Yogi Ferrell

Who were those Blazers who showed up Friday night vs. Mavs?

Who were those Blazers who showed up Friday night vs. Mavs?

The most difficult thing about the Trail Blazers this season has been trying to figure out who they are. Are they the team that beat the Celtics in Boston and Cleveland at home? Or the one that got whipped at home by Orlando and fell behind Dallas 30-10 Friday night?

I'm not sure. But I really was surprised by what I saw Friday night in Moda Center.

The Trail Blazers did not defend as well, or in the same manner, as they'd been defending. All the aggressiveness we'd been seeing, the activity and energy on defense, vanished. Portland had given up an average of about 90 points per 100 possessions in the previous six games and on Friday allowed 120 per 100. And this against a couple of guards with very slim NBA credentials. The Blazers were back to their old defense -- the one where their pick-and-roll defense included the bigs laying back in the paint, allowing wide-open mid-range jump shots. And even more perplexing, Portland continued going behind screens on Dallas guard Yogi Ferrell, even as he was knocking down three-pointer after three pointer.

I understand if you have a scouting report that says he can't shoot threes. But after he hits four or five in a row, shouldn't you change your approach? Late in the game, Ferrell hit a back-breaking three-pointer when Al-Farouq Aminu, seemingly undecided on his responsibility, stood frozen about five feet away and did not close out on the shooter. I just didn't understand it. Ferrell had made eight of his previous 10 three-pointers and after that last one, finished the game nine of 11.  And you don't get into his grill for a shot that big?

And on offense, this wasn't the same Portland team, either. Even Turner got hot in the third quarter and carried his team for a spell, but he stopped getting the ball. Then late in the fourth quarter, CJ McCollum heated up, scoring on three straight possessions and seemed poised to carry his team to a win. But he then went the next three and a half minutes without a shot until he hit that difficult, contested three with a half-minute left.

By that time, Portland's usually unselfish offense broke down into some one-on-one forays. One of the problems I've always seen with "flow" or passing-game offenses is that the ball sometimes doesn't get to the hot shooters. That's why at key points of a game it's often better to simply call a set play for a hot player than to just hope he ends up with a good shot out of a free-flowing offense.

None of this stuff reminded me of the way the Trail Blazers have been playing recently. I was very surprised. And with the upcoming schedule looking very difficult, I wonder what this team will do next.

Just as I have wondered that all season, I guess.

Dallas beats Portland with a new point guard and a renewed purpose in playoff race

Dallas beats Portland with a new point guard and a renewed purpose in playoff race

There is a new point guard in the Western Conference, and he’s ushering a new team into the Western Conference playoff race.

Yogi Ferrell, signed by Dallas to a 10-day contract on Jan. 28, scored 32 points on Friday, which included a big three-pointer with 19.3 seconds left, to lift the Mavericks to a 108-104 win over the Blazers at the Moda Center.

With Ferrell starting at point guard, the Mavericks (20-30) have won four in a row and are now 2.5 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and just 1.5 games behind ninth-place Portland (22-29).

Portland had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds, but CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard both missed three pointers.

The Blazers never led and trailed by as many as 24 in the first half, but tied the score at 92 after Al-Farouq Aminu hit a three-pointer with 4:17 left. Aminu, who started in the second half for Noah Vonleh, had 14 points and eight rebounds and hit a season-high four three pointers.

But the story was Ferrell, who was playing just his fourth game with the Mavericks. He hit 9-of-11 from three-point range after hitting four three-pointers all season. The former University of Indiana point guard played in 10 games with Brooklyn earlier in the season.

Former Blazers guard Wesley Matthews also had a big night, finishing with 27 points and Seth Curry, the younger brother of Golden State star Stephen Curry, added 19 points, nine of them in the fourth quarter.

McCollum nearly brought the Blazers back by himself, scoring 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting, but his backcourt partner Lillard suffered through one of his worst shooting nights of the season, going 4-of-20, including 1-for-8 from three point range.

It was the second straight win for Dallas in Portland, both of the wins coming in similar fashion – a big first half lead followed by a big Portland comeback that comes up short with a miss on a last-second shot.

This time, the Blazers’ comeback was led by Evan Turner, who scored 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter, when Portland cut a 13-point halftime deficit to as little as four.

McCollum, though, was the pulse of the Blazers. He hit a three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer drawing Portland within 84-76. Earlier, McCollum made a mid-range jumper to beat the halftime buzzer.

Lillard, who said after last game that he wanted to be more assertive and aggressive to start games, went scoreless in the first quarter after missing all five of his shots. Meanwhile, Ferrell was hitting four of his five shots and scoring 11 in the first quarter and 22 in the first half.

Dallas hit its first seven shots and took a 17-4 lead out of the gate, and later pushed the lead to 30-10 after Matthews hit a three to cap a 12-point quarter. Portland scored the final seven points of the quarter to get within 35-22 heading into the second quarter.

Dallas pushed the lead to as many as 24 in the second quarter before Portland rallied to within 60-47 at halftime after McCollum hit a mid-range jumper to beat the halftime buzzer.

Next up: Blazers at Oklahoma City, noon Sunday (CSN)

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