Northwest Division Title Within Reach Tuesday Versus Mavericks

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers clinched s spot in the postseason for a fifth consecutive season Sunday night, but there’s still plenty of work to do with five games left to play.

With a division title and homecourt advantage still up for grabs, the Trail Blazers have ample motivation to play to win Tuesday night in Dallas versus the Mavericks. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Thanks to the Timberwolves losing to the Jazz, the Trail Blazers had already clinched a playoff spot midway through their 113-98 victory versus the Grizzlies Sunday night, though the win also kept Portland’s lead for third place in the Western Conference at three games over the San Antonio Spurs. Portland has been all but assured of making the postseason after going on a 13-game winning streak, though clinching before heading on the road was cause for celebration.

“Clinching the playoffs, being in the playoffs five straight years is a good accomplishment, it was one of our goals at the beginning of the season,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We still have some more goals to accomplish but it’s something everybody should be proud of.”

Those remaining goals are closely tied to their final road trip of the season, with Tuesday night’s game being the first, that will see the Trail Blazers play all three Texas teams before finishing in Denver versus the Nuggets.

"I think it's a chance to win the season series against San Antonio, we haven't won a game against Houston, we can sweep Dallas," said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday. "Each game has some type of significance, so I'm looking forward to all of them."

It’s possible that the could have homecourt advantage in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs sewn up by as early as Tuesday night, as Portland would clinch the Northwest Division title with a win versus Dallas and a Utah loss to the Lakers. Doing so would allow the team to rest players before the start of the postseason, which begins roughly two weeks.

"We get the job done on this (trip), maybe we get some rest to finish up, get ready for playoffs," said Lillard. "It's a good thing. It's a long season, everybody has some type of nagging injuries that they could kind of clean up going into the playoffs."

After making it through most of the 2017-18 campaign relatively unscathed, both Maurice Harkless (left knee) and Ed Davis (right ankle) suffered injuries in the last week that will keep both players out of at least Tuesday night's game. Harkless, who underwent arthroscopy on his left knee last week, is likely out until at least the playoffs, while Davis, who suffered a right ankle sprain in Friday's victory versus the Clippers, will be re-evaluated at the end of the week.

As for the Mavericks, a team long eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 postseason, they will be without Wesley Matthews (right fibula fracture), and Seth Curry (left leg surgery). Dirk Nowitzki (left ankle), Salah Mejri (right knee contusion) and Dwight Powell (left knee) are questionable.

Tuesday night's game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Scott Lynn will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM.