With All-Stars Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic, today’s matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks should be on July 4th light up the display board like a Christmas tree. It also lived up to its bill. The teams together scored 240 points, 50% from the ground and 45% from the arch. Ultimately, however, neither Lillard nor Doncic would become the player of the game. A resurgent CJ McCollum gave Portland 32 points, including 7-13 shots from the bow, to give his team a 125-119 win.
Doncic put up 38 points for the Mavericks in the defeat, Lillard 31. Carmelo Anthony gave Portland 18 points from the bank.
The opening of this supposedly high-profile matchup was … not that high-profile. Both teams struggled to connect as each team did a good job on the opponent’s ultra-octane point guard. Luka Doncic scored, but only on deep threes. Lillard had a couple of shots, but CJ McCollum did real damage, hitting in the middle and then three. After that, Dallas couldn’t see lady anymore and he began to stroke more. And then everything broke loose. Lillard began toasting the Mavs from a distance when the strikers hit wide-open shots. The increased pace of attack also contributed to Dallas’ scoring, but not as much as Portland’s. However, the second unit did not do so well. They couldn’t close the arch when the Mavericks took out their long-range blowtorches. Dallas hit 7-11 threes in the first, Portland 8-12. The blazers led 37-33 after one.
McCollum kept on burning as the second started, petting a pair of threesomes and signaling it was his night, all night. However, the Portland defense continued to play freely. Doncic cut through the alley while Mavericks support staff mopped up Springer. Does your offense look incredible but not sure if it matters? This is Portland.
The Mavs lost their temper in the middle of the quarter and received two technical fouls. Enes Kanter increased her suffering and met almost no resistance inside. But Dallas’ three-pointers kept falling and as long as that happened they could stay in the game. However, the Mavericks didn’t have an inside game towards the end of the period. Her three held her close, but without Doncic ruining the blazers in color, the Jumpers couldn’t get her forward. Portland led 64-60 in the half. Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony brought their A-games into the third period while McCollum continued to hum. Portland looked good on the offensive … everything advertised or featured when this team was put together. But Holy Bacon Bits, Dallas had a fun time in the color on the other end. Eight minutes into the start of the period, the Mavs had half a dozen marks on track with no faults. At this point they also shot 50% out of the bow. Again the cumulative effect was like eating tons of ice cream; it tastes so good, but you know this is going to be bad for you at some point. That point came in the last three minutes of the period when the Mavs rolled off 10 points to take the lead in a virtually tie game. Anthony came to the rescue for Portland with a buzzer that hit three, but that still left the Blazers in fourth place between 98 and 93.
The first minutes of the fourth went back and forth. Both teams retained most of their best players. Dallas felt that victory would be easier if decided early. Portland decided not to allow this to happen. Except for Lillard, who had a frightening moment three minutes before the end of the third minute when Josh Richardson landed on his knee when Lillard was on the floor. Gary Trent Jr. made up for Lillard’s absence when he came out of hibernation to meet a three and a midfield jumper, and McCollum buried one from below. Trey Burke met a couple on the other end to answer. It was obvious that the angry scoring would continue through last buzzer.
Blazer’s fans breathed two sighs of relief mid-quarter when McCollum scored three more goals and Lillard checked in the game, apparently okay. The lead in Dallas, however, persisted, hovering between 4 and 6 points as the clock continued to dwindle. Then Lillard hit Rodney Hood for a three at 4:26 to reduce the lead to one. There would be no escaping an exciting ending.
But then a funny thing happened. The blazers began to defend themselves. A Lillard theft resulted in an Anthony Dunk. Then Trent Jr. blocked a Doncic jumper followed by a Lillard score. The lead was Portland again. The Mavericks were on their way to a shooting quarter below 40%. In the meantime, Lillard continued to score. Portland led by 3 when the 2:00 mark was over. Dallas tried three more but couldn’t beat them. Then McCollum finished his night with a three with 1:17 remaining. Portland led by 6 and the Mavericks were in trouble. The problem was doomed when Robert Covington buried a three from the corner after an offensive rebound, bringing Portland 34 seconds ahead of 7. The blazers looked happy. More importantly, when it came down to it, they looked good.
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