The Dallas Mavericks will seek to improve their chances of catching the Golden State Warriors for the No. 3 seeding in the Western Conference playoffs when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
The Mavericks (50-30) trail the Warriors (51-29) by a game with two games remaining but hold the tiebreaker advantage via winning three of the teams’ four meetings this season.
After dealing with the Trail Blazers (27-53), Dallas will finish at home against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, while the Warriors must deal with two Western play-in teams — the Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans — on the road over the weekend.
The Mavericks, who still need one more win to clinch no worse than the No. 4 spot in the West, kept their hopes alive of catching the Warriors with a 3-1 trip that finished with wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons.
Dallas got a total of 58 points from Luka Doncic in the trip-closing wins, but relied as much on a deep supporting cast, with five others scoring in double figures in each win.
Having recorded a triple-double and six double-doubles in his last eight games, Doncic insisted his fast finish has nothing to do with making a late push for Most Valuable Player honors.
“We’re winning. That’s what I care (about), he said. “Our goal is to get home advantage. We’re so close. That’s our goal right now.”
The Mavericks would earn the home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by finishing fourth or higher.
Even though his team has run up 132 points in each of two straight wins over the Trail Blazers this season, Doncic hasn’t made much of an impression on the opponent. He didn’t play when Dallas won 132-117 at Portland in December, then was held to 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting in a 132-112 repeat romp in Oregon a month later.
Dwight Powell has come up big for the Mavericks at the Trail Blazers’ expense, hitting 14 of 16 shots from the field en route to an average of 18.5 points per game.
Damian Lillard had a 26-point outing for Portland in the December loss, and CJ McCollum put up 20 in the rematch, but neither will be on hand when Dallas goes for the season-series sweep on Friday.
Drew Eubanks, signed in-season off the waiver wire after having been traded from the Spurs to the Toronto Raptors, has taken over as Portland’s leader. His 20-point effort in Thursday’s 127-94 loss at New Orleans gave him 15 straight games with double-figure points, including 20 or more five times.
He shot 9-for-11 against the Pelicans, but that didn’t prevent a ninth straight loss on the front end of a road back-to-back.
Portland coach Chauncey Billups believes the playing time afforded Eubanks and other young Trail Blazers will pay off down the road.
“Retool,” Billups said of the team’s plan to be much better in the future. “We’ll take a few small steps back, develop some young guys, then boom — free agency and the draft.”
Eubanks seems to be developing nicely.
The 25-year-old has scored in double figures 17 times in just 21 games for the Trail Blazers, equaling the number of times he had 10 or more for the Spurs in the first 148 games of his career.
–Field Level Media