Earl K. Sneed recaps the Mavericks' Sunday night matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, as the Dallas squad fell for a third straight game to conclude its longest road trip of the season with a 3-3 mark.
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Mavericks would have preferred to go into their potential playoff preview against Portland at full strength. But after starting center Tyson Chandler attempted to draw a charge on Golden State’s David Lee in the third quarter of the Mavericks’ 99-92 loss to the Warriors on Saturday night, the Dallas team would be forced to play without its defensive leader a night later.
“I don’t feel like it’s a long-term thing,” Chandler said after being ruled inactive due to a lower back contusion. “It’s just next-day stiffness and pain. We have two days off coming.”
Chandler’s injury created a 7-foot-1 hole in the middle of the Mavericks’ lineup, as the team entered the Rose Garden looking to rebound from back-to-back losses and trying to claim a third victory against the Trail Blazers in the four-game season series.
And with the two teams slated to match up in the first round if the playoffs were to begin on Sunday, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle confessed that his squad would still need to come out ready to make a statement even without Chandler in the lineup.
“This is one of those situations were there is significance because there could be a matchup. We know it, they know it,” Carlisle explained. “So, the game has meaning.”
But the loss of the Mavericks’ spiritual leader would be felt, while the team’s tired legs would stumble through their final test on a six-game, 10-day road trip. And instead of the Mavericks (53-24) delivering a message to their possible first-round opponent, they would suffer through a third straight loss and finish their longest road trip of the season with a 3-3 mark, falling for a second time this season in the Rose Garden, this time to a 104-96 defeat.
“Long road trip, this was the third back-to-back this week. I had never done that in my career, that’s tough. Body has to adjust,” sixth man Jason Terry said after the loss. “You look at us out there tonight, we just didn’t have that extra burst. They got every loose ball, they got all the loose rebounds, they just outhustled us, and that tells you that you have a weary team.”
With an extra importance placed on the matchup Carlisle reinserted forward Shawn Marion into the starting lineup in place of swingman DeShawn Stevenson, who got the nod against the Warriors. Meanwhile, reserve center Brendan Haywood joined Marion in the first unit in Chandler’s absence.
But the Mavericks would have more adversity to face in the early going, as second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois picked up two fouls in the game’s first 62 seconds. Carlisle would stick with the young pro despite the early whistles, but Aldridge and the Blazers (45-32) would grab a quick advantage. And behind the Seagoville native’s 10 first-quarter points, the Blazers would enter the second quarter with a 23-17 advantage.
A corner 3-pointer by veteran forward Peja Stojakovic to beat the shot clock gave the Mavs a lift when the second quarter got going. But reserve guard J.J Barea would be the one leading the charge as the Mavericks tried to combat the balanced Blazers, driving and scoring off dribble penetration to keep his team in the game when the Portland squad tried to pull away.
Still, after Barea was forced to sit with three fouls, joining a trio of Dallas guards including Beaubois and Terry with three personals, the Blazers were able to open up a double-digit advantage, heading to the break with a 61-46 lead.
The Mavericks were outshot in the first half, 61 percent to 50 percent. Meanwhile, Aldridge led all scorers at the midway point, scoring 14 points and getting help from Gerald Wallace and his 10 first-half points to overshadow 12 points by Marion and 10 more from Barea two quarters into the game.
“In the first half we didn’t get enough stops. We shot 50 percent, which is decent, but we gave up 60 percent shooting and never really got any stops,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said.
“Obviously, you don’t have Tyson out there tonight, a big part of what we do, and we’re not very good without him,” Terry added. “You don’t have Tyson Chandler, so your defense is gonna take a hit. He’s the reason we have the record that we do and he’s a big part of our success to this point.”
Although Marion would continue to shoulder the bulk of the offensive responsibility in the third quarter, the Mavs could offer up very little resistance at the defensive end of the floor. And with Beaubois in the locker room having his left ankle taped, the Mavericks would fall behind by as much as 20 in the period, before limping into the final 12 minutes of play down 85-67 after Nowitzki connected on a buzzer-beating jumper to end the third.
