that.”

With the loss, Portland fell into a tie with San Antonio for seventh place in the West. Just three regular-season games remain for the Blazers, who have already clinched a playoff spot.

Howard said McMillan hit dead center with his observations. Teams will increase their intensity and aggressiveness in the playoffs, and Portland must be mentally and physically prepared.

“You may see the referees allow a little bit more physical play than they allow early in the season,” Howard said. “So, this is a game that we’re going to learn from and move on.”

LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 27 points to lead the Blazers (48-31), while Brandon Roy contributed 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Marcus Camby added 18 rebounds.

But Roy was just 4 of 14 from the field, and Portland shot 36.4 percent (28 of 77) from the floor. The Blazers fared no better behind the 3-point line, shooting 26.3 percent (5 of 19).

“We didn’t make shots,” Roy said. “I thought if we made shots, we wouldn’t have looked this bad.

“I think maybe we overreacted. But I don’t think the technicals were the reason we lost this game. Offensively, I don’t think we executed well.”

While Portland struggled, Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki torched the Blazers. He poured in a game-high 40 points, and hit all 17 of his free-throw attempts. Nowitzki salvaged an equally rough night for the Mavericks (52-28), who were held to 33.8 percent (24 of 71) shooting from the field and 25 percent (5 of 20) beyond the arc.

While the loss left Portland’s locker room dead quiet after the game, Roy said there was still a benefit.

“Even during the game, I thought, ‘This is a good game for us,’ ” Roy said. “I’d rather face it tonight than the first game of the playoffs. We wanted to win this game, but I thought it was a really good game for our team. It was a nasty game.”

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