The Raptors, with Ibaka a big plus at both ends, defeat the Blazers

The Raptors, with Ibaka a big plus at both ends, defeat the Blazers

TORONTO -- I think, on the whole, the Portland Trail Blazers were in a little over their heads Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors -- even though Toronto's all-star guard, Kyle Lowry, sat this one out with an injury.

And a little more than a week ago, with Lowry out, I'm not sure I would have said that. But the Raptors added Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline and he was a game-changer in the Raps' 112-106 win over Portland.

Ibaka scored 18 points, hitting 8 of his 15 shots, and added 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. And, of course, he did his usual outstanding job at the defensive end. He scored nine points in a key time from the 6:02 mark to 3:28 to play, acting like a go-to offensive player.

"He's a great addition to their team," said Portland guard Damian Lillard, who led the Trail Blazers with 28 points. "He's a great addition on both ends of the floor -- protecting the paint, being able to show and being active on pick and rolls. Offensively, he can shoot the ball. You saw tonight he was able to get on the block and score, shooting fadeaways and jump hooks. He's a really good fit on their team."

No kidding. And you have to give Ibaka credit. As a 20-year-old rookie in the league in 2009 he ran from shots -- a timid offensive player who averaged only five attempts per game. But he steadily worked on his offense from the outside in, first becoming a good three-point shooter and now adding a medium and short-range game to his arsenal. He's packing an effective field goal percentage of .625 this season.

He's going to be a big asset in the playoffs, when the Raptors just might have a legitimate shot at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland jumped to a 12-point lead in the first quarter but it slipped away rapidly. The Blazers led by three after the first period and trailed by one at the half. Still, they were down by just a bucket heading into the final quarter. And this is in spite of allowing a bewildering 21-2 Toronto run from the end of the first half to the first minute and a half of the third quarter.

"Teams are going to make runs but I thought we could have done a better job of stemming the tide a bit," said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. "It's disappointing to lose a game but I thought we competed well."

Maurice Harkless, who took a pass on talking to the media after the game, scored 18 points, hitting seven of nine shots. But at times the Trail Blazers had a lot of trouble finding another scorer. CJ McCollum hit just six of his 19 shots and Allen Crabbe two of six. Al-Farouq Aminu, back in action again, played 29:21 and had 13 points and eight rebounds.

"I thought we played hard, but we had that run in the second quarter where we went up double digits and let them go on a run," McCollum said. "At the start of the third quarter they went on another mini-run and I thought that was the difference in the game.

"We've just got to continue to stick with it."

Portland's new center, Jusuf Nurkic, had a rough night. He made just three of nine shots and got worked over pretty well by Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas, who made seven of eight shots. Worse than that, Nurkic took a shot in the mouth in the fourth quarter that resulted in something being dislodged in his mouth. At first it appeared he might have lost a couple of teeth but word came later that he had two crowns dislodged and subsequently repaired. He was not available for comment after the game.

DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 33 points -- 15 of them at the foul line, where he seems to live. This man gets calls the way Jordan used to get them -- whether they are actually fouls or not.

The Trail Blazers moved on to Detroit, where they conclude the road trip with a Tuesday game against the Pistons.

Raptors outlast Trail Blazers

Raptors outlast Trail Blazers

TORONTO -- The Portland Trail Blazers led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter and stayed close most of the way Sunday night but the Toronto Raptors pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 112-106 win.

Portland got 28 points from Damian Lillard and 18 from Maurice Harkless but got little help from others in this game. Harkless made seven of his nine shots and Lillard hit 10 of 20 but couldn't find any scoring from anyone else.

The Raptors rattled off a 15-2 run to end the first half and then scored the first six points of the third quarter but Portland fought back in the third and trailed by only two heading into the final period.

Portland center Jusuf Nurkic appeared to lose a couple of teeth, or a bridge, in a collision near the basket during the fourth quarter but he continued to play.

DeMar DeRozan scored 33 to lead Toronto. Al-Farouq Aminu returned to action for Portland, playing 30 minutes and scoring 13 points.

