Trail Blazers-Mavericks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 05, 2012
Even with a new coach, the Portland Trail Blazers are still having trouble gaining momentum in the playoff race. A visit to the Dallas Mavericks might not help. The Blazers will seek back-to-back wins for the first time in more than two months Friday night in Dallas. Portland (26-29) is 6-6 since interim coach Kaleb Canales took over for the fired Nate McMillan, and has alternated wins and losses over its last nine games. "We've got to figure it out," guard Raymond Felton said. " We've got to figure out how to go on a roll for like five games." The Blazers bounced back from a five-point loss to Utah by pulling away in the fourth quarter Wednesday for a 101-88 victory over visiting New Jersey. After falling behind by three with 6:50 remaining, Portland ended the game on a 19-3 run. LaMarcus Aldridge topped 20 points for the fourth straight game with a team-best 24, and Nicolas Batum recorded his second straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The win left the Blazers 3 1/2 games behind Houston and Denver, who are tied for the final two playoff positions in the Western Conference. Portland will continue that push during a two-game trip to Dallas (31-24) and Milwaukee. The Blazers, who haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 23-24, are 7-19 on the road and have lost 23 of 27 all-time at the American Airlines Center, including all three games during last year's playoffs. Portland fell 97-94 in double overtime during the most recent visit Feb. 11 as the Mavericks' Delonte West scored six of his 10 points to open the second extra session. Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points to lead five players in double figures and Jason Terry finished with 19. Aldridge had 33 points in his hometown. The Blazers' big man has averaged 32.0 points and 10.7 rebounds during his team's three-game losing streak in Dallas during the regular season. The Mavericks will try to extend Portland's struggles at the American Airlines Center while ending their own inconsistent stretch. Dallas has alternated losses and victories in its last four contests. The Mavericks rebounded from a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the fourth-place team in the West, by topping Memphis 95-85 on Wednesday. The win allowed Dallas to move into a tie with the Grizzlies for fifth in the conference. Shawn Marion scored 10 of his 16 points during a key 21-4 run in the fourth quarter, while Nowitzki recorded his ninth double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. "It was a good bounce-back (victory) for us," Terry said. "Obviously we're fighting with all these teams for playoff positioning and this was a crucial game for us, as are all of them." To help themselves in the playoff race, the Mavericks will try to collect two wins over the Blazers over their final 11 games. Dallas visits Portland next Friday as part of a four-game trip. The Mavericks might have veteran guard Jason Kidd back for that game, but he's expected to miss this one with a strained right groin. Nowitzki will trying to make up for Kidd's absence by improving on a 26.3-point average over his last 19 games against the Blazers, a stretch in which he's shot 49.1 percent. He averaged 27.3 points while leading Dallas to a six-game victory in last season's playoffs. With his next 3-pointer, Terry will pass Peja Stojakovic for fifth on the all-time list.
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