Trail Blazers-Mavericks Preview
Though they're in a tight race for one of the final playoff spots, the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks are still trying to shake out of their March blues.
Portland's postseason hopes were nearly dashed when Damian Lillard took a hard fall on Friday, but the star guard insists he's fine as the Blazers attempt to brush aside their lengthy road struggles against the short-handed Mavericks on Sunday.
Portland appeared to be on its way to a playoff berth before dropping six of its first nine games this month. It snapped a two-game slide with Friday's 117-112 win at New Orleans, but received a scare when Lillard was clotheslined by Kendrick Perkins.
Lillard lay on the court for several moments while teammates got into it with New Orleans players. He finally regrouped and finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists before saying "it's going to take a lot more than that to take me out.''
C.J. McCollum added 30 points and Gerald Henderson scored 19 as Portland ended a season-high six-game road skid. McCollum has totaled 56 points while hitting 8 of 13 from 3-point range in his last two after failing to score 20 in his previous four.
''It's easy; (Lillard) does all the work,'' McCollum said. ''I just catch and shoot.''
The Blazers (36-34) will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this month in the opener of this home-and-home set with the Mavericks (34-35) that concludes Wednesday. It certainly won't be easy as they've lost 31 of their last 38 trips to Dallas, including the playoffs.
The Mavericks, however, have dropped seven of eight to fall below .500 for the first time since Nov. 11. Now Dallas, Portland, Houston and Utah are separated by only a couple games in the race for the Western Conference's final three playoff spots.
The Mavericks hope to snap a five-game losing streak at American Airlines Center that's their longest at home since a six-game skid in 1999-2000 at the old Reunion Arena. They've been particularly awful defensively, allowing an average of 111.4 points on 48.3 percent shooting.
Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and David Lee added 16 and 16 rebounds Friday, but Dallas let Golden State shoot 22 for 38 from 3-point range in a 130-112 home defeat.
''If we play like that for the remaining 13 games, we will beat 80 percent of the teams,'' said former Blazer Wesley Matthews, who endured a scary fall of his own Friday as his right knee buckled. "Those guys shot the lights out of the ball, but we were never out of it.''
The Mavericks, though, suffered a big loss when Chandler Parsons went down with a strained hamstring that will keep him sidelined versus Portland. The veteran has averaged 19 points and made 46.9 percent from 3-point range in his last 26 games.
Parsons did not play in the first meeting Dec. 1 when Deron Williams had a season-high 30 points, Nowitzki scored 28 and Zaza Pachulia pulled down 21 rebounds in a 115-112 overtime victory. Matthews chipped in with 18 points in his return to Portland.
The Mavericks held McCollum to 11 points on 4-of-21 shooting, limited the Blazers to 41 percent shooting and outscored them 32-19 in points off turnovers. Lillard still had 25 points and 10 assists.
Williams has averaged 24.3 points and 8.0 assists in his last three meetings.