For the second consecutive game, Dallas Mavericks superstar point guard Luka Doncic put on a show-stopping performance for a national (ESPN) television audience and the vaccinated health care workers and first responders inside American Airlines Center.

Unfortunately for the Mavs, Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t end quite as well as Friday’s contest against the New Orleans Pelicans.

One game after pouring in a career-high 46 points against the Pelicans, Doncic followed that up with 44 more against the Blazers. However, Portland got 34 points and 11 assists from Damian Lillard and held on to edge the Mavs, 121-118.

With the loss, the Mavs (13-15) saw their four-game winning streak go up in flames as they dropped to 4-2 on this seven-game homestand which ends with Wednesday’s 8 p.m. contest against the Detroit Pistons.

The Mavs had a chance to tie the score and send it into overtime. But a wide-open 3-pointer by Doncic went in the basket and somehow came right back out with three seconds left, and the Blazers ran out the clock.

“It didn’t matter if I felt confident (about the last shot) or not,” said Doncic, who also finished with seven rebounds and nine assists. “I thought it was in, and it went in and out, and that’s on me. I should have made that shot.”

Coach Rick Carlisle thought the shot by Doncic had found its intended target and was surprised the ball didn’t go down.

“The 3-point shot that he had at the end was a good look,” Carlisle said. “If he had that shot nine more times I think he makes it nine times in a row.

“It was in and out. That’s the guy we want to take it.”

Dorian Finney-Smith tied the game at 116 with 49.7 seconds remaining after he received a pass from Doncic and drained a crucial 3-pointer right in front of the Blazers’ bench. However, Lillard, as he has so many times, came down and drilled a long 3-pointer of his own to put Portland ahead, 119-116, with just 32.4 seconds to go.

“On that particular play we were calling for a double-team and our guys didn’t hear it,” Carlisle said. “Our intention was to run and get the ball out of (Lillard’s) hands.”

But the Mavs apparently didn’t hear Carlisle.

“Part of it’s the mask and part of it’s the noise in the arena or whatever,” Carlisle said. “The communication didn’t get there and he hit a difficult shot, but it’s a shot he makes regularly. It’s a tough shot.”

Finney-Smith was guarding Lillard on that play and described his 3-pointer and the one Lillard converted.

“I think Luka drove and Melo (Carmelo Anthony) sank in and I got a corner three – a green light shot for me,” he said. “And then we went down and Dame just hit a tough shot. I should have probably made him drive.”

After Doncic scored to bring the Mavs within 119-118 of the Blazers, Anthony found Derrick Jones Jr. underneath the basket for the game’s final points with 6.9 seconds to go.

What really disappointed Carlisle was his team’s performance in the first and third quarters. The Mavs trailed by as many as 11 points in the opening quarter and by 34-25 when the first quarter ended.

And after the Mavs seized control and led, 61-58 at the half – thanks to 24 points from Doncic – Portland rattled off 45 points in the first quarter, which is the most points the Blazers have ever scored in the third quarter in their history.

The Mavs gave up more points in the third quarter than they allowed in the second and fourth quarters combined (42).

“The stats will show that we had two very good productive quarters and two very poor and unproductive quarters, and so that’s our battle right now is to be more consistent,” Carlisle said. “The first (quarter) was not a good start, the second quarter was terrific, the third quarter giving up 45 and scoring 30 was very poor.

“And then the fourth (quarter) we did some very good things to be right there.”

Other than Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis (18 points, eight rebounds), Finney-Smith (14 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (12 points) and Jalen Brunson (11 points) helped keep the Mavs afloat. But Carlisle is concerned that too much has been put on the back of Doncic, who was 14-of-20 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

“Of course I’m concerned that the load he’s carrying is a difficult load to carry on a game-to-game basis,” Carlisle said. “I’ve got to try to get some more balance in our attack.

“It’s just a lot to ask of Luka to put together 40-point stat stuffer nights on a night-in, night-out basis. I feel like we’ve got to do some things to get other guys helping with carrying that load.”

Portland (16-10) was still clinging to a 54-49 lead late in the second quarter when Derrick Jones Jr. did something he’ll probably regret. When Doncic was going up for a jump shot, Jones inadvertently popped Doncic in a face, angering the Mavs’ superstar.

After the officials reviewed the play, Jones was assessed a Flagrant Penalty-1 and Doncic subsequently buried a couple of free throws. Then, after the Mavs retained possession of the ball, Doncic nailed a 3-pointer.

Doncic followed that up with two more 3-pointers – sandwiched between a free throw by Brunson after Lillard was charged with a technical foul – and the Mavs suddenly built a 61-55 lead. In all, Doncic scored 11 points in 71 seconds and his 24 first-half points helped the Mavs take a 61-58 lead at intermission.

“I guess guys can step up, but Luka is doing it all,” Finney-Smith said. “Rebound, pass, he’s got the ball in his hands most of the time.

“I think we’ve got to do a good job, too, of making it easier for him.”

And also do a better job of making it easier on themselves by playing the first and third quarters the way they played the second and fourth quarters.

“Obviously we want to play a better brand of basketball from start to finish,” Carlisle said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to be a helluva lot better in the first and third quarters and not put ourselves in a position to have to pitch a shutout in the last four minutes of the game.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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