This one hurts. After taking a 14 point lead into the fourth quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers went ice-cold en route to a disappointing 102-101 loss to the depleted Dallas Mavericks.
Heading into the game, Portland was slated to play nine of their next ten games on the road. That stretch sees the Blazers take trips to Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto. The only sure thing in these next ten should have been a win at Dallas and should be a win at Cleveland. This was a crucial game for the Blazers, and they couldn’t pull it out.
Tale of Two Halves
Going into the break, Portland led 57-47, looking like they would coast relatively easy to an invaluable win during a tough slate of games. In the first half, the Blazers got a huge boost from their bench. Everyone who came into the game was positively contributing. Zach Collins filled in admirably when Jusuf Nurkic got into foul trouble. Evan Turner ran the second unit to perfection, putting Jake Layman and Rodney Hood in positions to be successful. Led by that group, the Blazers outscored the Mavericks by 11 in the second quarter.
Although the Blazers extended their lead in the third quarter, outside of Damian Lillard, who went for 21 of his team high 30 in the third, other contributions were few and far between. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Lillard couldn’t find that scalding hot form in the final period.
After shooting only 3-16 in the fourth and 0-6 from three, the Blazers couldn’t get a win when leading after three for the first time all season. That’ll happen when you register seven turnovers compared to one assist in the final frame. Say what you will about the possible missed foul call, but Portland shouldn’t have found itself in that position in the first place. For three quarters, the Blazers looked like the far superior team, making their subsequent collapse one of the more frustrating losses of the season. Dallas didn’t win this game, Portland handed it to them.
Against the Spurs, it was Meyers Leonard, but today Coach Terry Stott’s elected to give second-year big man Zach Collins the bulk of the minutes. It seems as if Stotts is going to apply a match-up based approach with the minutes distribution between Leonard and Collins.
The Spurs, with hulking big man Jakob Poeltl, seemed to be a better fit for the less quick Meyers Leonard. In today’s matchup, the Dallas big men are a versatile group that can space the floor, which favored Collins. Assuming Stott’s is looking to lock down his preferred rotation with playoffs on the horizon, this will be a developing storyline down the stretch.
Luka Doncic’s Fourth Quarter Was Special
I’ve elected to use this section to vent my emotion at how unbelievable Luka Doncic is. The guy is 19 years old and he just thoroughly outplayed Damian Lillard in the fourth quarter. I mean were talking “Lillard Time.” That’s Dame’s quarter and Doncic just ripped it away. He scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, topping it off with an impossible lefty layup while he was fouled by Zach Collins. The free-throw that culminated the three point play was ultimately what decided the game.
Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic. Photo by: Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports
The composure with which Doncic operated down the stretch was reminiscent of Lillard’s pristine rookie season. Neither is afraid to take the big shot and live with the consequences. There hasn’t been a rookie as comfortable in the fourth quarter with the game on the line since Lillard’s inaugural season.
Up next is a trip to Oklahoma City on Monday. With the loss today, the Blazers will be looking to get back on track against the Thunder. That is no small feet, though, as Paul George has been unstoppable in recent weeks.