The Dallas Mavericks (36-26) return home in the midst of their first 3-game losing streak of the season and kick off a grueling stretch against the Portland Trail Blazers (42-19).
The Game At Hand:
Tonight will be the third and final meeting between the Mavericks and Trail Blazers, each winners on the other’s home floor.
In December Dallas went into the Mota Center to bury the Blazers on a buzzer-beater from Monta Ellis, who is averaging 17.5 points in the two meetings. Portland more than returned the favor by dominating the Mavericks in January with a 127-111 win.
Dirk Nowitzki, coming off a 27-point game (13-for-20 FG) in a loss at Denver, has done his part with 48 points against the Blazers this season. Unfortunately, help for the Mavs’ franchise player has been sporadic with inconsistencies all across the board. Ellis impacts the game with his passing and scoring, but the scoring needs to be even better going forward.
For Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge (24.5 points & 12.5 rebounds) and Robin Lopez (15 PTS & 13 REB) have been double-double monsters against the Mavericks. It doesn’t stop there, Nicolas Batum (21.5 PTS & 7.5 AST) has added stellar play as well. Factor in they still have All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, two-way guard Wes Matthews and an improved bench.
Dallas’ 3-9 record against the West’s top five teams gets tested once again tonight. The Mavs have lost some close ones against both the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers in that group failing to finishing a night of hard work.
Portland shares to league scoring summit with the Clippers, each scoring an NBA-high 107.7 points per game. Putting the ball in the basket hasn’t been Dallas’ challenge this season, it’s been preventing opponents from doing so.
Keys To The Game:
1. Short Term Memory - Forget the three losses. Dallas doesn’t have time to worry about its first trio of defeat this season. Portland is here and ready to take the season series. How will the Mavs respond? Let’s start with team energy which wasn’t present in the Rockies. The Mavericks need to play with some urgency, Memphis is hot on their trail for that final playoff spot. Finally, the heart and passion need to be there collectively, one or two guys are not going to carry the load against the West’s contenders.
2. Bench Production – While Dallas has two of the league’s best scorers in Dirk and Monta in its starting crew, their next best option is Vince Carter. Carter leads a Mavericks bench bunch that has averaged 45.5 points against the Blazers this season. Dallas needs the support of reserves like Devin Harris (tempo), Wayne Ellington (shooting) and Brandan Wright (efficiency) in this one.
This guy has fans alike waffling between loving him and questioning his disappearing act. It’s not as if Monta completely vanishes, plus he’s the lone Maverick player to play and start every game this season. He does lead Dallas in turnovers, but that’s to be expected with the amount of the time the ball is in his hands.
Ellis’ 19 points and 5.8 assists have been much needed for the Mavericks team, a drastic improvement over O.J. Mayo last season. Starting tonight and down this stretch, I’m asking for even more from Monta. Dallas needs him to elevate his game to another level. Dirk needs that sure thing second option to balance the load and carry this team to where it wants to be.
What They Said:
Very happy for success of Terry Stotts w/ Portland. More wins this season (42) than any of 5 prev seasons as head coach (40 w/ MIL in 05-06)
3/7/14 4:23 PM
Defense is always 1st issue, but Mavs need more Off from both Ellis & Harris. Post ASB 8 games: Ellis 16.1/42.1/36, Harris 5.1/28.2/15.3
3/7/14 11:19 AM
When and Where:
Tip-off starts tonight at the American Airlines Center at 7:30 pm CST and will be televised on FS Southwest.
Photo Credit: Jerome Miron – USA TODAY Sports