Setting the Table: Portland Trail Blazers (Game 49)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on February 6, 2013 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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For the second time within nine days, the Dallas Mavericks (20-28) will square off with the Portland Trail Blazers (25-23). Dallas will now start a five-game homestand, with four of them taking them into the All-Star break. With a lengthy homestand and the team’s playoff chances on life support (some formulas suggest Dallas has only a five percent chance of making the playoffs), this could be considered a last stand for the Mavs.

If that is the case, it certainly helps that it appears that they will have the services of Vince Carter. According to reports, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says he believes Carter (sickness) will play against Portland. The news isn’t all good as they will still be without Chris Kaman as he’s still dealing with a concussion.

The game also presents another chance for Rick Carlisle to record his 500th victory as a head coach.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Trail Blazers.

Series Notes:

Six of the last eight regular-season meetings between the Mavericks and the Blazers have been decided by three points or less (the two teams have split the last eight meetings). The Mavericks have taken 3-of-5 and 24 of the last 33 meetings with the Blazers. The Blazers won the most recent showdown at Portland 106-104 on Jan. 29 on a buzzer-beater by LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Mavericks took the first matchup between the two teams this season 114-91 at Dallas on Nov. 5, 2012. Dallas shot a season-high 61.5 percent from the field in the win over Portland in November. It was the highest field goal percentage Dallas recorded in a game since Nov. 25, 2009 at Houston (.655, 55-84). The Mavericks have now won 21 of the last 26 meetings with the Blazers in Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 26 points in the game at Portland on Jan. 29. O.J. Mayo is averaging 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steal and 38.5 minutes in two starts against Portland this season. Mayo is shooting 63 percent (17-of-27) from the field and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from 3-point range against the Blazers this year. Darren Collison is shooting 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the floor against the Blazers this season.

It’s a Small World:

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was an assistant with Dallas from 2008-12 and was with the Mavericks during their championship run in 2011. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was an assistant with the Blazers from 1994-97.

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge was born in Dallas and attended Seagoville High School. He went on to play his college ball at the University of Texas.

Blazers forward Aleksandar “Sasha” Pavlovic was signed to a pair of 10-day contracts by the Mavericks in 2010-11. He played in 10 games (six starts) for Dallas that year, and averaged 4.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 16.3 minutes. Blazers assistant coach Kaleb Canales attended the University of Texas-Arlington and was an assistant coach for the men’s basketball program during the 2003-04 season. Blazers assistant coach Jay Triano was an assistant with the Toronto Raptors where he coached Mavericks swingman Vince Carter for two-and-a-half seasons from 2002-04.

Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes was an assistant with the L.A. Clippers where he coached Mavericks forward Elton Brand and Mavericks center Chris Kaman. Blazers guard Elliot Williams (Memphis) and Mavericks forward Brandan Wright (Nashville) both grew up in Tennessee.

Three Keys:

1. Keep their bigs in control. LaMarcus Aldridge will clearly be a focal point for Dallas’ defense, but they also need to keep an eye out on J.J. Hickson. Hickson, in two games against Dallas this season, is averaging 16.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per contest. Hickson scored 26 points and grabbed a game-high 15 points against the Mavericks in the last meeting on Jan. 29. He’s very active and crafty around the basket. The Mavs will need to match his energy level on both ends of the floor.

2. If it’s close, find a way to buck the trend. Against Minnesota on Feb. 4, the Trail Blazers improved to 8-2 in games decided by two points or fewer. No other team has more than five wins in such games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Portland has won seven games in a row decided by two points or fewer, the longest current streak in the NBA. Portland is 17-1 when leading after three quarters.

3. Show some heart. It is obvious that Dallas’ playoff chances are shaky at best, but they need to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. They need to play with heart and a major sense of desperation. The streak of 12 consecutive trips to the playoffs is the longest in franchise history and currently the second-longest in the NBA. San Antonio (15 consecutive playoff appearances) is the only team with a longer active streak. That is a sign of consistency and durability. They need to find a way to rediscover that swagger, even if new pieces are in the mix.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.