Nowitzki would continue to fire in the last quarter, as would Stevenson on his 30th birthday. But the Mavericks wouldn’t be able to build enough momentum to cut their deficit to single digits, despite an 8-0 spurt after falling behind by 21.
“In the second half we kept on plugging and never really got it under 10 to make a push there. Made some nice runs there, finally, actually made some stuff work offensively, but it just wasn’t enough to really get over the hump,” Nowitzki explained.
Wesley Matthews and the Blazers continued to keep the Mavs at bay down the stretch, while the Dallas team waved goodbye to Barea after he picked up his sixth foul of the night. And with the game no longer in doubt, late scores by Beaubois proved to be too little, too late.
“It was the end of the game, so I will not say that it was something for me to build off of,” Beaubois explained. “But it’s always good to see some shots go in, ‘cause lately that wasn’t the case. But the game was over.”
Doing much of his damage late, Beaubois would finish with 20 points, hitting six of 12 shots and connecting on 2-for-4 from 3-point range. Marion added 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Nowitzki’s 16 and Barea’s 12 gave the Mavs four scorers in double figures.
Wallace led six Blazers in double figures with 19 points on 8-of-10 from the floor, while Aldridge finished with 18 on a 9-of-17 shooting night.
“I think there were a lot of things in this game that we saw and we liked. I thought Brendan did a great job on LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. I think that was the best we’ve played him this year. Even though we split with them 2-2, I think [Haywood] did the best job we’ve seen on [Aldridge] this year. You take away his easy buckets and he made him work for every shot and a lot of them were missing,” Marion said with praise for his teammate’s effort on the Blazers’ go-to scorer.
The Blazers outshot the Mavericks on the night, 53.4 percent to 48.6 percent. Despite Dallas’ 33-32 rebounding edge and 15-10 margin in second-chance points, the Mavs were still outscored in the paint, 50-38. And although the Mavericks forced 11 Portland turnovers, which lead to 13 points, Dallas’ 13 giveaways would prove to be crucial, although the Blazers collected just nine points off the miscues.
“No excuses, we’re not gonna make excuses,” Carlisle said. “Our first half was poor, we knew that, we battled back in the second half, but they were better tonight.”
With just five games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Mavs now return to Dallas to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. The Nuggets lead the season series 2-1 including a 121-120 win over the Mavs in Denver on Feb. 10.
“Six in 10 days is no fun,” point guard Jason Kidd said after the loss, “but you’ve got to play what’s on the schedule. We’ll look back at those last three and look at some things that we have to get better at … but the big thing is we go back home. We’ve got five games left, one is on the road and the rest of them are at home. So, we’ve just got to finish up, get some more wins and then get ready for the playoffs.”
“We’ve got Denver coming up and that’s a tough matchup,” Terry added. “When you get too far ahead of yourself you’re not looking at the right picture…The picture is get a win. We’ve lost three in a row, so we’ve got to get back to doing what we do at both ends of the floor.”
Note: The fourth Nuggets-Mavericks matchup of the season has been moved up and will now tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the First Round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs are now on sale. Fans that purchase single-game tickets will receive a commemorative 2011 Mavs Playoff ticket*, which will allow the fans to experience augmented reality, a new technology that will bring the ticket to life with animated Mavs players including Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Game day and commemorative tickets will go live when the 2011 Playoffs begin.
Tickets will be available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX) and the American Airlines Center® North Box Office**. Ticket prices start at $15 and up and there is an eight ticket limit per game. Tickets are also sold at all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Simon Mall in Garland and Shops at Willow Bend).
Fans that purchase single game tickets at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office will receive their commemorative ticket at that time. For those purchasing online or at a Ticketmaster outlet, commemorative tickets will be available to pick up at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office or on Playoff game nights at the Mavs ticket sales table on the main concourse near the North Box Office. Augmented Reality is available only on Android phones. For more information, go to http://www.nba.com/mavericks/ar/ar.html.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.