PORTLAND, Ore. — There was a buzz after the Trail Blazers beat the Mavericks surrounding the possibility that the two teams could reunite in the first round of the playoffs.
So the 104-96 result Sunday night, while it was a needed victory for Portland, shouldn't be given too much weight, reasoned Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
"The playoffs are a whole different level. It's a whole different monster," he explained. "We can't think that just because we beat them that it's going to be easy."
Both teams were waiting for the playoff pairings to shake out with five games remaining. Dallas sits at third in the Western Conference, while the Blazers are in sixth, a game up on Memphis and New Orleans.
"That's too far ahead for me to even think about right now," said Dallas guard Jason Terry. "We can't get too far ahead of ourselves, if we do we're not looking at the right picture."
Portland guard Andre Miller agreed: "We're not going to get caught up in all that stuff. Whoever we face, we face."
The Blazers, who led the sluggish Mavs by as many as 21 points, have won eight straight at home and seven of their last 10 overall in their push toward the playoffs.
Shawn Marion had 19 points for Dallas, which has lost three straight. The Mavericks looked fatigued for good reason: It was their fourth game in five nights and the final stop on a six-game trip.
"Tonight we just didn't have that extra burst. They got every loose ball, they got all the big rebounds, they just outhustled us," Terry said. "That tells me we have a weary team. We need to get back home and get re-energized."
The Mavericks were without center Tyson Chandler because of a sore lower back. It was just the seventh game the 7-foot-1 veteran has missed this season. Brendan Haywood started in his place.
The Mavericks were coming off a 99-92 loss to Golden State on Saturday night, which all but eliminated their chances of landing the second seed in the West. Earlier in the week, Dallas fell 110-82 to the Lakers in an unruly game that saw the ejection of five players.
"They've been on the road for six games. We know how that feels. We know how it feels when you get down," Aldridge said. "So we just wanted to get them down early and not give them any confidence.
Aldridge scored 10 points in the game's first 9 minutes as the Blazers jumped out to a 19-12 lead. Portland would lead by as many as 15 in the first half.
After Jose Barea's scoop narrowed it to 43-39 for Dallas, Portland went on an 18-7 run to close the half with a 61-46 lead.
Dallas was hurt when Barea, who led the reserves with 10 points, collected his third foul in the first half. He eventually fouled out with 4:20 to go.
The Blazers built a 72-52 lead midway through the third quarter on Miller's pull-up jumper.
Brandon Roy's layup in the fourth made it 95-74.
DeShawn Stevenson hit a 3-pointer to pull the Mavericks to 95-82, but Wesley Matthews answered with a layup and a free throw for Portland.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle finally sat Dirk Nowitzki with 4:20 left.
"Worried a bit much," Nowitzki said when asked if he's concerned about where the Mavericks are as the season winds down. "Obviously this is a little late to be going down. Definitely disappointed. But it could be worse — this could be the playoffs."
Notes: Blazers F Wallace and Mavs G Jason Terry wore green headbands because it's NBA Green Week to promote environmental awareness. ... Blazers F Rudy Fernandez turns 26 on Monday. ... Former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington was at the game. ... Portland and Dallas finish the season series at two wins apiece, with each team holding home court. ... The Blazers next host Golden State on Tuesday. ... Dallas returns home to host Denver on Wednesday. ... The Blazers could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Mavs and a loss by Houston, but the Rockets beat Atlanta 112-109 earlier in the night.
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