Team Records: Portland (42-19) at Dallas (36-26)
Game Info: 5:30 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Dallas -2
Refs: Scott Foster, Mark Ayotte, Pat Fraher
The Skinny: The Blazers begin by far their most difficult stretch left this season as they open a five game road trip in Dallas Friday night. The Mavs are currently in a tight four-way race for the final playoff spot as they hold a narrow one game lead over ninth-place Memphis. Dallas comes into this game having lost three in a row and badly needing a win to get back on track.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers clobbered the Mavericks, leading by as much as 38 early in the fourth before a 25-2 Mavs run made the score look a lot less lopsided than the game actually was. Aldridge led Portland with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Projected Mavericks Lineup:
PF: Dirk Nowitzki (Germany, 16th season) – 21.6 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.8 APG
SF: Shawn Marion (UNLV, 15th season) – 10.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.7 APG
C: Samuel Dalembert (Seton Hall, 12th season) – 6.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, .4 APG
SG: Monta Ellis (Lanier (HS), 9th season) – 19 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.8 APG
PG: Jose Calderon (Spain, 9th season) – 11.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.8 APG
Player to Watch: Monta Ellis (pictured at right) – When he began his career with the Warriors, Monta Ellis quickly developed a reputation as a high volume scorer, one who put up a lot of shots and was capable of shooting his team into, or out of, any game. Yet, that has changed a fair bit these past several years as Monta has developed far better shot selection and passing skills. Ellis fits very well into Dallas’s offense. Sure he isn’t that good on defense, but Dallas is a team that prides itself on offense first and in that sense, Monta is the perfect fit. He will be a key player Portland will have to stop if they want to win Friday.
Did You Know?: Shawn Marion ranks 19th on the all-time steals list with 1,711, five behind Ron Harper and fifteen behind Magic Johnson.
Song of the Day: “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. A former Blazers theme song and appropriate given how easily Portland dispatched Atlanta Wednesday. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee)
Re-Evaluating Dallas: One Last Shot
That the Mavs are even in the playoff hunt this year is pretty impressive. They have a roster that is, for the most part, well beyond its prime and play out west, where to make the playoffs you have to be pretty damn good (unlike the east where you just have to be kind of near .500). This is nowhere near the team that won the title a few years ago but they are fun, talented and hanging in there. Even with their recent three-game losing streak it still seems likely they will make the playoffs. Dirk and co may be on the way down, but they are by no means done yet.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Dallas’s 3 point shooting. The Mavs live and die by the jump shot. Make them attack you inside and they become far less effective. If Portland can do so, they should win.
Dallas wins if: They hold Portland under 100 points. The Mavs are a bad defensive team but if they can hold Portland under 100, they should be able to pull it out.