Mav­er­icks de­feat Trail­blaz­ers

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Schuyler Dixon

DAL­LAS—Luka Don­cic was sum­moned back to the court for a very brief speech to a group of about 100 Slove­ni­ans who made the 24-hour trek to see their coun­try­man, the teenage rookie sen­sa­tion for the Dal­las Mav­er­icks.

The big­ger thrill for the vis­i­tors came a lit­tle ear­lier when Don­cic helped en­gi­neer a fourth-quar­ter come­back against the play­off-con­tend­ing Port­land Trail Blazers.

Don­cic scored 13 of his 28 points in the fourth, Tim Har­d­away Jr. fin­ished with 24 and the Mav­er­icks erased a 15-point deficit in the fi­nal 10 min­utes for a 102-101 vic­tory Sun­day.

“I don’t nor­mally play him the whole quar­ter, but when we be­gan to make the push early in the fourth it was just one those times where he was go­ing to have to fin­ish for us to have a chance,” said coach Rick Carlisle, whose team matched its big­gest come­back of the sea­son.

Damian Lil­lard scored 21 of his 30 points in the last half of the third quar­ter to help the Blazers build a lead that grew to 96-81 early in the fourth be­fore the Mav­er­icks ral­lied to hand Port­land its first loss in 34 games when lead­ing af­ter three quar­ters this sea­son.

Lil­lard made eight straight shots and in one stretch scored 16 straight Port­land points in the third, but the All-Star guard missed his last four at­tempts as the Blazers went 10:10 with­out a field goal in a nine-point fourth quar­ter.

The last miss from Lil­lard was a driv­ing layup in the fi­nal sec­onds af­ter Don­cic had missed at the other end, and Dal­las’ Maxi Kle­ber hunched over with the re­bound and hung on long enough for time to ex­pire.

“Some missed op­por­tu­ni­ties, some turnovers, some poor de­ci­sions, and you have got to give Dal­las a lot of credit,” said Port­land coach Terry Stotts, whose team en­tered the game with a 33-0 record when lead­ing af­ter three quar­ters this sea­son. “They play with a lot of en­ergy.”

There is plenty of de­bate over whether the Mav­er­icks still want to make the play­offs af­ter trad­ing the other four starters around Don­cic in a pair of deals that were clearly about the fu­ture over the present.

Three of the starters went to New York, and the Mav­er­icks have de­cided not to play the cen­ter­piece of that deal. They in­stead plan to let 2018 All-Star Kristaps Porzingis con­tinue his re­cov­ery from a knee in­jury sus­tained about a year ago with the Knicks.

Har­d­away was the se­cond-big­gest part of the deal for Dal­las, and had his best show­ing in his third game. With the in­ten­sity of the rally build­ing, he won a scram­ble for a loose ball and weaved through de­fend­ers for an em­phatic left-handed dunk to get Dal­las within one.

Don­cic gave the Mav­er­icks their first lead since early in the se­cond quar­ter with a fin­ger-roll layup, then the 19-year-old put them ahead for good with a 3-point play on a driv­ing layup for a 102-99 lead with 1:28 re­main­ing.

Af­ter CJ McCol­lum made a shot, the teams ex­changed misses be­fore Lil­lard’s last-se­cond at­tempt in the third loss in the past 10 games for Port­land.

“I just think it’s a mes­sage be­cause they’re a team that’s below .500 right now,” Lil­lard said. “They just had a trade. They got all new guys and things like that, and it’s a game that we should be able to win.”

Justuf Nur­kic had 18 points on 9-of-11 shoot­ing and 10 re­bounds be­fore foul­ing out when Har­d­away got the Mav­er­icks to 97-all on free throws. They had been even at 67 in the third be­fore Lil­lard took over and gave the Blazers a com­fort­able lead.

Dwight Pow­ell had 13 points and eight re­bounds, in­clud­ing an al­ley-oop dunk from Don­cic that kicked the come­back into an­other gear while get­ting Dal­las within six. Don­cic had nine re­bounds and six as­sists.

Do­rian Fin­ney-Smith started the game-end­ing 21-5 run by tip­ping in his own miss and fin­ished with 11 points and six boards.

TIP-INS

Blazers: McCol­lum was just 6 of 17 from the field and fin­ished with 14 points, end­ing his ca­reer-best streak of three straight games with at least 30 points. … The Blazers had a dou­ble-digit lead in the first half as well af­ter go­ing on a 20-1 run.

Mav­er­icks: C Salah Me­jri was re-signed three days af­ter be­ing waived as part of the trade that sent Har­ri­son Barnes to Sacra­mento. … Har­d­away reached 5,000 ca­reer points with two buck­ets in the first quar­ter. His next two bas­kets were 3-point­ers to give him 700 for his ca­reer.

Tony Gutier­rez/As­so­ci­ated Press

■ Port­land Trail Blazers’ Rod­ney Hood (5) de­fends as Dal­las Mav­er­icks for­ward Luka Don­cic (77) drives to the bas­ket for a shot in the first half of an NBA game Sun­day in Dal­las.

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