Dallas Mavericks fall to Portland Trail Blazers after overturned foul call

Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 121-119 after leading a majority of the game. Despite the loss, there were plenty of good things to take away from the Mavs first loss of the season.

After outplaying the Portland Trail Blazers for a majority of the game, the Dallas Mavericks fell short and fell to 2-1 on the season. The 121-119 loss may be the first of the year for the Mavs, but fans of the team should not be hanging their heads after this team outplayed the Western Conference runner-up from last season.

The Blazers were paced by CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard as per usual. McCollum, who had gotten off to a slow start in the Blazers first two games, was scorching hot, scoring 35 points on 50% shooting from the field. Lillard was able to turn a very slow start into 28 points, also shooting 50%. Both struggled from the three-point line, shooting a combined 2-11.

As far as star pairings go, it is hard to argue that Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis played just as well or perhaps even better than the opposing duo. The two Mavs stars combined for 61 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. The pair similarly struggled from three, combining for 5-21.

The big difference between the two teams may have been the clear-cut third scoring option that Portland had. Although most of his points were scored in the first half, Rodney Hood dropped 20 on the Mavs. Dallas’ third leading scorer was Maxi Kleber who scored 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter.

Dallas never trailed in the first three quarters and even pushed it to a 19-point advantage early in the second quarter. Portland tied the game at the end of the third and took their first lead less than a minute into the fourth. The game would seesaw back and forth for the remainder of the fourth quarter.

With 1:16 left in the game, the Mavs took a 1-point lead on a pair of Kristaps Porzingis free throws. A McCollum miss gave Dallas a chance to extend the lead, but great defense by McCollum led to a Mavs turnover and Blazers ball with 35 seconds left. After a timeout, Lillard got a quick bucket to give Portland a 120-119 advantage with 26 seconds left.

At 12 seconds to go, Luka launched a deep step-back three point attempt that came off the back iron. The shot is one that Luka takes and makes regularly, so it is hard to criticize him for it, although there were several mismatches the Mavs could have taken advantage of on the way to the rim, including 7’3″ Porzingis being guarded by 6’8″ Mario Hezonja.

Luka took the blame for the loss on bad shot selection, but again, this is a shot that he takes regularly so it is hard to fault him for it. Now, back to the real drama.

After the ball came flying off the rim, Dorian Finney-Smith came out of nowhere for the offensive rebound as he has done so frequently over the years. He comes down with it and looks for an outlet before deciding to take it up himself. Before he can get off the ground, Lillard reaches in and swipes the ball out of his hands but gets a foul call in the process.

This would lead to two shots for Dorian, but coach Terry Stotts, who wisely held onto his new coach’s challenge until the very end, decided to have the refs review the play. This is one of the first times so far this season that we have gotten a chance to see a review take place in a pivotal moment of the game.

For reasons still very unclear, the refs decided that there was no foul on the play and that the whistle was blown after Finney-Smith had lost possession of the ball. This leads to a jump ball at mid-court where Porzingis tips it too far back, Kent Bazemore recovers it, goes to the foul line and essentially ices the game as the Mavs have no timeouts.

This overturn of the foul called is up for your interpretation, but to me, is an egregious misinterpretation of what the challenge is supposed to be doing. In any other sport, a challenge gives the referee the opportunity to look at the replays and find conclusive evidence that what was called did not in fact happen. Without conclusive evidence, the call that was made on the court should stand no matter what.

There has yet to be a replay shown that clearly shows that Lillard did not hit Finney-Smith on his way up. It was a light foul that maybe would not have been called at other parts of the game, but a foul nonetheless. In fact, in the replay, it seems almost more conclusive that Lillard fouled Dorian than it was in real time.

Yet, the refs decided to follow an unspecified set of guidelines completely opposed to what they are supposed to be doing and overturned the foul call while referencing no particular angle of the play that should have warranted an overturn.

The Mavs may have shot themselves in the foot in this game, but this loss can be attributed to poor officiating in part as well. This is not the first time and will certainly not be the last time that an NBA game is determined due to poor officiating, but that is how basketball is and the Mavs and their fans (especially me) need to move on and get ready for next game.

Next. Luka Doncic takes blame for first loss of the season

Dallas will get a day off before traveling to Denver to take on the currently 2-0 Nuggets. Denver will be on their second game of a back-to-back as they take on the Sacramento Kings tonight. The game tomorrow will tip-off at 8:00 central time.