The Dallas Mavericks kick-off a short, two game, back-to-back road trip tomorrow night against the Portland Trailblazers. While Chandler Parsons should be extremely excited this is a short trip (he’ll only have to pay for two dinner bills this go ’round), there may be no one more excited for this early season match-up than me. With close friends that live in Portland, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a Mavericks dismantling of the Rose City.
As a matter of fact, let me take this time to thank the Blazers faithful for priming our 2011 Championship run by rolling over for us in the 2011 first round. I was thinking about offering up gratitude for the ’03 playoffs as well, but I figured that would just add insult to injury. After all, the Blazers came so close to knocking out the #2 seeded Dallas Mavericks that year but just fell short.
Seems like the running theme for Blazer fans. Falling short that is. The Trailblazers have made it to the playoffs in 7 of the last 15 seasons and only 4 times in the last 12. 6 of those 7 playoff appearances ended before they even began: in the first round. In fact, since the Blazers last championship in 1977 they’ve been bounced from the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs a whopping 20 times. TWENTY. That means in the 37 seasons and 29 playoff appearances SINCE the ’77 title – 68.9% of the playoff appearances have ended in 1st round disappointment. Look no further than last year’s Blazers team to find signs of the falling short pedigree with which the team has started to become synonymous. The Western Conference, cinderella story, second seed squad got drilled in the semis by the eventual champion Spurs.
And, I can already hear the Blazer faithful. “What does that have to do with this year? That’s history.” Or is it? After a 2-2 start, the Blazers are back to falling short of expectations. One could even argue that Damian Lillard is as disinterested in basketball as LeBron is: more apt to put work in to his 4 Bar Friday than his actual Friday match-ups. Minus the Blazers most recent game against the Cavs, Lillard has looked pedestrian. In his 3 games prior Tuesday’s contest, Lillard was averaging 13.6 points per game on 26.8% shooting from the field. The only thing close to his career averages? His 3 point shooting at 31.8%. Still even that falls short of his 38.1% career average. And so the Blazers bring in the 2014-2015 season in a ode to Blazer history: history of falling short.
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While history has a tendency to repeat itself, as enumerated above, Thursday’s nights match-up may be a good barometer of where the Mavericks stack up in the West. That is, of course, if Tuesday night’s Trailblazers show up. The Blazers have four starters (Aldridge, Lillard, Matthews, & Batum) plus C.J. McCollum, Dorell Wright, & Steve Blake that can shoot from downtown. The long range three threat will stretch the Mavericks defense forcing fast closeouts and putting pressure on Tyson and Wright to lock down to lane. Height will also play a factor as the Blazers starting 5 have a small advantage in the height department, especially at the 2 spot. Keep an eye on the Matthews/Ellis match-up as Matthews made a habit of posting up Dion Waiters in Tuesday nights contest.
Must Watch Match-Up
Thursday night’s must watch match-up is the battle of a Texas native, LaMarcus Aldridge, against a German born, Texas bred legend, Dirk Nowitzki. This power forward power match should prove to be a battle of baskets as the two prolific scorers exchange blows. Enjoy basketball fans.
While the Blazers looked good early this week, the Mavericks have had three days off to rest. The Trailblazers offense hasn’t hit on all cylinders this season. Conversely, the Mavericks offensive starters have been clicking so well that teams can’t capitalize on the second half disintegration of defense. The match-up should look like what it will eventually become: two playoff teams jockeying for position within the West. Expect a battle, but expect the Blazers to … yup, you guessed it: fall short. My predicition: Dallas Mavericks 115, Portland Trailblazers 105.