Portland moves on to Detroit to end this three-game road trip with a Tuesday-night game against the Pistons.

 

 

As time goes by, 'Jail Blazers' trying hard to shed that nasty image

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As time goes by, 'Jail Blazers' trying hard to shed that nasty image

I usually pay very little attention to Kevin Garnett's bewildering segments during TNT's Thursday night NBA broadcasts. It's usually just a couple of washed-up players sitting there telling each other how good they used to be. It's a waste of time that I can't believe TNT finds them more entertaining than a couple of minutes of Charles Barkley talking about anything.

But I recently saw a clip of Garnett and Rasheed Wallace talking about the 2000 Trail Blazers-Lakers Western Conference finals Game 7 and the "Jail Blazers" Era. And for those who weren't around at that time, I can't help but attempt to set the record straight about a few things they discussed:

And let me say I agree with Wallace that Portland should have won that series and advanced to an NBA Finals berth against overmatched Indiana. It was a mystifying fourth quarter collapse in the seventh game by Portland that changed the course of the franchise in a big way.

But Wallace, whose image in Portland seems to improve with every year he's retired, misstated a few things about that final game.

The first thing is, he blamed Coach Mike Dunleavy for calling a timeout that he believes stopped his team's momentum and allowed the Lakers to make a comeback. I would say, though, the Trail Blazer players -- and Wallace in particular -- had much more to do with Portland's loss than did the coach. The Blazers had a 73-58 lead in the fourth quarter before being outscored 31-11 to end the game with a four-point loss.

Down the stretch of a magnificent upset of a loaded Laker team that featured Kobe and Shaq, the Trail Blazer players choked. They tightened up to the point they couldn't seem to get their shots to the rim. Wallace himself was awful in the fourth quarter, which wasn't surprising. The talented power forward could be spectacular for much of a game and then run from key shots in fourth quarters. He eventually found a home in Detroit, where there were other players more than willing to take the pressure shots.

And the other thing that happened in this game is that Portland could not buy a call from the referees once the Lakers got their machine revved up. This game has become one of those controversial events that people point to as possible "fixed" games down through the years in the NBA. Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis fouled out of this one, with Sabonis continually getting blocking calls when he had solid position on Shaq as the latter bulled his way to the basket.

A check of the box score shows Los Angeles getting 21 more free throws than Portland and the fouls put a lot of pressure on Portland in the fourth quarter.

But that was a loss and it will always be that way. What I found in the video clip more disturbing was Wallace downplaying the whole Jail Blazers thing, insinuating that the players were being pilloried by the media for little things like parking in handicapped spots or speeding and that the local media was just out to make a name for itself in a small market.

That's a steaming pile of stink, Rasheed.

I'm not going to go into the full list of transgressions by the players on this team but here are just a few I remember off hand:

  • Ruben Patterson --  a registered sex offender who was arrested for felony domestic abuse against his wife.
  • Zach Randolph --  Once punched Patterson's eye socket out in practice, had a DUI and was the leader of the infamous "hoops family" that was under suspicion for all kinds of local mischief,
  • Qyntel Woods -- Arrested for speeding and tried to use his basketball card as ID. A marijuana charge and an arrest for animal abuse because of his involvement with a dog-fighting group.
  • Shawn Kemp -- Departed the team to enter drug rehab during a season.
  • Bonzi Wells --  A couple of episodes of spitting on opposing players and a stated disregard for the team's fans.
  • Rasheed Wallace -- World records for technical fouls, throwing a towel in anger at Arvydas Sabonis in front of a packed house in the Rose Garden and once threatened referee Tim Donaghy in a loading dock incident after a game.
  • JR Rider -- Threatened media many times, couldn't get along with his coaches and once insinuated that people of color were being hanged from trees just a few miles outside of town.
  • Damon Stoudamire -- A couple of marijuana charges, one of them famously at an airport metal detector with weed wrapped in foil.

Wallace, of course, laughed it all off with Garnett. "There were some mishaps in there," he admitted. "We were the only show in town. The only professional sports show in town. The only professional sports show between Seattle, at the time, and LA."

