The Mavericks have had a strange knack for playing down to their competition, especially on the road.
The Mavs are only 4-5 on the road against teams that currently own a losing record this season. Only two teams in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, have a lower winning percentage in those games than Dallas: Charlotte (2-11, .154) and Sacramento (3-9, .250).
Dallas has lost at Cleveland, Sacramento, Golden State, Minnesota and New Orleans -- with three of those losses coming during the Mavs' 2-7 stretch out of the All-Star break. A win at just one of those stops, let alone two or three, and the Mavs aren't in the playoff predicament they are now with seven games to go.
Tonight's game at Portland, which has split a pair of games at Dallas, is imperative with Houston, Phoenix, Denver and Utah also in action. The Trail Blazers are just playing out the season and will do so without LaMarcus Aldridge, who will have season-ending hip surgery. J.J. Hickson will replace Aldridge, who averaged 29.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in the first two games against Dallas.
"We don’t talk about the standings very often, but our guys are basketball guys. They watch games, they know where things are at and we’ve been talking about playoff mode now for two weeks," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It’s a must and the pressure that comes with that is a good thing. It’s the kind of pressure that you like. It brings you to higher levels and we embrace it. We embraced it last year in the playoffs and it got us a ring. Right now, we’re not looking just to get in, we’re looking to move up."
Records: Mavs (33-26); Trail Blazers (28-31)
Where: Rose Garden
TV: ESPN, FSSW
Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Jason Kidd played 33 minutes Thursday night because the Mavs allowed a depleted Golden State team to climb within three points in the fourth quarter after being down by as many as 19. Without Aldridge and Nicolas Batum ailing, the Mavs have a great opportunity to again jump out to a sizable lead. If they do, can they hold this time and allow Kidd -- and Dirk Nowitzki -- to rest up for Sunday's early afternoon tip in Los Angeles against the Lakers?
Key matchup: Raymond Felton vs. Mavs guards
In Portland's overtime win in Dallas a week ago, Felton lit up anyone who tried to guard him, knocking down 12-of-18 shots and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. He finished with 30 points to reach that threshold for the only time this season. Jamal Crawford is more likely to be the guard to go off for 30, but if the Mavs let Felton heat up, especially if Crawford is on too, it can be a long night at a revved up Rose Garden where the Blazers are 20-11.
Injuries: Mavs -- None. Blazers -- F LaMarcus Aldridge (right hip) is out; F Nicolas Batum (left quad) is probable; G Elliot Williams (right shoulder) is out.
Up next: Mavs at Los Angeles Lakers, 2:30 p.m. Sunday