Blazers fail to gain ground in West as Mavs win 7th game in 9

PORTLAND, Ore. -- For a team once thought to be on the NBA playoff bubble, the Dallas Mavericks are quietly moving into a solid position in the Western Conference.

Dallas remained in eighth place in the West after Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mavericks to a 93-89 win over Portland on Wednesday night. Better things aren't far out of Dallas' reach, though, as the Mavericks won for the seventh time in nine games.

"This is big for our confidence right now," said Dallas guard Jason Terry, who scored 24 points. "People have been writing us off all year long, so we like where we're at right now. It really feels like it's a new season for us. The West is crazy right now."

Dallas (40-25) trails Portland and Denver by one-half game for the sixth seed, and is only 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the third-best record in the Western Conference. If the Mavericks can successfully get through an upcoming stretch with four of five games on the road, they have a favorable finish to the season, with eight of 12 at home.

It helps Dallas when Nowitzki is on fire the way he was against Portland. The Dallas forward was 8-for-11 during the first half to stake the Mavericks to a 54-44 halftime lead. Then in the second half, when Dallas needed him most, Nowitzki delivered. His biggest shot came with 17.1 seconds remaining, a difficult 20-footer to give the Mavericks a 90-86 lead.

"Dirk hit some tough ones," Portland guard Brandon Roy said. "He was just throwing them up and they were going in."

Portland (40-24) struggled for a consistent offensive performance throughout the game, playing primarily against Dallas' zone. The Blazers shot 41 percent (32-of-78) from the field, an improvement from the first half, when Portland hit just 35 percent (14-of-40).

"Their zone threw us off a little bit. We were struggling to find the lanes," Roy said.

Portland, coming off an emotional performance in Monday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers, led 25-24 after the first quarter, but gave up the lead for good early in the second quarter. Dallas built its lead to as large as 13 points just after halftime when Portland made a run, closing to within 63-60 with 5:02 left in the third period.

Portland finally got the deficit down to two points with 2:53 remaining on a 3-pointer by Travis Outlaw, and had three chances after that to tie. Dallas ended Portland's comeback attempt on Nowitzki's 20-footer, followed seconds later by two free throws by Brandon Bass to give the Mavericks a 92-86 lead.

The loss ended Portland's 12-game home winning streak.

LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Roy had 22 points and eight rebounds. Joel Przybilla pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds for the Blazers.

Dallas' Jason Kidd was three points short of a triple double, with seven points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Portland guard Rudy Fernandez sat out Wednesday's game, recovering from a hip pointer and bruised chest as a result of a flagrant foul by the Lakers' Trevor Ariza on Monday. Fernandez said he "feels much better than Monday," when he was carried from the Rose Garden floor on a stretcher. Fernandez, who didn't have an opinion about Ariza's foul other than to say he wasn't angry, was unsure when he might practice or play.

"For me, it was scary," Fernandez said. "Every day, I feel better."

Game notes
Dallas swept the three-game season series from Portland. The Blazers have lost just six times at home this season, but twice to the Mavericks. During their past 20 meetings, Dallas is 18-2 against Portland. In the first half, the Blazers shot 6-of-9 from 3-point range, but 8-of-31 from their 2-point attempts. Portland lost for only the third time in 19 games this season when playing a team on the second game of a back-to-back.