Hmmm. I guess he must have forgotten about all those "professional sports shows" in San Francisco and Oakland. But this Wallace remark was a classic:

"The only thing that could blow up and make local writers big was to go ahead and report everything, like if you had a speeding ticket or parked in a handicapped spot..."

As one of those writers I can tell you that we were just as sick of writing about those "mishaps" as they were sick about reading about them. But they were news and these guys were relentless with their trouble. And the amazing thing about Portland as a basketball town was as long as the team was winning, virtually nobody cared what the players did. We were constantly criticized by fans for writing "negative stuff" about their heroes, who got standing ovation after standing ovation from their adoring fans.

Until they started losing.

And let me tell you, as soon as that team started losing (Bob Whitsitt just couldn't keep his hands off the roster -- he kept tinkering until he moved Jermaine O'Neal to Indiana for Dale Davis and that was a monster mistake that probably cost him his job) the fans turned on the team very quickly. Winning is the ultimate perfume. And when this team stopped winning and continued its misbehavior, the fans revolted about the offensive aroma.

And I'm sorry, any attempt to portray that group of players as a sympathetic bunch is very misguided.

And if you were here and paid attention, you know what I'm talking about.

Three "new" players fuel Blazer comeback win over Magic

Three "new" players fuel Blazer comeback win over Magic

ORLANDO -- Who were those guys?

It seemed as if three new players rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter to rally the Trail Blazers from deficits as high as 14 points Thursday night and a 112-103 win over the Orlando Magic.

The "new" guys?

Well, certainly nobody expected Shabazz Napier to play the entire fourth quarter and a total of 26:21 as a defensive stopper and cool offensive presence.

When all else failed -- and defensive stoppers Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner on the sideline with injuries -- Coach Terry Stotts turned to Napier to defend the Magic point guards, who were burning a path to the rim for layups. And it was part of a three-guard lineup that Stotts stayed with down the stretch of the game.

"It was Shabazz's defense that kept him in the game," Stotts said afterward. "Elfrid Payton had taken the ball to the basket three straight times and I just liked Shabazz's quickness on the ball. I just wasn't comfortable taking him out."

And Orlando seemed comfortable with not taking advantage of Portland's smaller lineup. Can Portland use that extensively the rest of the season?

"I don't know," Stotts said. "It worked tonight. With Evan and Al-Farouq out of the lineup, rotations are going to change. I thought defensively we were not hurt much by it, so it will depend on the matchups but it something we have to consider."

Napier was just pleased to be a contributor -- and in a city where he once played. He scored 10 points, had seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and just one turnover. This was a game, by the way, when turnovers were a real issue. Portland had 15 of them at the half and finished with 20, for 27 Orlando points.

"I'm just glad I could help us win," he said. "I have to contribute in whatever way I can."

Damian Lillard, whose fourth-quarter onslaught provided the firepower for the Portland comeback, lauded Napier's contributions.

"I said he was MVP," Lillard said. "He came into the huddle and said, 'Do we want to win?' He kind of challenged our team and this was before he even checked in. When he got into the game he impacted the game. He backed up what he was saying."

Lillard, by the way, was another "new" guy. This was a Damian Lillard seemingly refreshed from the All-Star break, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter -- taking over the game with a ferocity and a purpose that we haven't seen from him since early in the season. He finished with 33 points on 12 of 23 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three-point distance.

Lillard has usually played well after the All-Star break and he said he enjoyed recharging his batteries during the time off.

"It couldn't have come at a better time," he said. "Over the break I took a lot of time to myself. I was sitting in the house and would go get treatment, then sit in the cold tub, shoot some free throws and then sit in the house all day watching TV, relaxing, drinking water, just chilling. That allows you to come back fresh, mentally and physically."

Lillard brought the whole package with him to the fourth quarter, hitting difficult, twisting layups and long bombs from the outside. It was some vintage stuff.

