5 thoughts from Portland’s 132-120 OT loss to Mavericks

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Due to a situation I was unable to watch Sunday’s Blazers-Mavericks game live. I had some property stolen which will make it tougher to podcast for the time being. Anyway, the Blazers lost yesterday 120-132. Dirk Nowitzki had 40 points including some huge shots in overtime. The Mavs shot the lights out, shooting 55 percent from long-range and 60 percent from 3. Deron Williams had 31 points and 16 assists. The Blazers lost the game while the Mavericks are now assured to have the tiebreaker in the season series, if needed, thanks to the series between the two teams being only three games.

1. The Blazers missed a golden opportunity yesterday in Dallas. The Mavericks shot the ball extremely well but a Mavericks team without Parsons, probably their second-best scorer after Nowtizki, still should have been beatable. Kudos to Carlisle for thinking outside the box and going to Salah Mejri against Portland’s small-ball looks in the first half but also sticking with him in the second half. He got into the paint and was excellent around the rim on defense. I don’t know what it is about the Blazers that makes Deron Williams play like he is in Utah again but in the two meetings these two teams have had, he’s been excellent. Dirk, of course, is a legend and he added to it against the Blazers yesterday becoming only the 4th player in NBA history to score 40 at the age of 37 or older, joining Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. And yet, it feels like the Blazers dropped this one and an opportunity to have full control of their own destiny. Things are still pretty good for the Blazers with a 1/2 game lead for the 6th seed, but any chance to hold the tiebreaker if they have any stumbles over the last 11 games slipped through their fingers. Lillard missed a step-back off the front rim on an isolation play against Williams after Mejri missed two free-throws that could have won them the game on the last possession of regulation. They were that close from being being in excellent position head into their last 11 games while tying or winning the season series against all the teams they’ll be battling for playoff position.

2. ¬†Perhaps we’ve learned that fouling comes with youth. In the first quarter the Blazers were on the verge of running the Mavericks out of the building but with over half the quarter left to go. It slowed down their momentum and more importantly, brought the game down to a speed where the Mavericks experience and knowledge could best be utilized. You can never tell a team to go into a game to not foul but if they can play aggressive defense while also not getting the Mavericks into the penalty. The Blazers average the 4th most fouls per game according to NBA.com, even though they allow the 2nd lowest percentage. The Blazers are smart users of hack-a strategies but haven’t gone to those as much lately. They rebounded in the 1st quarter and had a double-digit lead after the first, keyed by small ball. But getting into the penalty in 1st let Dallas get back in it.

3. The Mavericks shot really well but at some point the Blazers defense needs to be able to take some of what they were doing away. Each team knows every other teams’ set and over the last three months, the Blazers have been the better team. Nowitzki and Williams each took turns taking the Blazers to school like the old guy taking a bunch of high schoolers to school at noon ball. Both players had games to remember but the Blazers were unable to really make them uncomfortable. Anytime he had Lillard or McCollum on him he had a bucket and he made their bigger, more athletic defenders like Aminu look silly to. Dirk is amazing. The Blazers defense against good teams hasn’t been. Matthews also got hot from deep. The Blazers defense has to do a better job of forcing him off the line and although Nowtizki is excellent, they can’t let him go off while also leaving their other shooters. The Blazers doubled late and they did much better guarding Nowitzki in the 4th quarter than they did in overtime.

4. This was a game the Blazers could have used Meyers Leonard with the Mavericks having such productive play from the center position in the middle of the game. Portland had solid contributions from guys playing power forward like Aminu and Harkless. Aminu was pretty solid in the 4th quarter even though he missed his final three shots. He had some big 3-pointers early and a nice dish to Plumlee, showing growth with the ball in his hands and not just putting his head down and going to the basket. However, Mejri had a major impact around the rim on defense and having Leonard on the court with a small line-up could have been the best counter. It seems unlikely we will see Leonard in Wednesday’s game given how long he missed with his last shoulder dislocation.

5. Allen Crabbe spent a lot of time with Wesley Matthews and learning from him, so it was probably pretty big for him to have one of his biggest games of the year against him. He had the best shooting night of any Blazers guard and he played like the Third Bucketteer again. Against Orlando it looked like his slump was over but it lingered through the first three games of the road trip. Luckily for the Blazers Crabbe he is always keeping it cool, which allows him to put up 24 points. Lillard had a tough 8-for-26 night but he and McCollum each had 8 assists. But sometimes a legend turns back the clock. The Blazers have eight of their next 11 games at home, which will help. They won’t all be easy. Dallas on Wednesday is the first of a back-to-back before the Blazers fly down to L.A. to face the Clippers for the first time since the game McCollum was accidentally left off the active roster. Then they play four straight home games starting with two games they should win against Philly without Jahlil Okafor Saturday and the Kings aka “Love & Hip-Hop: Sacramento” on Tuesday.

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on ESPN.com's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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