The Dallas Mavericks have won five of their last six after they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 133-125 at the Moda Center Thursday night.
The Mavs lead the season series 2-1.
While the Mavericks left little room to doubt they'd ultimately come away with the result, leading by as many as 25, reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard provided a close individual matchup:
Lillard drilled a game-high eight three-pointers. The 29-year-old point guard began the Blazers' scoring with a 39-footer before hitting four threes in the third quarter to spearhead a 17-0 run and pull within eight points:
Dallas and Portland combined for 43 three-pointers, including 23 first-half threes, to tie an NBA record:
Dallas was without reserve center Dwight Powell, who suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in the team's 110-107 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.
The Blazers were without starting star guard CJ McCollum (left ankle sprain) for a third consecutive game. The 28-year-old suffered the injury during Portland's 120-112 loss in Dallas on Jan. 17.
The Mavericks improved to 28-16, while the Blazers tumbled to 19-27.
DAL G Luka Doncic: 27 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals
DAL F Kristaps Porzingis: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
DAL G Jalen Brunson: 17 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
DAL G Seth Curry: 17 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal
DAL F Maxi Kleber: 15 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks
POR G Damian Lillard: 47 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal
POR F Trevor Ariza: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
POR G Gary Trent Jr.: 20 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
POR F Carmelo Anthony: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
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Doncic notched an individual win prior to the game's tip when the 2020 NBA All-Star Game starters were announced:
While Lillard went off for 47, Doncic quietly tallied yet another solid performance in a season full of them. The 2018 third overall pick's efforts headlined a historic Mavericks offensive outing:
The more encouraging thing for the Mavericks in the bigger picture? Doncic's supporting cast. ESPN shared a video earlier Thursday in which Porzingis said he and Doncic "can be a pretty deadly duo." The 24-year-old big man backed that up with his first 20-point performance of the month:
Doncic and Porzingis are undoubtedly the Mavs' pillars moving forward, but the team's other depth showed reason for optimism too:
Together, the Mavericks own the highest offensive rating since the NBA merger:
Highest offensive rating since NBA merger 117.6—Mavs 117.5 117.4 117.3 117.2 117.1 117.0 116.9 116.8 116.7 116.6 116.5 116.4 116.3 116.2 116.1 116.0 115.9—GSW '19 115.8 115.7 115.6—Lakers '87, GSW '17 115.5—Rockets '19, Bulls '92 115.4—Celtics '88 115.3—Suns '10 115.2—Bulls '96 https://t.co/mfh6NjIncZ
All of which is to say, Dallas is fifth in the Western Conference and looks like a lock to make its first playoff appearance since the 2015-16 campaign.
Trevor Ariza's Blazers Debut Provides Silver Lining in Loss
The Blazers acquired Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan in a trade with the Sacramento Kings that sent away Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver on Tuesday.
Ariza earned his first start in Portland against the Mavericks, and the 34-year-old forward delivered on what he and Lillard told reporters Wednesday they expect moving forward:
Ariza sunk four three-pointers, behind Trent's six and Lillard's eight. His season-high 21 points were second only to Lillard's game-high 47 among Portland scorers:
Lillard is going to get his—that's never an issue for the Blazers—and he got his in a historic manner against Dallas:
The problems are outside of Lillard:
Ariza's complementary performance came at a clutch time for the Blazers with McCollum absent. The 2004 second-round pick immediately syncing is an encouraging development for Portland beyond McCollum, though, because the team has been plagued by injuries since the season's start.
Depth is not a luxury for the Blazers if they're going to sniff the Western Conference Final for the second straight year; it will be necessary. Ariza proved a welcomed addition.
Dallas will visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday afternoon, while Portland will host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.