Mavericks look to stay hot against Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. — The overall records don’t look good, but the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers show impressive recent results as they square off Friday night at Moda Center.
The Trail Blazers (22-28) have won four of their last five, while the Mavericks (19-30) have triumphed in three straight games and eight of their last 11.
“Two hot teams right now,” Portland center Mason Plumlee said. “We’re looking forward to the matchup.”
Portland and Dallas have split two meetings this season. The Blazers won 105-95 in Dallas on Nov. 4 and the Mavericks evened the count with a 96-95 victory at Moda Center on Dec. 21.
“We owe them one,” Portland guard Allen Crabbe said. “We’re definitely looking forward to that game. We’ll be well-prepared.”
The Mavericks are 15-13 after starting the season 4-17. Their three-game win streak has been accomplished against the likes of Cleveland, San Antonio and Philadelphia.
Three players have been unlikely heroes in helping Dallas get its season turned around.
Salah Mejri scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds in 21 minutes, making 7 of 9 shots from the field in the Mavericks’ 113-95 victory over the 76ers on Wednesday night. The 7-foot-2 second-year NBA center hadn’t scored in double figures all season.
“It looked like he’s been sandbagging.” joked teammate Wesley Matthews, and coach Rick Carlisle continued the gag: “He’s been holding out on us, it’s clear.”
“Salah gave us some great energy,” Carlisle told the media after the Sixers game.
“I’m not Dirk Nowitzki and going to have a great night every night, but I try as hard as I can to give this team whatever I can,” Mejri said. “Tonight, it was like every ball was falling into my hands.”
The Mavericks are 8-3 since Seth Curry was inserted into starting lineup as a shooting guard on Jan. 12. Stephen Curry’s younger brother is averaging 15.8 points and shooting .504 from the field and .480 from 3-point range. He had 22 points, six assists and four steals against Philadelphia.
Then there is rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell, who was signed to a 10-day contract to fill in for injured Deron Williams. Ferrell has started the last three games and averaged 13.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3. rebounds and 2.3 steals.
“He’s learning on the fly,” Curry said. “He’s being aggressive, making plays. I really appreciate having another guy who can go out there and make plays for myself and for other people. He’s doing a great job of just being confident and not being afraid of the moment.”
The Blazers will close out a five-game homestand and are 3-1 going into the Dallas game. Their only loss was an excruciating 113-111 setback to Golden State on Sunday in which Evan Turner’s 3-point attempt to win bounced off the front rim just before time expired.
“We feel good about (this homestand),” Plumlee said. “We would have liked to win that Golden State game, but we gave ourselves a chance. We’re not losing by blowouts anymore, which was a major concern early in the season. We’re competitive. We’re playing better as a group.”
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. “We’re playing the right brand of basketball that’s going to give us the opportunity to be successful. (Against the Warriors) we fell short with a great look to win it at the end against the best team in the league. But we’re doing the right things at both ends of the floor.”