The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks engaged in an incredible, back-and-forth matchup on Valentine’s Day, each team leaving their hearts on the floor in a dazzling display of offensive moves. Like the first blush of love, it was a game of headstrong, intemperate runs. Portland went up big early, but got caught by the surging Mavericks in the second. Then Damian Lillard went over the top with the hearts and roses, leading his team to a season-high 45 points in the third period, only to get reeled in by the equally-impressive Luka Doncic in the fourth, setting up a nail-biter in which each team played “He loves me, he loves me not” with the victory. In the end, the Blazers made one more play than the Mavericks did, leading to an impressive, and buoying, 121-118 win on the road.
If the Mavericks came out prepared for Damian Lillard, it didn’t show in the early minutes of the game. Dame went for the layup, shot the deep three, whipped passes…he brought out his entire repertoire against Doncic, the man who leads him in 2021 NBA All-Star Voting. By the time Dallas finally blinked and said, “Oh…THAT’S what it looks like!” they had allowed Portland 14 points before the quarter was 1⁄3 done. Half of those belonged to Dame.
The Blazers didn’t defend well in the first, but Dallas bricked threes and couldn’t rebound. Their scoring attempts looked good, but bore little fruit. Adding to their woes, the Mavs had chronic problems defending the lane. When Portland went inside, they got easy looks. Then their threes started falling too, and the lead approached 10. Dallas closed late but a huge Carmelo Anthony dunk capped a 9-rebound, 5-assist period from Lillard. Portland led 34-25 after one.
Portland faced a pair of challenges at the opening of the second period. They coughed up the ball like it was made of phlegm and they couldn’t stop the Mavs at the arc. Before you could say, “Taco Bell is a poor substitute for a real Valentine,” their lead was erased. Anthony helped carry them through via his now-customary points. Anfernee Simons pouring in triples didn’t hurt. But the defense never quite returned to first-quarter form. Enes Kanter provided inside scoring late, but that paled in the face of Dallas hitting outside. When the dust settled, Dallas led 61-58. Doncic had 24 at the break.
The initial minutes of the third appeared frustrating for the Blazers. Already smarting over a lack of foul calls, they found themselves trading occasional hits and frequent misses with the Mavericks. That’s when Lillard said enough was enough. Dame amped it and ramped it clear to the moon, scoring and passing out dimes like your grandma at Advent. His outburst spurred the Blazers to a 19-5 run which was blunted only when Doncic reprised his three-point shooting tear from the first half. By that time, Lillard was in can’t-stop, won’t-stop, mustn’t-ever-stop mode, hitting open shooters and shots with equal aplomb. At one point, Dallas hit 5 threes in a row, which was the ONLY thing keep them within shouting distance in the face of the Lillard Barrage. But it was a long shout. The Blazers scored 45 in the period, finishing the frame up 103-91. Wow.
Dallas made a run at the start of the fourth, scoring easily in the paint. The Mavericks kept up the scoring steadily ever after. But Portland didn’t need to cash in every trip, just enough to keep the opponent at bay. They managed that until the 4:00 mark, where the accumulation of easy Mavericks buckets began to tell. With Portland picking the worst time possible to start missing open threes, Dallas went on a 12-0 run. It was broken by a Lillard layup with 90 seconds left.
A Doncic drive and dish with 50 seconds remaining finally brought the Mavericks all the way back into a 113-all tie. 17 seconds later, Lillard hit a step-back three from the top of the arc. The Blazers all but invited Doncic to score on the drive in the ensuing possession, then Anthony found Jones, Jr. for a dunk with 7 seconds left. Dallas would have the final shot, down 118-121. Somehow, Portland lost Doncic on the inbounds play for a wide-open three, but the All-Star missed his easiest look of the night. That’s how the Blazers walked off with a scintillating win and one heck of a happy story.
Damian Lillard’s passing was spot-on again. He amassed 11 assists to go with his 34 points. His favorite target was Carmelo Anthony, who scored 15 himself off the bench.
Portland owes some of this win to hard work on the glass, particularly via offensive rebounds. They equaled Dallas with 10 on the night.
The Blazers appeared frustrated with the lack of love from the refs tonight. They shot 19 free throws while Dallas attempted 25.
Stay tuned for Steve Dewald and our extended recap with analysis of the game!
The Blazers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at 5:00 PM, Pacific.