DALLAS — The Portland Trail Blazers rallied from a 30-point first half deficit, held a seven-point lead in in the fourth quarter only to be outscored 11-0 in the final four minutes and 24 second of the game to fall 103-98 to the Mavericks Friday night in Dallas.
With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall to 42-20 on the season and 18-12 on the road. They now sit in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, four gamers back from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavericks got into the bonus in the early stages of the fourth and scored 13 of their 28 points at the line to get the win.
“Disappointed with our start – obviously getting down 30 on the road is not what you want,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “But I was proud of the way we competed and we were able to take the lead. We weren’t able to finish a few shots at the basket down the stretch. Dallas being in the bonus for most of the fourth quarter really affected the game in the fourth quarter. And that’s about it.”
Portland got off to easily their worst start of the season, shooting 21 percent from the field and turning the ball over six times to end the first 12 minutes with just 10 points.
Portland’s abysmal offensive production was just one side of a hideous first-quarter coin, with the Mavericks shooting 55 percent form the field and 50 percent from three to put up 33 points behind 15 from Dallas point guard Jose Calderon.
The Trail Blazers weren’t much better defensively in the second quarter, though they did improve to 50 percent shooting from the field to outscore Dallas 28-24. Thomas Robinson, playing for the first time since spraining the patella tendon in his left knee in Portland’s victory in Denver on Feb. 25, provided a much needed infusion of energy in the second, scoring nine points and pulling down eight rebounds while playing all 12 minutes in the quarter.
“We needed energy and he came in in the second quarter and he gave us a spark,” said Stotts of Robinson’s performance. “He did the same thing in the second half. It was good to see because he had been out for a while, but he has the ability to provide energy to the game and that’s what he did.”
But with so much damage already done in the first quarter, Portland trailed 57-38 at the halftime intermission.
But as bad as they were in the first quarter, Portland was just as good or better in the third. The Trail Blazers outscored the Mavericks 26-8 in the seven and a half minutes of the third quarter to pull to within 65-64. Roughly two minutes later, Portland would take their first lead of the night thanks to a offensive rebound and putback by LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the third.
“That was my first time really having my rhythm (since missing five games with a groin injury),” said Aldridge of his third-quarter performance. “Really feeling like myself again, making shots and just making good moves again.”
Portland would outscore Dallas 36-18 in the third, but still trailed 75-74 going into the fourth quarter, highlighting just how deep of a hole the visitors dug for themselves in the first half.
“I thought we were very aggressive defensively,” said Stotts of what sparked his team’s comeback. “LA got on a roll. When you get stops, and are able to play and get in transition you’re able to change the momentum of the game. And we did it at the defensive end more than anything, but as I said LA. was – I don’t know how many he had in the quarter, but he was very effective with scoring the ball.”
It looked for a moment like the Trail Blazers might run away with the game in the fourth quarter after starting out on a 11-3 run to take a seven-point lead, their largest of the night, with 9:33 to play in regulation. But Portland was also called for five fouls in less than three minutes in the fourth, putting Dallas in the bonus for the almost the entire quarter. The Mavericks would go on to shoot 16 free throws in the fourth to just four for the Trail Blazers.
“I don’t know how you can overcome that,” said Wesley Matthews, who had a great game in his own right with with 26 points and six rebounds. “We got into the game with our aggression and we didn’t ratchet it up anymore, we kind of stayed at the same level. That’s how the game goes. The refs call what they see and we’ve got to adjust and we still gave ourselves a chance to win it.”
Even with Mavericks making seemingly endless trips to the line in the fourth, the Trail Blazers managed to hold a slight lead late into the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis converted a layup at the rim to tied the game at 98-98, after which both teams traded turnovers and misses for the next minute and a half of the game.
With 34 seconds to play, Aldridge would miss a desperation three with the clock winding down with Mavericks guard Devin Harris corralling the rebound. Harris drove full court into the paint before colliding with Damian Lillard, who trying to get in position to take a charge. But it was Lillard who was called for a foul as Harris’ shot attempt found the mark. Harris converted the three-point play to put Dallas up three with 24 seconds to play.
“He busted my mouth open,” said Lillard of his collision with Harris. “I knew that I wasn’t all the way in front of him but I figured since he dipped his head into my face they would call an offensive foul. But they called it the other way and that is something we had to live with. We still had a couple opportunities after that that we didn’t take advantage of.”
Those opportunities would include Ellis missing two free throws with 17 seconds to play and Portland still down three, but Vince Carter beat Aldridge out for the rebound. Aldridge would be forced to foul Carter, with the veteran wing hitting both free throws, effectively ending the game with 16 seconds to play.
“Being right there and not taking care of business down the stretch,” said Aldridge of what was the most frustrating part of Firday night’s loss. “I had some big miscues down the stretch. I missed some shots down the stretch. Fighting all the way back and being up and having an opportunity to win and not taking care of business.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers head to Houston to face the Rockets on Sunday in the second game of a difficult five-game road trip.
“From here on out, we’re going to have a lot of these game like this,” said Stotts. “Dallas made no secret: this was a must win for them and they were approaching it like that. You go down the line, we’re going to be in a lot of situations like this. We know what we’re capable of doing but it’s going to be a dogfight every night.”
Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 4 PM on KGW Channel 8 and 620 AM.