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Chandler propels Mavericks to 50th, date with Houston

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DALLAS – Tyson Chandler was off and running at full speed in the first few minutes, and everyone at the American Airlines Center knew they would be in for a good night.

Chandler scored 11 of his season-high-tying 22 points in the opening quarter and the Dallas Mavericks won for the 50th time this season with a 114-98 drubbing of the depleted Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night.

“It was a game that we came locked in from the start. We wanted to get the 50th win for this franchise,” Chandler said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years and we want that to continue.”

Dallas (50-32), which already locked up the seventh seed, will play Houston (56-26) to begin the 2015 playoffs. Game 1 is set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The Rockets blasted the Jazz and earned the second seed after the Spurs’ rally came up short in New Orleans. Game 2 is set for Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. while Dallas hosts Game 3 Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

The Mavericks got out to a double-digit lead early and held onto it until the Blazers made a run. They wouldn’t go away and cut it to 56-51 at halftime.

Chandler added 15 rebounds for his 31st double-double of the season and went 12 of 15 from the free-throw line. The Mavericks would drop 35 in the third quarter and went up as much as 22 points.

“I feel good. The last week or so I’ve really been feeling good,” Chandler said. “I like the moral of the team right now. I like our communication tonight.”

The Blazers would trail for the entire game, shooting 41.8 percent and just 7 of 25 from behind the arc. LaMarcus Aldridge led with 19 points while Damian Lillard added 17. Three off the bench scored 10 or more while Portland was playing without Nicolas Batum, Chris Kaman and C.J. McCollum.

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Portland will enter the postseason as the No. 4 seed, but not have home-court advantage due to a worse record than the fifth and sixth seeds. The Blazers will start the first round on a four-game losing streak.

“I think we can’t ignore it. We have to go to the film and address it,” Lillard said.

“Playoffs are totally different,” Aldridge added.

Four other Mavs scored in double figures; Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 while Monta Ellis added 15. Amar’e Stoudemire and Charlie Villanueva added 13 and 10 off the bench, both of which are excited to play at the next level.

“It’s a time where you can display your talent. Every team, player is going to bring their A-game,” said Stoudemire, who missed last year’s playoffs while in New York.

Villanueva will be appearing in his first playoff series.

“I’m so thankful and blessed,” he said. “I’m so proud of these guys and I get to experience going to the playoffs for the first time.”

Dallas finishes the year 37-7 when shooting 45 percent or better. The Mavs shot 45.3 percent (39 of 86) Wednesday night. They also outrebounded Portland 54-45.

The Mavericks became just one of five Southwest division teams to clinch a playoff spot after the Pelicans did so by beating the Spurs. They will play top seeded Golden State.

“It’s the toughest division in all of sports. It has been the last few years,” Rick Carlisle said.

Said Carlisle during pregame that 50 wins was viewed more significantly better than 49 wins around the league, stuck by his words after the game.

“We wanted to do it and 50 sounds better than 49. But that’s done, now it is 0-0 for everybody and it’s the first team to 16 wins,” he said.

Dallas wins 50 games for the 14th time in franchise history, 12th in the past 15 years and first since the 2010-11 championship season.

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“50 wins is not bad at all and in the Western Conference, now we’re looking forward to the playoffs,” Nowitzki said.

Now they get to face a Houston squad with MVP front-runner James Harden. The Rockets will go without Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas and a banged-up Dwight Howard. However, Houston did win the season series 3-1 with all Dallas’ losses decided by seven or less. The Mavericks won 111-100.

“They like to go small and extremely quick and they got a lineup with a lot of length. They like to switch a lot and Harden has been incredible all year long,” Nowitzki said. “All four games have been fun to be a part of, they were all close.”

This will be the third playoff series between the two teams. Dallas won 3-1 in the 1988 playoffs and again 4-3 in 2005. The Rockets are just 1-10 in their last 11 playoff matchups. They won the 2009 first round and haven’t won another since the 1997 conference semifinals.

A lot of side stories in this one with the obvious Chandler Parsons playing against his former team. Likewise for Jason Terry, after helping Dallas win in 2011. Carlisle and Kevin McHale played with one another back in Boston and of course, Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey won’t keep quiet.

“They’re a really good team and we got our hands full,” Nowitzki said. “It’s about which team comes out in the end. We would love to go down there and steal one or the first one, but it will be tough – tough environment and they play well at home.”

“They are going to be a tough opponent and we have a tough task ahead of us,” Chandler added.

Parsons is questionable for Game 1. Devin Harris didn’t play Wednesday and is day-to-day.

NOTE: For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the Dallas Mavericks’ leading scorer is not named Dirk Nowitzki. Monta Ellis took that award, nearly 19 points a game. Nowitzki finished with 17 a game. He averaged 17.5 back in 2000 while Michael Finley averaged 22.6. This matchup will mark the 10-year anniversary when the two met in the first round in 2005, Dallas winning 4-3.

Other West matchups: Golden State vs New Orleans; LA Clippers vs San Antonio; Portland vs Memphis

Next: Mavericks Playoff Roundtable

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