PORTLAND – For the first quarter-and-a-half of Wednesday night’s game against Portland, the Dallas Mavericks were able to stay neck-and-neck with the Trail Blazers.
Then the bottom fell out.
The Mavs were clinging to a slim 44-42 lead with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter. But the Blazers finished the first half on a blistering 23-8 run and led 65-52 at intermission en route to cruising to a 126-118 victory a before a sellout crowd of 19,803 at the Moda Center.
“I like our first half up to the point where we were up 44-42,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think they had a 23-8 run to end the second quarter and that’s really where the problems became difficult.
“In the third quarter (Damian) Lillard just had a stretch where great players can have. He had four threes in a row, I think, and we were unable to answer. . .and the crowd got into it and it got away.”
Portland eventually built its lead to as much as 25 points – 113-88– following a 3-pointer by Jake Layman with 9:22 to go in the game. But the Mavs made things a bit interesting at the end when they finished the game on a 30-13 run.
“I did like the way the guys at the end fought their butts off,” Carlisle said. “It got to an eight-point game – that’s meaningful.
“Those guys don’t get a big chance to play a whole lot. (Rookie forward) Kostas Antetokounmpo (played in his first NBA game and) got his first NBA point, which is pretty cool.”
Luka Doncic scored 10 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, Justin Jackson collected nine of his 21 points in the final quarter, and Trey Burke added eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“I like Jackson,” Carlisle said. “It’s time to give him a look – a look with some longer stretches of minutes.
“In the first half when they had us a bit stymied with switching and physical bodies, he created movement with cutting and finishing in the paint that got us going a little bit. I liked a lot of what he was doing out there.”
Jackson, who has been getting some one-on-one practice sessions with Carlisle on his movements and 3-point shooting, wound up playing 34 minutes and was 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-8 from 3-point range.
“Coach has been putting in quite a bit of time with me,” Jackson said. “I would say I was already decent with those things, but coach has given me a few things just to kind of focus on and I think that’s helped.
“I enjoy playing, man. I think we kept on playing – obviously Damian hit a bunch of tough shots. But it was fun just to get out there and just play and fight with those guys.”
The loss was the 12th in the last 14 games for the Mavs, who will take their 28-43 record to Sacramento, where they’ll play the Kings on Thursday at 9 p.m.
Knowing that Portland had the game under control thanks to 33 points from Damian Lillard and 20 from ex-Mavs guard Seth Curry, the Blazers’ crowd turned their attention to Dirk Nowitzki, who may have played his last game in Portland. The crowd started chanting “We Want Dirk” with 3:30 left in the game, and it got even louder with 1:06 to go when the cameras were put on Nowitzki while he was on the bench and shown on the overhead Jumbotron.
So, Nowitzki simply stood up, smiled, raised his hands and started clamping and waving along with the crowd.
“It was another warm reception from a great basketball crowd,” Nowitzki said. “The crowd has always been great here when I come up here to compete.
“They’ve had some teams in my career here, and they’ve had some great crowds. So, I really appreciated it.”
NOTES: Forward Maxi Kleber missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained left wrist. But the second-year veteran said he’s doing much better. “After the game (Monday against New Orleans) I couldn’t do any movements — today it’s way better,” Kleber said. “I did some shooting outside, so it’s improved a lot.” Kleber was injured when he dunked the ball and was fouled by Cheick Diallo with 5:03 remaining in regulation during the 129-125 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “He was trying to get the block, so I guess stuff like that just happens, but it was a bad situation,” Kleber said. “When I dunked it and then when I feel on the floor. . .that’s when I hurt it. I don’t think you necessarily have to jump that high, but when you get pushed and you unexpectedly hit your wrist like that, I kind of fell awkwardly. I slipped off the rim and I tried to catch myself.” Whenever Kleber returns, the Mavs plan on taking the cautious approach. “We hope he gets better as quick as possible,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we’re not going to rush him out there and put him in harm’s way.”. . Before Wednesday’s game, Portland coach Terry Stotts was asked if he’s going to be sad that his team will be possibly playing against Dirk Nowitzki for the last time. “He hasn’t said he’s retiring, so I’m not going to be sad tonight,” Stotts said. “It’s been a year-long celebration for a guy who hasn’t said he’s retiring.”. . .When Dirk scored early in the third quarter, a fan held up a sign that read: “Thank You Dirk.”. .Carlisle knows he’s been fortunate to have a player of Nowitzki’s ilk to coach for the past 11 seasons. “It’s been so magnificently easy that it’s really difficult not to take the guy for granted,” Carlisle said. “He’s such a special human being, he’s such a great teammate. He’s so into winning and into sacrifice and all the things you need to do. And he’s one of the very greatest to ever play, so it’s a very unusual mixture of personality and dynamic high impact skills. Whenever he (retires), certainly it will not be the same around here.”. .Terry Stotts is very impressed with the maturity level of Mavs rookie Luka Doncic. “I think the fact that he played at such a high level at such a young age in Europe – with Real Madrid— that gave him probably more of a maturity that most rookies don’t have coming into the league today,” Stotts said. “He had played at a high level against mature men in adverse situations, so at such a young age he’d seen it all and I think that’s how he kind of conducts himself on the court. He’s very confident, he knows what he wants to do. For a young guy like that to basically be a point forward at age 20, it’s just really impressive.” Asked if he thought Doncic will win this year’s Rookie of the Year award, Stotts said: “I don’t want to go against my Oklahoma guy, but it certainly looks like it.” The “Oklahoma guy” Stotts is referring to is Atlanta’s Trey Young, who, like Stotts, played his college ball at Oklahoma. Told of Stotts’ Rookie of the Year comment, Carlisle smiled and said: “Wow, what a bold prediction. He put himself out there, didn’t he? I don’t like to count chickens before they’re hatched, but it’s pretty clear Luka’s having a phenomenal year. And there are rookies playing extremely well, but his level has been truly special. As we’re going down the stretch the challenge for him is to keep carrying the load on the one hand. On the other hand, he’s got to involve teammates and he’s got to play both ends and he’s got to do a lot of things. This is a great opportunity for him to feel what it feels like to have a high level of responsibility in this league.”. .Rookie forward Kostas Antetokounmpo got in his first NBA on Wednesday. He played the game’s final 5:53 and was 0-of-2 from the field and finished with one point and two steals. And the Mavs were a plus-eight while he was in the game. Antetokounmpo said of his first game: “It was exactly what I thought it was going to be.”