Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trip opens on sour note in Portland

PORTLAND – Life on the road hasn’t been kind to the Mavericks. One the league’s better road teams in recent seasons – the Mavs had only one losing record away from home in the previous seven years – struggled to find consistency outside of Dallas.

The final trip of the regular season didn’t begin with much promise Saturday night at the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers, a day removed from a shellacking at Sacramento, weren’t the same squad with the Mavs in town. The Portland upstarts were at their youthful best and after Jason Terry’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out, the Blazers claimed a 108-105 victory.

“We just couldn’t finish,” Avery Johnson said.

The Mavs (50-30) were on their heels for most of the first half and needed a fourth-quarter rally to give themselves a chance against a team long since removed from playoff contention. Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 to lead five in double figures, but it wasn’t enough on the opening night of a back-to-back.

Fill-in starter Eddie Jones scored 16 and Brandon Bass added 12 off the bench for the Mavs, who finish the trek Sunday with possibly the last Sonics game in Seattle. Beating the Sonics will lock up the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Mavs can’t get to sixth.

Dallas fell to 17-23 away from home. The only previous losing record during the current eight-year playoff run occurred in 2003-04 (16-25). The Mavs traveled to the Pacific Northwest after clinching a playoff spot with Thursday’s dramatic win over Utah. Johnson uttered “letdown” when discussing his team’s mind set.

“You try to fight against it,” he said. “We don’t want to go into the playoffs playing like we did in the first quarter tonight. We won’t beat anybody.”

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