Meanwhile, the other "new" guy was a legit new guy -- center Jusuf Nurkic, playing in just his second game since arriving in a trade with Denver. He got his first start, too, and took full advantage of it.

He made half his 12 shots, had 12 rebounds, scored 12 points and had five assists. He was a plus-23 in his 34 and a half minutes on the floor. And he's excited.

"It feels great to play with those guys, especially CJ and Dame," he said. "They make my life easier. I really love to be here. The coaching staff has done a great job of putting me in position as to where I am supposed to be and my teammates are looking for me. This is the first time in two years I'm having fun.

"It was a tough two years (in Denver) and that is all I can say. I was just frustrated and not being in position that I am supposed to be for some reason, but I wish them good luck. I'm just having fun here and I love it, man. I enjoy every day here.

"When you have those type of All-Star guards it is so easy to play with them. First time in my life I have those guys and those type of guards. It feels great and finally I am happy."

And so were the Trail Blazers. But ahead on this trip are a couple of difficult assignments.

Sunday there is a game at Toronto, followed by a Tuesday contest at Detroit.

Perhaps the "new" guys will still have some energy.

Lillard rides to the rescue in the fourth quarter

Lillard rides to the rescue in the fourth quarter

ORLANDO – At the outset of the Trail Blazers’ first game after the All-Star break, the most interesting topic would be how long it would take for new center Jusuf Nurkic to get into the starting lineup.

That question was answered immediately Thursday night. He started against the Orlando Magic and played well.

But Damian Lillard stole the show down the stretch of the game. Lillard went on a shooting rampage that helped bring his team out of a game-long funk and to a 112-103 win over the Magic, putting an end to Portland’s three-game losing streak.

Lillard was sensational in the fourth quarter – on a scoring rampage with difficult twisting layups and contested threes.

He finished with 33 points, 17 of them in the fourth quarter.

Nurkic earned his first Trail Blazer start and during his eight minutes of play in the first quarter he hit two of his four shots, had two rebounds and an assist.  He finished with five assists and a double dozen -- 12 points and 12 rebounds while doing a nice defensive job against Nikola Vucevic, who is usually a Blazer killer.

The first quarter ended with Orlando holding a 25-23 lead. Portland had six turnovers in the period and put the Magic at the foul line 11 times. Fortunately for the Trail Blazers, Orlando hit just seven of the 11.

Lillard had seven points and McCollum six for Portland over the first 12 minutes.

The Blazers quickly fell behind as the second quarter unfolded, continuing to turn the ball over as Orlando warmed up at the offensive end. When Terry Stotts called a timeout with 9:36 to go in the first half, the Magic had a 33-26 lead.

The turnovers were the story in the first half for the Blazers. They coughed up 15 of them for 20 Orlando points – leading to a 55-46 halftime lead for the home team.

McCollum led Portland at halftime with 14 points. Lillard, saddled with three fouls early in the second quarter, had seven.

Portland fell behind by 13 in the third quarter but got going with a three-guard lineup that featured Shabazz Napier with Lillard and McCollum. The trio helped cut the lead to 71-68 with 4:39 to go in the third.

Orlando carried an 85-77 lead into the fourth quarter when the Blazers were trailing by five and had the ball for the last shot. A McCollum turnover on a play when the Trail Blazers were screaming for a foul resulted in a three-point field goal at the other end – a huge momentum buster for Portland.

Orlando got the lead back up to 11 four minutes into the final period but the Trail Blazers kept on fighting back. But they couldn’t stop the steady flow of turnovers, which kept costing them critical points and momentum.

And with 5:22 to play Lillard’s three-pointer from the corner put pushed Portland into a 96-95 lead. Orlando couldn't respond and the Blazers owned the final minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blazers turn Plumlee into first-round pick and, maybe, a player

Blazers turn Plumlee into first-round pick and, maybe, a player

I must start off by saying it's a shame when a team must trade a player with the popularity, smarts and competitive spirit of Mason Plumlee. He will be missed by his former teammates off and on the court.

But this is the state of sports, particularly the NBA, these days. Salaries dictate rosters. There is a salary cap and a luxury tax on top of that. No team wants to get into the tax, for a variety of reasons. The Trail Blazers were in a position that when Plumlee became a restricted free agent this summer they were very likely not going to be willing or able to match a rich offer to him. They were going to have to let him walk.

Because of that, they were somewhat handicapped in making a deal including him because other teams knew their situation. It looked like one of those bargain-basement sales where a player could be had for a pittance because the trading team had to unload him.

But the Trail Blazers were able to get a first-round draft pick (originally from Memphis) -- their third first-round pick in an upcoming draft people are calling very deep -- and a 22-year-old center who may or may not become a solid player. Jusuf Nurkic is certainly too young to give up on, even though he is going through a troubled season.

Near the end of last season, you could read this about the young center they have called the "Bosnian Beast":

Nurkic could be a cornerstone for the Nuggets franchise for years to come, if he figures things out. He is a dominate (sic) force down low that has scoring ability and a great defensive presence.

And:

There are a lot of questions surrounding Nurkic — like attitude, health and chemistry with teammates — but he unquestionably has the skill to be one of the best big men in the NBA.

But this season, as his playing time has decreased, you could read this kind of stuff:

Nurkic (8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) isn’t the answer. The 22-year-old Bosnian seven-footer might be an Internet cult hero due to his fearsome physical presence, but he hasn’t been a positive difference-maker in his two-plus seasons in Denver. This year, his -10.3 net rating and 98.2 offensive rating were the worst marks among the Nuggets’ rotation players, and he rightfully lost his starting job in mid-December. From the team perspective, Nurkic represents a step backwards from Plumlee offensively given his mediocre scoring efficiency, turnover issues and floor-cramping paint-bound game. And remember, Denver is one of just three teams with a worse defensive rating than Portland this season. While Nurkic has had the chance to be a savior for a poor defense, he hasn’t even played effectively enough to warrant true starter minutes.

Here is the way I look at this, though: Portland is in this for the long term. This wasn't a deal to try to get the Blazers into the playoffs this season. If they get there, great -- but they aren't going to sacrifice their long-term plan in exchange for an eighth seed. They have the time to give Nurkic enough minutes to find out whether he's a boom or a bust. If he proves to be a bust, well, they've still gotten that first-round pick for Plumlee.

When you haven't been able to attract free agents and aren't going to land a top-five draft choice, this is the kind of thing you do -- take a flier on a player with promise and hope he turns out better than expected. If not, you discard him and move on. Plumlee was a great team guy -- one who will be missed. But it would have been hard to envision him as the starting center on a team contending for a championship. So rather than give him a huge contract or let him depart with nothing in return, this was the smart way to handle the situation.

Now, on a different team with a different coach, we'll see who he is.

 

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

By now, you all know about the Charles Oakley incident at Madison Square Garden.

I'm not sure exactly what to believe about the events of that night. The story linked above gives both sides of it. Garden officials say Oakley was "abusive" and "disrespectful" from the moment he walked through the doors of the arena. Oakley called the accusations "outrageous." The video, also in the above link, shows Oakley getting physical with security guards who were attempting to escort him out of the arena. His actions toward those people certainly did not make him a sympathetic figure. And neither did witness reports obtained by TMZ.

Particularly when his reputation as a player was as an enforcer and frequent fighter. It was obvious security people were handling him with great caution.

Public and media outrage have followed, most of it, predictably, critical of Knicks/MSG owner James Dolan and his treatment of a former player. I assume a lot of the media is attacking Dolan simply because this incident gives them another chance to do so. But when I watch the video of the incident it's pretty hard for me to sympathize with Oakley, who seemed to escalate his problems by physically confronting the security people. Should he have been ejected from his seat and the building? Hard for me to judge, but if the stories are true about his conduct in the arena, he should be treated like anyone else whose actions are threatening to those around him.

Many in the media are turning him into a martyr.

