The Mavericks may face the toughest test of the young season as former assistant Terry Stotts brings the Portland Trail Blazers to town.
The Blazers are showing some real promise early in the season with 5 players averaging in double figures. Annual standout LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team with 22.7 ppg and 9.7 rebounds but new rookie point guard Damian Lillard, the sixth pick in the draft, is making a huge impact with 21.3 ppg and 9 assists. J.J. Hickson adds help on the front line with 12 points and 11.3 rebounds.
Lillard has scored 20 points or more in his first three NBA games, following Oscar Robertson as only the second rookie in league history to start his career with three straight games of at least 20 points and seven assists. Grant Hill was the last rookie to score at least 20 in his first three.
Lillard was considered by many to be the best point guard in the draft and is paying immediate dividends both scoring and getting the ball to a capable and deep front line. His performance against Darren Collison will be a key matchup in the game. The shooting guard spot is a little thin but Wes Mathews is a decent three-point shooter and solid defender.
Vince Carter says the matchup between Rick Carlisle and Stotts, who was an assistant in Dallas from 2008 until he took the Portland job last summer, will be a chess match.
“It’s going to be interesting just because the plays are going to be mirrored,’’ Carter said. “They run some of the same stuff. It’s going to be who can out-execute each other is what it’s going to come down to.’’
The game is likely to be close on the front line and the Mavs will have to rely on experience and depth to prevail and not backtrack to previous games where they were dramatically outrebounded, shot poorly or turned the ball over too many times.
Game time is 7:30 at the AAC.