Home sweet home.
That’s what the Dallas Mavericks were likely chanting Friday night inside American Airlines Center after they clinched homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 128-78 thumping of the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the 16th win in their last 21 games for the Mavs and marked the first time they’ve had home court advantage in a playoff series since beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.
There was no confetti on the AAC court after the Mavs overpowered the Blazers and put themselves in position to advance to the second round of the playoffs if they just win their home games.
“That’s a great compliment to those guys in that locker room to be able to do that, to win 51 games, to have home court before the season is over,” coach Jason Kidd said. “There’s a lot of growth this year on this journey, so we checked the box there. We still have a game to get better.”
The Mavs will close out the regular season with a home game Sunday night at 8:30 against the San Antonio Spurs. And they will likely play that game without Luka Doncic.
Right after he launched a shot past midcourt at the end of the first quarter, Doncic thought a foul should have been whistled against Portland’s Elijah Hughes, who knocked the Mavs’ superstar point guard to the floor. As Doncic was walking in the direction of referee Tony Brothers to inquire about the non-call, Brothers invariably tagged him with a technical foul.
That was significant because it was Doncic’s 16th technical foul of the season and comes with an NBA-mandated automatic one-game suspension.
“Tony was saying that he had to stop the complaining,” said Kidd, who received two technical fouls and an automatic ejection from Brothers in the Mavs’ April 1 game against the Washington Wizards. “That’s the interpretation of a ref trying to keep the game under control. It is what it is. It’s over with.
“If (Doncic) can play (Sunday), he plays. If he can’t, he’ll move on to the playoffs. It’s not a big deal. Most likely it doesn’t get overturned, then we’ll move forward.”
Doncic is hoping the NBA will rescind the technical and allow him to play against the Spurs.
“If you ask me I think 100 percent it should be rescinded, because it wasn’t a tech at all,” Doncic said. “No warning, no nothing.
“I just asked (Brothers) how is that not a call. Hopefully they will rescind it so I can play Sunday.”
Obviously, the circumstances surrounding the technical foul didn’t affect Doncic, as he poured in 25 of his game-high 39 points in the third quarter. He also collected 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“I get hot for a living,” said Doncic, while smiling and explaining his explosion in the third quarter. “Our defense was great today.
“The goal was to keep them under 100, so I think we did a great job defensively, and then we just played out of that.”
In the third quarter alone, the Mavs converted 10 baskets from beyond the three-point arc. That ties the franchise record for the most triples made in one quarter, which the Mavs performed in three previous games.
“Luka got going and then everybody else joined in,” Kidd said. “That was a big third quarter for us.
“We tend to come out after halftime on both ends offensively and defensively. We made the adjustments and guys started to get in more rhythm, but I thought Luka set the tone.”
Although the Mavs (51-30) clinched at least the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference with Friday’s victory, they still have a shot at moving up to the No. 3 slot, which is currently held by the Golden State Warriors (51-29).
The Warriors have road games Saturday in San Antonio and Sunday in New Orleans. If Golden State loses either one of those games and the Mavs upend the Spurs, the Mavs will secure the No. 3 seed because of their 3-1 record against the Warriors in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Blazers (27-54) were so overwhelmed that the Mavs led by as many as 54 points and wound up holding Portland to just nine points in the fourth quarter.
“I thought that third group was incredible in the fourth quarter — to hold an NBA team to nine points,” Kidd said. “Boban (Marjanovic) and those guys — Trey (Burke) — played the whole quarter.
“It just shows that they had themselves ready to play and I thought they did a great job in tonight’s game.”
Besides Doncic, the Mavs got 18 points from Dwight Powell, 15 points and seven rebounds from Dorian Finney-Smith, and 14 points from Spencer Dinwiddie.
“I’m just taking the shots when I’m open,” said Finney-Smith, who was 5-of-7 from downtown. “They were trapping Luka, so I got a bunch of good looks.
“Me and Reggie (Bullock) be over there laughing about it. When they’re trapping Luka that’s our time to get our shots. Tonight, I made them. Next game, (Bullock will) probably be the hot one.”
Before the sellout crowd of 20,174 could even get comfortable in their seats, the Mavs had raced out to a 36-13 lead in a first quarter that saw them convert 13-of-20 shots and get 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Doncic. It was all downhill from there for the Blazers, who fell behind 68-44 at the half and 107-69 after three quarters.
“I thought Luka and that first group set the tone giving up only 13 points in the first quarter,” Kidd said. “I thought that was growth.
“Then we took a step backwards by giving up (31 points) in the second. There’s a lot of good things. I know everybody wants to talk about the (technical foul on Doncic), but it also can be a positive.”
The Mavs shot 53.2 percent from the field and also made 20-of-45 shots from beyond the three-point stripe. On the flip side, they limited the Blazers to just 37.3 percent shooting from the floor and 21.9 percent shooting (7-of-32) from downtown.
But the main thing is the Mavs were able to lock up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which was one of their primary goals entering this season.
“It means a lot,” Finney-Smith said. “We’ll get the energy from the city and from the fans.
“We got back to 50 wins, and I’m excited about that. I feel like whoever we play (in the playoffs) we’re going to be excited and ready to play, so it doesn’t matter.”
But before the playoffs start next weekend, there’s the matter of finishing up the regular season against the Spurs. And perhaps finishing it up without Doncic even being allowed in the arena.
“We accomplished one thing, which is home court,” Kidd said. “And we will play with (Doncic) on Sunday or play without him. We have to find out.
“As of right now, the way it stands, he will miss the game. We’ll find out what the league’s ruling is and we’ll go from there.”
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