The Portland Trail Blazers have impressed with their ability to play hard, match the intensity of most opponents and play well enough defensively to pull out some impressive upsets.
But it’s a lot to ask for a young team to be down three of their best five players and pull out a victory against the high-powered offensive machine that is the Dallas Mavericks.
The Blazers put forth the effort needed to play with the Mavericks but simply lacked the defense necessary to avoid ultimately being vanquished 125-112 at the Moda Center.
“We stayed in there and made it a game,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “And we could just never really get control of the game. And we’d make a run. They’d bring Luka (Doncic) in and he’d calm the team down and get everybody the shots that they needed. But that’s his greatness.”
A key sequence came early. The Blazers were miraculously down just 11-8 despite starting out shooting 3 of 13 from the field. That poor shooting continued and Dallas seemingly buried the Blazers with a flurry of baskets that resulted in a 17-2 run and a 28-10 lead.
But the Blazers, as they have so many times this season, refused to just go away and allow a superior team to take home an easy win. The Blazers, who never led, pulled to within 45-39 in the second quarter, 73-69 in the third and 99-98 in the fourth.
However, in between those moves, the Mavericks would rebuild double-digit leads. In the fourth quarter, Dallas forced its way back to a 113-100 advantage with 6:10 to go and the Blazers simply ran out of runs.
Anfernee Simons, who had just one point in the first quarter, finished with 30 on 10-of-21 shooting. Shaedon Sharpe scored 24 to go with nine rebounds and four assists, and Toumani Camara contributed 14 points with eight rebounds.
Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 32 points, 10 assists and six rebounds despite going 3 of 13 on three-pointers.
Under Doncic’s direction, the Mavericks put up 62 points in the paint compared with 30 for the Blazers. Dallas shot 51.6%, while the Blazers hit just 37.1% of their field-goal attempts.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Blazers (6-15) were absolutely overmatched in this game at every level. And that should be expected, especially with Jerami Grant, Deandre Ayton and Malcolm Brogdon out. But once again, the Blazers put together and entertaining effort and kept themselves within striking distance of Dallas (13-8).
The Blazers shot a season-high 53 threes against the Mavericks and made 18 (34%). That surpassed the 46 they took during Wednesday’s loss at Golden Some when they made 16 (34.8%).
Billups said that given how Dallas defended the Blazers, he was fine with them taking that many threes.
“They just packed the paint on us,” Billups said. “We try to have a mentality of trying to attack the pain. But when you attack it and there’s four guys there, kick it out and we live with the results. We just couldn’t make enough.”
Blazers coach Chauncey Billups started Matisse Thybulle at small forward with Malcolm Brogdon out rather than shift Sharpe to small forward as he did Wednesday at Golden State and thus provide a starting spot for point guard Scoot Henderson.
Henderson has not started since returning to action from an ankle injury and he didn’t make a case for himself against the Mavericks.
In 30 minutes off the bench, Henderson went 4 of 17 from the field and 0 of 6 on threes to finish with 10 points, three assists and three rebounds.
Dallas’ Kyrie Irving (right foot) left the game late in the second quarter and did not return. Irving finished with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes.
The Blazers got back on the road to play at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the LA Clippers (10-10).
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