Texas messed with: Blazers 104, Mavericks 96

PORTLAND — Rudy Fernandez tipped Shawn Marion’s errant pass, skedaddled to save it from going out of bounds, then tossed it to Gerald Wallace for a lay-up while three Mavericks stood motionless.

Probably reflective of Dallas’ mindset at that point: If Portland is playing that well, why even try?

In winning their eighth consecutive game at the Rose Garden, the Trail Blazers pummeled Mavericks Sunday night, 104-96.
They trailed 8-7 five minutes into the first quarter, led for the remaining 43, scored 38 points in the second quarter and were up by 21 midway through the fourth.

Six Portland players finished in double figures, and they collectively limited Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki to 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting.

The win not only moved the Blazers one step closer to the postseason, it made a first-round meeting with Sunday’s opponent that much more likely.

Not that anyone from the team will openly admit that’s a desirable match-up.

“I think we match up good with everybody,” Portland guard Wesley Matthews said. “Almost every team we could play in the playoffs we’ve beaten except the Lakers, even though we played them tough two out of three times. We could easily be 2-1 against them. We’re not trying to look at where we’re going to be. We’re just playing good basketball and will see where the chips fall at the end.”

Portland moves to 2-2 against the Mavericks (53-24) on the season, but have won the past two contests. In fact, since the Blazers acquired Gerald Wallace February 24, they have been competitive with just about every playoff-bound squad.
Before the forward was traded from the Bobcats, Portland (45-32) was 8-19 against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today. Since picking him up? They’re 9-5 against said opponents.

Wallace again demonstrated concrete proof of his value Sunday, scoring a team-high 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting while pulling down eight rebounds. The only questions is — were he and some of his teammates on the court for too long?

With Portland ahead 104-85 with 3:16 left in the game, Coach Nate McMillan finally took LaMarcus Aldridge out of the game, but left starters Wallace, Matthews, Andre Miller and sixth-man Nicolas Batum on the floor. About a minute later, Mavericks forward Brian Cardinal poked Miller in the eye.

Miller would remain in the game alongside Wallace until 49 seconds remained. McMillan, whose team has endured an uncanny number of injuries over the years, defended his decision.

“Hey, you gotta play the game, we substituted and then they (Dallas) got that lead down to 10 points,” he said. “If that (an injury) happens, you have to live with it. The thing is to win the game, what’s right or wrong, I think we tried to get them out. Sometimes that happens.”

Dallas came out flat Sunday, but there were certainly reasons for that. In addition to going without center Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks were playing their final contest of a six-game road trip and were at Golden State the night before.

That didn’t seem to mean much to Coach Rick Carlisle, though.
“No excuses. We’re not going to make excuses. Our first half was poor, we…knew that,” he said. “We battled back in the second half, but they were better tonight.”

With five games left to play, Dallas is now two and a half games behind the Lakers for the second seed in the West, and two and a half games ahead of Oklahoma City, which is currently fourth. Portland, meanwhile, is in sixth place, one game ahead of New Orleans and Memphis.

Aldridge had 14 of his 18 points in the first half for Portland. Matthews added 16, Batum 15, Rudy Fernandez 11 and Andre Miller 10. Marion led the Mavericks with 19 points.

The Blazers host Golden State Tuesday night.

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