Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Blazers defense picks up slack against Mavs

Portland eventually gets going in 108-87 victory

By , Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers were coming off one of their best offensive performances in this young season.

The Dallas Mavericks came into Thursday with the league’s best offense.

So it was going to be a high-octane race Thursday in the Moda Center, right?

Not so fast. The Blazers committed a bunch of bad turnovers and the Mavericks shooting was ice cold.

Eventually, the Blazers defense let Portland prevail 108-87.

The Blazers couldn’t get a whole lot going on offense, other than LaMarcus Aldridge who was getting quality looks while locked in a great battle with Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki.

Turnovers and poor outside shooting were holding back what could be more.

On his first touch, the Mavericks threw a double team at Aldridge with Tyson Chandler. Aldridge worked in the summer to read those situations and he did a masterful job of either getting the ball out or attacking if the double didn’t come.

A Blazers unit of all bench players began the second quarter with an 8-0 run. But then the Blazers went almost 6 minutes without a field goal.

The Mavericks played probably their best defense of the season against the Blazers after coming into Thursday ranked 28th in the league in defensive efficiency, but it only lasted for a half.

The turnovers and the Blazers’ ice-cold 3-for-12 start from the beyond the three-point line made things difficult.

Portland stayed in the game because of their defense.

With 10:16 left in the third quarter, Wesley Matthews hit his first three, looked up in the sky as if to say, “finally,” and the Blazers started to roll on offense.

The Blazers jumped out to 17-6 run to start the second half, with Matthews leading the charge as Aldridge continued to be himself. And his battle with Nowitzki only lasted a half as well, with Nowitzki scoring just two second half points.

The Blazers outscored the Mavericks 35-18 in the third quarter, arguably their best quarter of the season.

And the defense continued to work much in the way it has in this early season and against the Mavericks, the Blazers employed similar tactics that worked for them against the Cavaliers or even back to last year’s playoff win against Houston.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts likes to switch against elite three-point shooters, especially big men like Nowitzki or Cleveland’s Kevin Love.

“The flexibility that Wes and Damian and Nic have — and you throw Steve Blake in there — the fact that they are able to do different things. It provides different looks,” Stotts said about his comfort with having the Blazers perimeter players switch their match-ups prior to the game. “An opportunity to rest on difficult match-ups. It’s something that I’m very comfortable with.”

Lillard said prior to the game that he needed to rise to the challenge of being good on the defensive end to help the Blazers have that flexibility.

“Nico is a great defender everybody knows that. Wes is a great defender. So it’s basically me that’s taking the challenge.That’s all a part of us taking the responsibility in match-ups,” Lillard said. “I want to be another good defender so we can do things like that. I think the last time was a time it actually looked good. We all kind of guarded everyone at some point and we defended well.”

The Blazers cruised in the final period and with the Mavericks playing Friday night, both teams emptied their benches in the final few minutes.

A fan collapsed in the arena midway through the fourth quarter and play had to be stopped as emergency medical personnel and fans rushed to the fan’s aid to carry them off on a stretcher.

EMT’s performed CPR on the unidentified woman. A Blazers spokesman said that the fan who suffered the medical emergency was transported to Emmanuel Hospital.

No further information was provided.

Stotts began his post game remarks saying that the team’s thoughts and prayers were with the fan who collapsed.

“Everyone in the locker room was very concerned,” Stotts said.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer