Mavs, Ellis sink Blazers at buzzer

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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PORTLAND — Monta Ellis’ one-legged jumper at the buzzer spoiled a late-game comeback by the Portland Trail Blazers to give the Dallas Mavericks a 108-106 win at the Moda Center on Saturday.

After a 32-point snoozer Friday against the Utah Jazz, the Blazers were locked in a battle of offensive firepower with the Mavericks.

The Blazers struggled to shoot for most of the game after setting an NBA record for three-point percentage Friday against the Jazz.

The Blazers shot 9-of-30 from three, good for 30 percent. Making matters worse for the home team was that the Mavericks feasted in the paint, scoring 54 points.

“We tried some different coverages just to try to slow down Dirk (Nowitzki),” Damian Lillard said. “There was a few miscommunications out there but we stuck with it and we had a chance to win the game at the end.

“They just hit a good shot.”

Ellis’ shot ruined what would have been a spectacular Blazers comeback in the final 45 seconds of the game. The Blazers were down by six but were able to get a stop and force a turnover to give themselves a chance.

The Mavericks led for most of the game and the Blazers had to dig deep many times but it seemed each time the veteran Mavs had an answer.

Nicolas Batum sparked a comeback in the third period to help the Blazers inch closer as he scored 12 of his 22 points the third quarter.

Lillard was excellent in the first half and the fourth quarter of the game. He scored 19 points in the first and 12 in the final period.

The Blazers worked their way to tie the game with 3:58 left after a 6-0 run by Lillard.

The Mavs, with the momentum going against them on the road, drew up a play for Nowitzki out of a timeout to swing the momentum back in their favor.

Nowitzki scored 10 points in the final quarter, including seven after Lillard tied the game with 3:58 left. Ellis hit a jumper to put Dallas up by six points with 45 seconds left.

Batum hit a three coming out of a timeout and the Blazers got a precious stop after Ellis missed a runner in the lane.

Mo Williams missed a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession but the Blazers gave themselves another shot by forcing a turnover from Ellis to give them the ball.

Head coach Terry Stotts drew up a play to get Lillard a shot to tie the game and Lillard hit a tricky double-clutch shot on Shawn Marion to tie it.

“Shawn Marion, he knew I was coming off trying to raise up so I knew he would jump,” Lillard said. “I head faked him and he didn’t jump as far off as I thought he would so I jumped to the side. The shot went in and I wasn’t sure if I was on the line or not.”

The officials reviewed the play and ruled it a three but the Blazers left 1.9 seconds, enough time for Dallas to have a final shot at the basket.

LaMarcus Aldridge was guarding Nowitzki on the final play and was surprised Dallas didn’t go to their superstar.

“I think everybody thought it was going to Dirk and they used him as a little decoy,” he said.

Despite the loss, thanks to Indiana’s win against the Spurs on Saturday night, the Blazers still sit atop the Western Conference at 17-4.

Game notes

• Lillard had an aggressive first half for the second straight game as he scored 19 points to lead the Blazers after scoring 21 in the first half on Friday.

• Robin Lopez was aggressive in the early going keeping the energy going, posting a double-double after the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

• Against the Utah Jazz on Friday, the Blazers came out aggressive as they opened up a 17-point lead in the first quarter. Saturday, it was the Blazers opponents who were the aggressors as the Mavericks took it right at the Blazers. However, the Blazers were able to bounce back and take a two-point lead after the first quarter.

• The Blazers and Mavericks came into the league both ranked in the top-five in offensive efficiency while also being ranked in the bottom ten in defense. The Blazers have the league’s most efficient offense while the Mavericks are fifth. Of course, the game was a shootout.

• Terry Stotts was an assistant coach for the Mavericks for four seasons and he mentioned that they run some of the same actions on both sides. But he did want to disguise his plays a little bit: “There’s still some similarities in what we do and what they do. I did change the name of some of them. They are the same plays but I just changed the names.”

• Ellis, Dallas’ leading scorer coming in, proved to be a very tough cover for the Blazers in the first half. Ellis lead the Mavs in the first half with 15 points and was getting to his spots all over the court. The Mavs also had 20 of their 43 shot attempts coming at the rim.

• The Mavs had the early edge in the shootout as they took a 55-53 lead at halftime.