DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks blew some big leads this season, but nothing would have compared with the feeling of coughing up a 30-point bulge to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Fortunately for Dallas, they will not have deal with such angst after closing out a 103-98 victory when it looked almost certain they were headed for defeat after leading by 30 points, 44-14 early in the second quarter. Losing would have meant tying the franchise record for biggest lead lost going back to 2002 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We’ve been blowing leads all year, ask me something that hasn’t been happening,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve blown a lot of big leads, so this is one of the realities that we face with this team, and we’re going to keep working to prevent it from happening next time. That’s all we can do. … If you talk about doing it the hard way, there’s no harder way to do it than tonight.”
Trailing 98-92 with 4:26 to go, the Mavs made a final charge and tied it at 98. Guard Devin Harris reclaimed the lead for the Mavs as he scored and got a favorable blocking call on Blazers guard Damian Lillard. Harris completed the three-point play with 24.2 seconds left to put Dallas ahead 101-98. Harris scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t agree with the call. A charge or no-call,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I’m not going to complain about the officials. I disagree with the call. It was the play of the game because it was a tie game and a three-point play. It changes everything.”
Guard Vince Carter sealed it for Dallas with two free throws with 16.8 seconds to go.
Coming off an uninspired loss at Denver on Wednesday night that prodded forward Dirk Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle to call out the team’s effort, the Mavs responded immediately against Portland. They streaked to a 24-5 lead and stretched it to 40-10 early in the second quarter. Dallas led by 30 for the final time at 44-14 with 8:31 to go until halftime.
Dallas was up 57-38 at halftime, but the floodgates opened in the third quarter as Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, struggling with his shot recently and having started the game 1-for-6, began to sizzle. He poured in 18 of his 30 points in the third quarter and guard Wesley Matthews added 10 of his 26 in the quarter as Portland outscored Dallas 36-18 to head to the fourth quarter trailing 75-74.
But Aldridge was limited to four points in the fourth quarter and missed six of his eight shots from the field, including several in crunch time that could have put the Blazers over the top.
“It was disappointing not taking care of business down the stretch,” Aldridge said. “I had some miscues down the stretch, I missed some shots down the stretch. So, you know, fighting all the way back, being up and having an opportunity to win; not taking care of business.”
Dallas, which needed the win to stay ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, was led by Nowitzki’s 22 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Mavs guard Monta Ellis, who had a key layup off a turnover to tie the score at 98, had 17 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Guard Jose Calderon finished with 19 points, 15 coming in the first quarter when he hit six of his first seven shots from the field.
“Obviously, you’ve got to love the way we started, but they came back and took the lead from us,” Harris said. “They came out and were more efficient in the second half, but we just hung in there, kept playing and we were able to make the plays to win the game.”
Aldridge and Matthews got little help in the scoring department. Forward Thomas Robinson had 11 off the bench and guard Damian Lillard was held to 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field and four assists.
NOTES: Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki entered the game needing 49 points to pass Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek (26,395) for 12th place on the NBA’s career scoring list … C Samuel Dalembert returned to the Dallas starting lineup after he was benched for the entire second half during the ugly loss at Denver on Wednesday. … Dallas entered the game riding its first three-game losing streak of the season. After a favorable February schedule, March does not get any easier: The Mavs, locked in a battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, play host to Indiana on Sunday before playing at Golden State on Tuesday and at Oklahoma City on March 16. … Blazers F Thomas Robinson returned to action after missing the previous four games with a left patellar tendon strain … Blazers F Joel Freeland continued to sit out with a right knee sprain.
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