Trail Blazers vs Warriors Wednesday, 04/17/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Look To Snap Skid Against Mavericks

04/07/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Sunday evening the Portland Trail Blazers (33-43) look to snap their seven-game losing streak against the Dallas Mavericks (37-39) at 6PM. Sunday's game will be shown locally on KGW and can be seen nationally on NBATV. Nicolas Batum, dealing with a shoulder injury will not play on Sunday for the third straight game.

       
    •    Although the Trail Blazers have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the teams that they face down the stretch all still have playoff aspirations as the season winds down to a close. Dallas is one of those teams with their playoff dreams dangling by a thread as they trail the Lakers by three games with only six games left to play. In addition to getting their young players more time on the court to evaluate where they are in their development, the Trail Blazers have the opportunity to play spoiler down the stretch. However, before the Trail Blazers can think about playing spoiler, they've got to worry about getting themselves right, something they've struggled with over the last seven games.
       
    •    Since the Trail Blazers got two solid wins against Eastern Conference playoff teams in Atlanta and Chicago, where they played some of their best basketball over a period of two games, the Trail Blazers have struggled to put together a full 48 minutes of winning basketball. Some games, it's been the start of the game. Some other ones were because of a finish. Other nights, turnovers were their demise and as of late, it's been inaccuracy from the three-point line that has done them in. Also, last night, it was the timing of their mistakes that was more costly than the mistakes themselves. LaMarcus Aldridge said after scoring 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds that he thought the Trail Blazers just needed to "play smarter." They've had good quarters, they've had good halves, they've even strung three good quarters of basketball together over this tough stretch. But, if they want to snap this streak against teams that are all playing for something, whether it's simply getting into the playoffs or to have a more favorable seed, they've got to put together a complete game.
       
    •    The last two games between these two teams have both been decided in the final period. On the Mavericks last visit to Portland they had a lead that got as big as 21 points on Portland's home floor. JJ Hickson had a monster game of 26 points and 15 rebounds but it was LaMarcus Aldridge getting the best of Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas at the end. Aldridge scored five points in the final four seconds including a step-back three-pointer and a buzzer-beating game-winner. Aldridge scored 29 points and 13 rebounds on the night, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. The meeting that followed only a few days later started out encouragingly enough as the Trail Blazers had a six-point lead after the first quarter. But after scoring 61 points in the half and hitting nine threes, the Trail Blazers offense and their three-point shooting failed them in the second half. They went one of 14 from deep in the second half and they only scored 17 points in the final period to eventually lose by six. Aldridge had a solid game of 27 points and 10 rebounds. OJ Mayo has been especially lethal against the Trail Blazers this year, averaging 25 points per game on 68 percent shooting from the field and 68.8 percent from the three-point line. Aldridge is averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds on 52 percent shooting against the Mavericks and Wesley Matthews, who has struggled with his perimeter shot as of late, is averaging 19.3 points and 2.67 steals per game against the Mavs this year.
       
    •    With Nicolas Batum out, it is likely that we will continue to see more Will Barton. Victor Claver has assumed the starting role, but the minutes that normally go to Claver as the first wing off the bench appear as though they will be given to Barton, at least until Batum returns, if he returns at all. Barton said that  "it felt good," to get into a rhythm on Friday night, despite the fact that they lost. Barton scored nine points and tied career highs in rebounds (six) and assists (four). "Any time I play a lot of minutes, the rhythm instantly comes. You know, going in there for a minute and coming right back out. But when I'm playing consistent minutes, I feel fine. I can play with anybody, so just got to keep searching for those minutes man." Barton's impact was noticeable on the defensive end during his stretch in the second quarter, helping Portland go on a 15-3 run to close the first half. He has the length to get in passing lanes and bother guards but also has a knack for rebounding. Barton was the only Trail Blazer to play more than 20 minutes and finish with a positive +/- . However, something you would like to see from Barton is him finding a three-point shot. The corners, where he will likely get most of his looks and where he got two shots last night, are spots he must learn to love. However, something Barton helped do during his second quarter stint that helped ignite a run and something the Trail Blazers have to improve on, is running opposing teams off the three-point line but it is especially true against the Mavericks. The Mavs have shot 50 percent or better from three in all three meetings this year.

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