No last-second drama was needed. And no controversy was necessary.
The Portland Trail Blazers came to town Saturday night on a mission, and proceeded to make quick work of the Dallas Mavericks, winning 127-111 before a sellout crowd of 20,375 at American Airlines Center.
This was not the way the Mavs (24-18) wanted to begin the second half of the season — laying an egg in front of the hometown folks while looking lethargic. But the Blazers (31-9) are one of the NBA’s finest outfits, and they showed exactly why as they pummeled the Mavs in all facets of the game.
“We regressed tonight,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The first three quarters really were beyond embarrassing, and we were poor on offense, too.
“We weren’t together, we weren’t playing together and we weren’t helping each other. And when you do that against a quality team — a high-level quality team like Portland — they’re going to make you pay a heavy price.”
The Blazers manhandled the Mavs and made amends for that 108-106 loss to Dallas on Dec. 7, when Monta Ellis fired in a game-winning 21-footer at the buzzer.
This time, no buzzer-beaters were necessary as the Blazers beat the Mavs on the boards 55-30, then showed them just how wide the gap is between Dallas and the NBA’s elite.
Portland shot 59.1 percent from the field in the first quarter, which ended with the visitors nursing a healthy 35-23 lead. With the Mavs appearing defenseless, the Blazers bumped their lead to 71-52 at intermission and 102-66 late in the third period.
Portland took a commanding 104-70 lead into the fourth quarter as these two teams didn’t look like they belonged on the same court together.
“Other than saying beyond embarrassing,” Carlisle said, “I don’t know what else to say.”
Only a 41-23 edge in the fourth quarter by the Mavs’ reserves made the final score respectable. The reserves injected some life into the crowd, then forced Blazers coach Terry Stotts to bring his starters back in after Dallas crawled to within 113-98 with 4:38 left.
However, when LaMarcus Aldridge (30 points, 12 rebounds), Nicolas Batum (21 points), Robin Lopez (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (14 points, 10 assists) returned to the game, order was restored and Portland had its double-digit victory safely tucked away.
“The guys that were in there in the fourth quarter really fought,” Carlisle said. “They won the quarter 41-23, which is great.
“I’m going to find guys that’ll fight and get them in the game, simple as that.”
The game marked the season debut for guard Devin Harris, who had surgery on his left foot in August. Harris received a warm ovation when he first entered the game with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, and wound up playing 17 minutes and finishing with six points and two assists.
“He’s worked hard, and he did well considering this is the first game and it’s been months [since he’s played]. And it’s a major surgery,” Carlisle said. “It speaks to how hard he’s worked.
“He’s a guy that can help us for sure.”
On Saturday, the Mavs needed plenty of help as they looked totally flat and lacked any intensity in a game that could have been a measuring stick.
“A very disappointing night for us tonight,” rookie guard Shane Larkin said. “We really didn’t give the fans anything to cheer about.
“It was good for the young guys to get into the game late, and rally, and play together, and kind of bond out there and get some chemistry together. But you never really want to be beat like that at home.”