The Blazer backcourt is well, BACK. At least it appeared that way Friday night.
CJ McCollum, seemingly back to his old hot-shooting self, and Damian Lillard proved too much for the Dallas Mavericks in Moda Center.
The ending of the 125-119 win was like a win in the pre-pandemic era – the fake fans dressed as cardboard cutouts in the stands were at their loudest volume of the season and for the first time this year, the streamers were released from the ceiling onto the covered end-zone seats.
And it was a fun game packed full of offense. Dallas actually outshot the Trail Blazers from the field, but Portland hit three more three-point field goals that made the final difference.
The Mavericks shot well from distance until the fourth quarter, when they began missing a lot of the same shots they had been making all night. Shooting 51.6 percent from three through three quarters, they made just 3 of 11 in the final period.
Was it the Trail Blazer defense? Maybe. But whatever, they missed them and Portland was able to take charge of the game down the stretch.
“I thought, individually, we did a good job on the ball,” said Terry Stotts, who collected his 500th NBA win. “We rebounded the ball. I thought we had activity… It seemed like when we did get stops, they didn't get a second chance.
“So, to hold a team like that to 21 in the fourth when they got a couple baskets there in the last 10 seconds or so, there was a lot to like from a lot of different people.
“DJ made a lot of plays. When Robert got his fifth foul, he made some good plays, Rodney did a nice job of rebounding and getting his hands on some balls. It was just, again, when you play good defense, it's usually team defense, and that's what it was.”
McCollum looked like the CJ McCollum prior to his foot injury. He led his team with 32 points, one more than Lillard, and hit 7 of 13 from behind the arc.
In the final four and a half minutes, with the outcome in doubt, the Trail Blazers got points from Carmelo Anthony, Robert Covington, Rodney Hood, Lillard and McCollum.
That distribution of offense was a boost, as Lillard didn’t have to carry the whole load, as he has several times.
Luka Doncic scored 38 to lead the Mavericks, but was only 4-13 from the three-point line.
Jones, Covington, Anthony, Lillard, even Kanter all had their moments defending him – and the Blazers didn’t allow him to dominate them.
It was a happy night that would have played well in front of a packed house. Everything, though, isn’t the way it used to be.