For Chandler Parsons, Thursday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center puts him back at the scene of the most heartbreaking defeat in his NBA career.
While playing for Houston last season, Parsons and the Rockets faced the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. The series ended in dramatic fashion when Portland’s Damian Lillard drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 99-98 Game 6 victory.
To make matters worse, Parsons was running toward Lillard to alter his shot on the final play, a play that will forever be embedded in Parsons’ mind.
“I was more upset that our season was over, but that’s what type of player [Lillard] is,” Parsons said. “He hit a heck of a shot on that last play.”
Parsons is anticipating a lot less theatrics Thursday when the Mavericks (3-1) meet Portland (2-2) at 9:30 p.m.
Lillard’s shot ruined a solid performance by Parsons, who finished Game 6 with 16 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. Parsons also was in line to be the game’s hero after he scored on a reverse layup to put the Rockets ahead 98-96 with 0.9 seconds left.
Lillard spoiled that.
Parsons is hoping for some sort of revenge in what is expected to be a tough challenge for the Mavericks.
“It’ll be fun going back there,” Parsons said. “I’m sure it’ll not be the nicest crowd.”
Parsons has been showing off his all-around talent lately. In the past three games, the four-year veteran has scored 21, 20 and 29 points.
“I’m starting to find a rhythm,” Parsons said. “I’m starting to play well with these guys.”
He’s made 25 of 44 shots in that span while also grabbing 14 rebounds.
“He can fit in with any team pretty seamlessly,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He can step right in and play two positions for any team in the league.”
With Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis surrounding him, Parsons knows he fell into a good situation when he signed a three-year, $46 million free agent contract with the Mavericks in July.
“Our system is perfect for a guy like me who is moving the ball, spacing the floor, getting out in transition, knocking down open shots,” Parsons said. “Having guys like Monta and Dirk creating so much attention allows me to get to the basket and have open shots.”
Nowitzki marvels at the early continuity.
“I feel like he’s got a great rhythm to his game now,” Nowitzki said. “He’s been having good rhythm shooting the ball from the outside when he’s open.
“He’s been making some great decisions, some great reads. So hopefully he can keep it up.”
The Mavericks have frequently used Parsons as a point forward who initiates the offense. It’s a role the 6-foot-10, 230- pounder is accustomed to — dating all the way back to his high school days in Florida.
“I’d always play point guard growing up because I was smaller and I had a crazy growth spurt the summer before my junior year,” Parsons said. “So I’ve always been comfortable with the ball in my hands and making plays.
“I get more of a kick out of getting an assist than a bucket any day of the week.”
Parsons recalled that growth spurt.
“I was 6-1 my sophomore year, and the summer before my junior year I grew to 6-7,” he said. “I was so uncoordinated, my shoe size went from 12 to 15.
“Thank God I had three older brothers to borrow some clothes from. It was pretty gnarly, but I’m glad it happened because I don’t think I’d be in the NBA if I was 6-1.”
Reflecting on last season’s playoff loss, Parsons received a brutal firsthand lesson on what clutch basketball is all about.
“We had 0.9 of a second from going back in Game 7 and playing in Houston to win the series on your home floor,” Parsons said. “These guys play 24 seconds every single possession, and they have so many ways to hurt you with shooters.
“You can never get complacent because they’ll backdoor-cut you, they’ll screen you. They’re just a very, very textbook offensive team.”