DALLAS -- If the Dallas Mavericks do the unthinkable and slip-slide their way completely out of the playoffs, Friday night's 99-97 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers might be the game that cost them that precious postseason berth.
LaMarcus Aldridge nailed a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer in overtime over the outstretched arms of Brendan Haywood, then was mobbed by his teammates as the Mavericks walked dejectedly off the American Airlines Center floor.
But before the Mavericks (31-25) can turn their attention to tonight's 7 o'clock game in Memphis, they'll probably look back and wonder how this game got away.
The Mavs led the Blazers by as many as 15 points, 47-32, midway in the second period. But the Blazers used a 16-0 blitz in the last 3:37 of the third period to turn a 66-58 deficit into a 74-68 lead.
Raymond Felton had 12 of the Blazers' points during that surge as he did the same thing to the Mavs -- banging in 3-pointers -- that Randy Foye of the Los Angeles Clippers did when Dallas lost 94-75 on Monday night.
"The adjustment was they picked up their intensity level of play and we didn't," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "The third quarter was tough.
"It took a lot out of us. We battled to get back, but expended a lot of energy."
Shawn Marion's basket sent the game into overtime with 15.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Then, Aldridge hit six of his 25 points in overtime to boost Portland's record to 7-6 under interim coach Kaleb Canales, who is a UT Arlington graduate.
"He scored," Carlisle said of Aldridge's game-winner, "... made a strong dribble move and knocked it in."
Before Aldridge's winning shot, Dirk Nowitzki rebounded Felton's missed shot and saw Marion streaking down the floor. But the ball slipped out of Nowitzki's hands and his pass went out of bounds, nowhere near Marion with 19.3 seconds remaining and the game tied 97-97.
"I think he was trying to hit [Marion] and the pass was off," Carlisle said. "I'm sure he'd like to have it back."
A lot of that transpired Friday which the Mavericks would like to have back. Felton hit 12 of 18 shots, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, and finished with a season-high 30 points, plus seven rebounds and six assists.
Portland also won the rebounding battle 51-44 and kept making the scrappy plays when it needed to.
The Mavs played without point guard Jason Kidd (strained right groin) for the third consecutive game. They also were without backup center Ian Mahinmi, whose girlfriend was expected to have a baby Friday night.
But the Mavs did have guard Delonte West, who finished with 10 points and five assists despite spraining his left ankle in Friday morning's shootaround.
"I give him a lot of credit for being out there," Carlisle said of West. "I'd say the majority of guys in this league wouldn't have.
"He gave us what he had. I was impressed."
What Carlisle wasn't impressed with was the way his team let a 15-lead evaporate so quickly. Especially since the Mavs led 27-17 after the first period and 56-44 at the half.
"When you build a 12- to 15-point lead, one of the things you've got to do is maintain a level where you can maintain a lead, maintain a cushion, and we didn't do that," Carlisle said. "Once you get up against the 8-ball, a lot is left to chance, because you've got the bounce of the ball, the officials come into play more.
"We let it get away."
And now the Mavs -- with this loss on their minds -- have to look to dealing with the rugged Grizzlies.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760