Mavericks 83, Trail Blazers 77
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)
A victory would mean the Southwest Division crown. It would prevent the Blazers from sweeping the season series. And it would be another step toward the second seed in the Western Conference.
That was enough motivation for Dirk Nowitzki, who had 40 points and 10 rebounds in the Mavericks' 83-77 victory over the Trail Blazers on Friday night.
``We'd love to win out and get as high as we can,'' Nowitzki said. ``We'd love to finish second and have home court as long as we can, so this was a big win for us.''
Nowitzki was 17 for 17 from the free throw line for the Mavericks, who needed both the victory over Portland and a Memphis win over the Spurs to clinch the division. The Grizzlies obliged earlier in the night by winning 107-99 at San Antonio.
Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 left that put Dallas up 77-68 and all but sealed a contentious game that had the sellout crowd at the Rose Garden mercilessly jeering the officials.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points for the Blazers, who had won the three previous meetings with the Mavericks this season.
Dallas is in a battle for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with Utah, Denver and Phoenix. The Blazers are at the bottom half of the standings with San Antonio and Oklahoma City, all of whom are trying to avoid a first-round matchup with the defending NBA champion Lakers.
``It was a great basketball game,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ``It was just pure effort by both sides. The difference was a couple of plays here and there.''
The Mavericks were without Shawn Marion, who missed his second straight game with a left oblique strain.
The game was marred by questionable calls on both sides, including a pair of technicals late against Portland. The Blazers got visibly frustrated, as did the crowd. Security had to remove several courtside fans.
Coach Nate McMillan wasn't commenting on the officiating after the game, saying ``I'm not going to go there.''
``This time of the year, you're going to see this style of basketball. We talked about that, expect it where it's going to be a physical game, a grind game,'' he said. ``Every possession is important, so you've got to take care of the ball, you've got to execute defensively, you can't assume that anyone is going to go get balls. It's that time of year.''
There was a scuffle late in the first quarter between Portland's Juwan Howard and Dallas' Eduardo Najera.
Replays showed that Najera elbowed Howard on the Mavericks' end. On the way back down the court, the two got into a shoving match. Teammate Jason Kidd restrained Najera, and Howard was eventually given an offensive foul and a technical for unsportsmanlike conduct.
A short time later, Portland's Rudy Fernandez drew a technical foul and the sold-out Rose Garden began their verbal assault on the officials.
Dallas went on to take a 38-28 lead on Brendan Haywood's layup. The Blazers mounted a late rally to close to 42-39 at the half on Brandon Roy's step-back jumper at the buzzer.
Portland held a 59-58 edge going into the fourth quarter and kept a slight lead until Najera hit a 3-pointer that gave Dallas a 67-65 lead with 6:12 to go.
After Roy hit one of two free throws, Caron Butler made a jumper from the baseline to make it 69-66 for the Mavericks, who led the rest of the way.
Roy finished with 13 points, well off his 22-point average. He was double-teamed for almost the entire game.
``We got upset about some calls, but we just didn't make shots,'' Roy said. ``I thought if we would have made shots, it wouldn't have looked as bad.''
NOTES: With its first three wins, Portland won its first season series over the Mavs since the 1998-99 season. ... The Rose Garden on Saturday night hosts the annual Nike Hoop Summit, pitting American prep stars against their international counterparts. The Blazers have four alumni of the event: Nicolas Batum, Patty Mills, Martell Webster and Jerryd Bayless. ... Portland's Marcus Camby played despite hurting his right hamstring in Portland's 93-85 victory over the Clippers on Wednesday night. ... It was Nowitzki's 20th double-double of the season. ... Nowitzki has made 55 straight free throws, dating back to March 29.