If the Dallas Mavericks make the playoffs, they’ll likely look back to Friday’s victory over Portland as the reason why they made it to the second season.
In a game that turned into a wild ride, the Mavs blew a 30-point lead, then recovered in time to beat the Trail Blazers 103-98 before a sellout crowd of 20,251 at American Airlines Center.
With the victory the Mavs snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their record to 37-26 going into Sunday’s home game against the slumping Indiana Pacers.
With Vince Carter grabbing a key offensive rebound and making a pair of free throws to give Dallas a 103-98 lead with 16.8 seconds remaining, the Mavs ended the game on an 11-0 run.
“When we got into a lull we were still able to keep playing pretty well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The third quarter is the one we’ve got to eliminate.
“When we’re down with three-and-a-half minutes to go, we’ve got to ignore the score and keep playing.”
That’s exactly what the Mavs did after an alley-oop dunk by Seagoville native LaMarcus Aldridge put Portland ahead 98-92 with 4:26 to go.
After that it was all Mavs with a dramatic drive and three-point play by Devin Harris giving the Mavs the lead for good at 101-98 with 24.2 seconds left.
“Obviously I love the way we started, but obviously they came back and took the lead from us,” said Harris, who had 12 points.
“They came out with more conviction in that second half, but we just kind of hung in there, we kept playing and were able to make plays to win the game.”
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 22 points, Jose Calderon scored 19 and Monta Ellis added 17, including a steal and breakaway layup that tied the game at 98-all.
The Mavs’ defense took over down the stretch and helped them stave off what would have been a frustrating loss.
“Look, you look at the box score and we had one bad quarter,” Carlisle said. “It was a horrible third quarter and they got going.
“Give them credit, they hung in and they kept fighting and making plays. We had nine stops in a row to end the game, which shows what we’re capable of.”
The Mavs came out like gangbusters as they played near-flawless basketball in leading 33-10 after the first quarter behind 15 points by Calderon. Dallas kept its foot on the gas, blowing that lead out to 40-10, and then to 44-14 with 8:41 left before halftime.
“The first quarter, you’re not going to have a better first quarter in this league,” Carlisle said. “But there’s a lot of adrenaline, and you can’t sustain that — not against a quality team like Portland.
“It’s going to be a character test and it’s going to test our team resolve the next 19 games, but that’s good. If we’re not up to it we don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”