The Portland Trail Blazers bid to end their six-game road trip in style on Saturday when they visit the Dallas Mavericks.
Portland split the first two contests before posting wins in each of the next three games, including a 106-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.
“We’ve played some really good teams on this trip and we’ve earned every single thing on this trip, so far,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “We thought that it was going to be a very challenging trip and it has been.”
Challenging is an understatement considering Portland has played three of those games without star Damian Lillard (calf), two without Jusuf Nurkic (right adductor soreness) and Anfernee Simons (left foot inflammation), and one without Jerami Grant (ankle).
Moreover, the team announced Friday that rookie guard Shaedon Sharpe dislocated a finger and was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game. Sharpe missed Thursday’s game after he sustained a volar avulsion fracture to his right pinky finger during Tuesday’s game at Charlotte — when he scored a career-high 17 points in a career-high 29 minutes — and is considered be day-to-day.
While Grant led Portland with 27 points and Simons added 23 on Thursday, it was the contributions of veteran bench player Nassir Little that turned heads.
“We needed Nas’ energy, we needed his shot-making, his athleticism,” Billups said after Little scored 13 of his season-high 15 points in the second half.
“I feel like with guys out, guys got to step out,” Little said, according to the Oregonian. “I think I’ve been playing pretty well all season but it’s just a matter of with guys out, get my opportunity and things like that happen.”
While the Trail Blazers are concluding a lengthy trek, the Mavericks hope a bit of home cookin’ will help them get back on their feet.
Dallas, which boasts a 5-1 record at home this season, fell to 1-4 on the road following a fruitless two-game trek.
Luka Doncic was held under 30 points in both contests of the road trip after reaching that total in his first nine games of the season. Doncic was “limited” to 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in the Mavericks’ 94-87 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and 22, nine, and six in Thursday’s 113-105 setback at the Washington Wizards.
“I have been awful for two games now, these two games are on me,” Doncic said. “We have to figure it out. These two games we are supposed to win, but we didn’t, so I’ve got to figure it out.”
Dallas coach Jason Kidd was quick to note that the team is at fault, not Doncic.
“I don’t think it’s Luka’s fault,” Kidd said. “It’s the team, it’s everyone — coaches, everybody who wears the Mavs’ shield. It’s on them.
“We haven’t done our job the last two games. That’s why you play 82 of them, so we’ll go back and look at this.”
Dallas’ Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 33 points against his former team, making 11 of 17 shots from the floor — including 7 of 12 from 3-point range.
Dinwiddie, however, lamented his team’s performance at the other end of the court.
“I think the worst thing is we’re just allowing teams that are short-handed — or, aren’t necessarily the greatest, obviously — to put up points and put up big numbers,” Dinwiddie said. “I think that’s more the concerning thing.
“If we would have just lost 85-80, and it would be like, ‘Yo, we didn’t score, this is terrible, what are we doing?’ We just didn’t make shots. Sometimes things happen.”
–Field Level Media