Trail Blazers-Mavericks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 05, 2013
LaMarcus Aldridge came up big down the stretch in carrying the Portland Trail Blazers to victory in their last game. That probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to the Dallas Mavericks. A week after his buzzer beater buried the Mavericks, Aldridge will again look to frustrate one of his favorite opponents when the Trail Blazers visit Dallas on Wednesday night. Portland (25-23) seemed well on its way to winning the opener of a six-game road trip Monday in Minnesota, leading by 19 points at the start of the fourth quarter. The Trail Blazers, though, began to fall apart and the Timberwolves pulled within one with 36.9 seconds left. Aldridge then took over, swishing a 21-footer and blocking a jump shot with 7.9 seconds remaining as Portland hung on for a 100-98 win, its fifth in seven games. "Teams are going to pressure us, so I think it's learning," coach Terry Stotts said. "But winning on the road is not easy and we needed this one." Aldridge finished with 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds, and he could be poised for another big game. Aldridge hit a game-tying 3-pointer - the first one he made on 10 attempts this season - with 4.9 seconds left and then made a turnaround jumper with 0.2 seconds remaining to help the Blazers come back from a 21-point third-quarter deficit in a 106-104 home win over Dallas last Tuesday. "We cannot let Aldridge get set on the block 10 feet from the basket and let him turn around and shoot a wide-open shot," Dirk Nowitzki said after that defeat. The problem for Dallas, however, is it has routinely been letting Aldridge, who finished with 29 points, find his rhythm. In eight games against the Mavericks since 2010-11, Aldridge is averaging 27.3 points - his best versus any Western Conference team. Despite his success, the Blazers are 4-4 in those games, and they've lost four of five at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks (20-28) are returning to Dallas, where they've averaged 108.8 points in winning four of six, for a five-game homestand after a 112-91 loss to Oklahoma City on Monday capped a 1-3 trip. Shawn Marion was the lone bright spot for Dallas, which trailed by as much as 33 points in the fourth quarter, as he shot 10 of 14 for 23 points. Nowitzki was 3 of 11 and scored 10 after missing the previous two games with a right adductor strain, and he felt most of his team's problems stemmed from 14 turnovers leading to 23 points for the Thunder. Dallas is 6-20 when committing 14 or more turnovers compared to 14-8 when it has 13 or less. "That always gets us in trouble when we turn the ball over. We're usually not very good when we can't go back and set our defense up. That really, for us, is a recipe for disaster," Nowitzki said. The Trail Blazers were significantly worse protecting the ball Monday. Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard each had five of Portland's 28 turnovers, the most in regulation by any team all season. Nicolas Batum had a team-high seven turnovers and is clearly still being bothered by a sore right wrist. Batum is averaging 7.8 points in his last five games - 7.9 fewer than his season average. "If he or the trainer says he can't play, then I can't play him, but he's very important to what we do," Stotts said.
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