I've always sympathized with sports franchises when it comes to the way they are expected to treat former players. In a good many cases the players are paid handsomely for their tenure with a team, then upon retirement, return to the franchise and expect special treatment and some sort of paid position -- oftentimes a job that requires little work and high salary. I have heard, over the years, front office people in just about every sport complain about players who have earned big bucks from a team and then expect special treatment when their playing days are over.

VIP treatment? You get plenty of that as an active player and anything beyond your retirement is a bonus. I'm a big fan of employing ex-players if they are willing to earn their pay. But beyond that, I don't see a responsibility for a team to have to continue the sort of pampering these guys get while playing.

Oakley, by the way, is not one of those players who has squandered his salary as a player and is expecting a handout. His net worth, according to one source, is $52 million. He has been at odds with Dolan for years for reasons not entirely known. But Oakley earned more than $15 million from the Knicks during his tenure there. The franchise owes him respect for what he gave his teams, but nothing more.

To me, he's just another disgruntled ex-player running around whining about how "soft" the NBA is today:

The coaches in this league, in this day and era, are soft; the players are soft, how can you build something? They put all these stat guys, these analytic guys, and put them on the bench and make them GM because of numbers.

Or worse:

“When we played in the ’80s, it wasn’t OK [for European players to play in the NBA]. They weren’t coming over here. They were scared. The game was tough and they weren’t tough.

I believe if he walks into that building and is responsible for making people feel uncomfortable or threatened, he ought to be removed from the building, whether he played for the Knicks or not -- just like you or me. Oakley made a big deal about buying his own ticket for that game, but so what? He did so, apparently, to sit near Dolan, for whatever reason.

To me, Oakley having to buy his own ticket is not a great hardship and it buys him nothing more than the same rights and responsibilities of any other ticket holder. I have very little sympathy for him.

The NBA has been very, very good to Charles Oakley -- and I'm not sure he was in Madison Square Garden the other night with the idea of returning the favor.

Did NHL Coyotes "tour" Moda Center? If so, McGowan didn't see them

Did NHL Coyotes "tour" Moda Center? If so, McGowan didn't see them

There have been plenty of reports the past few days that the National Hockey League's Arizona Coyotes "toured" arenas in Portland and Seattle in preparation for a possible move.

Look out, Portland hockey fans -- you are about to be used as leverage.

Chris McGowan, the president and CEO of the Trail Blazers and a man with a background in hockey with the Los Angeles Kings, says he knows nothing about any representatives of that team paying a visit to Moda Center.

"To my knowledge no representatives from any NHL teams have toured the Moda Center recently," he said Thursday.

Portland, with an existing arena that is NHL-ready, was rumoed to be in the hunt for the Coyotes franchise at one time but the owners of the team decided to stay in Glendale, Ariz. But payments on the arena there continue to be a problem and the team recently studied the idea of moving to Tempe -- a plan which has apparently been abandoned. Officials of the Coyotes denied the reported visit to the Pacific Northwest but there is no question that the Glendale site, where the Coyotes are near the bottom of attendance in the league, is a real problem.

But in this case, I'd say that Portland is likely being used by operators of the NHL franchise as a possible landing spot for the franchise in order to get a better lease or a new arena. It's nothing new in sports.

But that doesn't change one thing: Portland is still the best NHL market without a team in the country. And the NHL wants to come to this region, too.

I believe it's coming at some point. But this may not be the time.

 

Blazers finally win a one-point game, but lose Evan Turner

Blazers finally win a one-point game, but lose Evan Turner

DALLAS -- Winning a road game is always fun. But winning a road game by a single point on a last-second shot for your first one-point win of the season is even better.

The Trail Blazers rode CJ McCollum's 16-foot floater in the lane with just three-tenths of a second on the clock for a tense 114-113 win over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in a game that featured a whopping four ties and 12 lead changes in the final quarter. And, of course, some vintage Dirk Nowitzki three-point shooting.

Nowitzki, who became the NBA's 10th-leading all-time scorer during this game, hit two high-arching threes inside the final 39 seconds to give Dallas leads. But McCollum took an inbound pass and fought off Wesley Matthews trying to ride him down the lane to hit a perfectly beautiful floater that nestled into the net with :00.3 showing on the game clock.

