Final: Blazers 117, Mavs 108

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

The Mavs’ streak of clutch games extended to 14 tonight. Clutch is defined by a game when the score is within five points any time inside the final five minutes. Dallas has now played a league-leading 31 clutch games. For reference, Utah is 30th, having played only 16 such games, meaning Dallas has almost as many clutch contests in this streak alone as some teams have all season long. That’s a crazy stat.


  • Blazers guard Damian Lillard got off to a sensational start tonight, hitting his first nine shots from the field. That led to a pretty interesting defensive adjustment by Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks. Starting toward the end of the second quarter, pretty much anytime Lillard would come off a ball-screen, the big man would lunge toward Lillard, blitzing him alongside his defender. With that strategy, the defense was able to keep the ball mostly out of Lillard’s hands, but the problem is Portland got off to such a red-hot start early in the game that the entire team seemed to develop a rhythm, especially from deep, and so the Blazers were able to make due even without Lillard’s influence in the fourth quarter. Still, the Mavs were able to pull off the double-teaming pretty well, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that coverage pop up every now and again in the future if an opposing point guard becomes hot.

  • Dennis Smith Jr. put together his third consecutive game with at least 20 points, and his 10th straight with at least 10 points. He had another strong second half and fourth quarter, reminiscent of what he was able to achieve in Denver the other night, although unfortunately the club was unable to win either game. However, the rookie is beginning to make a more noticeable, tangible impact on the game by consistently attacking the basket and forcing teams into uncomfortable situations. He can get up the floor and in a position to drive the lane extremely quickly, and that caught the Blazers off-balance several times tonight.

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    Most notably, Smith used a momentary lapse in concentration by Lillard to dart up the floor while his opponent was arguing a whistle. By the time Lillard was able to realize what had happened, Smith was already delivering a crisp pass to Maxi Kleber the corner.

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    He didn’t only use those powers for passing, though. Smith has now made at least three free throws in four straight games. That might not seem like a very impressive streak, but he’s a rookie, and first-year players rarely get the benefit of a steady whistle. Six of his 13 games with at least three free throws have all come in the last four weeks, which means he’s slowly beginning to figure out how to force contact. This play was a good example of that.

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    Smith appears to be getting more comfortable changing speeds and probing the lane, waiting for small cracks in the defense to exploit. Once he’s in the teeth and has opponents off-balance, he’s much more likely to draw contact than he would be by simply straight-line driving at a set defender. We’re witnessing his development up-close.

  • Wesley Matthews had another 20-point game at Portland. In his five games at Moda Center since joining the Mavericks, Matthews has averaged 21 points per contest against his old team, shooting well above 40 percent on 3-pointers in those contests. It’s clear that he gets up for those showdowns, and it’s cool to see the crowd receive him warmly each time, too. He was beloved there for his defense and shooting, and so far as a Maverick he’s made sure to put both qualities on full display every time he’s gone back.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (15-31) will play the Washington Wizards (26-20) on Monday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

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