McCollum was definitely fouled on the play, perhaps by both Matthews and Harrison Barnes, but he shook it off. "There is always contact late in the game," he said. "If I was Kobe, I would have gotten the call. But being me, I figured they wouldn't call it so I had to play through it."

McCollum replayed the whole thing upon request for the media afterward:

"I caught the ball with about three seconds left, close to the sideline. I know that Wes (Matthews) in late-game situations likes to press up on guys. Once I caught it, I knew I was going to attack right away. I had seen Harrison Barnes coming from the left side so I just threw the ball up there and tried to split, get to the free-throw line area and get to my sweet spot. I got there and knew it was a shot I was comfortable with. So I had a good feeling it would go in.

"This is a game we really needed to have, so down the stretch I was just trying to be aggressive, execute and make plays."

The Blazers needed this one to square their season series with the Mavericks at two games apiece. And to tag another loss on Dallas, which is right behind Portland in the race for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. And more than anything, they needed to win a close game -- a one-point game. It's the first one they've captured this season.

"We have been on the wrong end of (close games) a lot of times this year," said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. "I'm glad we closed it out. The finish was incredible -- great shot-making by both teams. I'm glad we don't have to play them again."

The Trail Blazers played solid defense most of the game, particularly in the first half, and kept Dallas guard Yogi Ferrell under control. He finished with 12 points and two assists after a 32-point game in Portland last week. Their pick-and-roll defense was much better than it has been lately and their aggression was at a high level.

But in what has been an up-and-down season, the Trail Blazers managed to have a "down" on the same night as one of their biggest "ups." Portland lost Evan Turner to a broken third metacarpal bone in his right (shooting) hand. "At first," said Turner, "it didn't hurt much. It was just numb. But then it really started to hurt after I caught a pass from Dame. It's a pretty boring way to break your hand. I mean I just kind of ran into Barnes. I wish it was a better story, like on a dunk or something."

The usual time frame for healing such an injury is a minimum of a month but often longer. Turner says he's a quick healer.

The Blazers, who will likely be in a fight for that playoff berth all season, could use him as soon as he's ready.

Blazers win game, lose Turner

Blazers win game, lose Turner

DALLAS – The Portland Trail Blazers got a clutch runner in the lane from CJ McCollum with .3 seconds left in the game and it was the winning margin in a 114-113 win over the Dallas Mavericks. But Portland still suffered a big loss in the game.

The Blazers lost guard/forward Evan Turner to a broken right metacarpal in his right hand in the third quarter.

Dirk Nowitzki buried a three-point field goal with 3.9 seconds to play to give the Mavericks a 113-112 lead before McCollum drove from left to right into the lane and lofted a pretty runner that passed through the net.

The Trail Blazers opened the game with a much different defensive strategy than they used in last week’s home loss to the Maverics.

Portland blitzed the Dallas pick-and-rolls – double-teaming the ball handler after the pick. It was effective for the most part, although the Blazers’ rotations were a little slow and uncertain at times when the Mavericks worked the ball to the weak side of the court.

All in all, the defense serves one big purpose – it gets the Blazers much more active at the defensive. Portland was as active on defense as it has been in weeks.

The quarter ended with the Trail Blazers holding a 32-27 lead. Portland shot 54.5 percent from the floor while holding Dallas to 35 percent.

The rebounds were a big factor in the first half as the Trail Blazers punished the Mavericks on the boards, leaping to a 30-16 advantage at halftime.

Dallas stayed in the game as it usually does, though, by hitting three-point shots. The Mavs shot 46.7 percent from long distance, including a 26-footer by Devin Harris at the halftime horn.

Damian Lillard had 22 first-half points for Portland and made all four of his three-point attempts. The Blazers were 7-14 from three over the first two quarters.

Portland led 64-53 at the half on the strength of 56.8 percent shooting in one of its best offensive halves of the season.

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