• OPPONENT: Dallas Mavericks

    RECORD: 16-32 (10-16 at home, 3-7 last 10 games)

    MEASURABLES: 104.8 offensive rating (15th), 106.8 defensive rating (19th), -2.0 net rating (22nd)

    PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Dennis Smith, Jr., SG Wesley Matthews, SF Harrison Barnes, PF Maxi Kleber, C Dirk Nowitzki

    INJURIES: Evan Turner (out, personal reasons); Devin Harris (out), Nerlens Noel (out), Seth Curry (out), Dorian Finney-Smith (out)

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 8:30 EST, American Airlines Center (Dallas), NBC Sports Northwest/FOX Sports Southwest

    The Portland Trail Blazers need no introduction to the Dallas Mavericks.

    It was less than a week ago that Damian Lillard and company fought off the Mavericks at Moda Center, withstanding a fourth-quarter run to win 117-108 and extend their ongoing home winning streak to six. That game, somehow, was neither as close nor as comfortable as the final score made it seem.

    Portland, on the strength of scorching hot 3-point shooting, opened up an 18-point lead on Dallas in the second quarter, and was ahead 62-45 at intermission. The Mavericks picked it up offensively in the second half, though, slowly chipping away at the Blazers’ cushion despite their continued proficiency from deep. But the best efforts of Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith, Jr. proved too little too late for Dallas, which never got closer than a five-point deficit that came with just 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

    What separates this Portland team from iterations of the past two seasons is its ability to win when the offense isn’t humming. Sweeping defensive improvement is the means behind that development, of course, but against the Mavericks last Saturday, the Blazers relied on their more time-honored formula to maintain a double-digit lead. Despite Lillard making his first nine shots, seven of which were triples, a second-half crisis was only averted because Portland scored 54 points and drained nine 3-pointers.

    Letting down after building a sizable lead is inevitable, and it’s hardly like the Blazers are the only team that would have had trouble slowing Matthews and Smith after halftime considering they way they were shooting the ball. Portland certainly didn’t full-on quit, either; chippy incidents involving Salah Mejri and Matthews down the stretch showed that Dallas’ game-long intensity was matched.

    It’s never a positive when a coach is forced to re-insert his regulars with a dwindling advantage, though, and that’s exactly what happened to Terry Stotts on Saturday. The Blazers don’t have the luxury of home court this time, either. A bigger onus will fall on the playmaking of Shabazz Napier with Evan Turner out, and Pat Connaughton could be stretched thin playing starter’s minutes. Even the absence of role players can create negative ripples.

    Harrison Barnes missed many makable looks in his team’s defeat, and is the type of rangy, athletic presence on the wing and the interior who typically gives Portland problems. The frontcourt pairing of Dirk Nowitzki and Maxi Kleber presents an inherent issue for the Blazers, one not solved last week by Stotts putting Al-Farouq Aminu on the Mavericks’ future Hall of Famer. Smith had never looked more comfortable navigating ball-screen action, and Portland’s occasional lethargy ignited Dallas’ normally-dormant transition attack.

    The Blazers should absolutely beat the Mavericks on Friday night for a second time in less than a week. Not only are they more talented, but they have more to play for than Dallas, which is broaching the trades of veteran contributors and counting down the days until lottery night. This should be a win for Portland.

    Anyone expecting it to come easily, though, has forgotten how tenuous the Blazers’ grasp on victory suddenly became a few days ago. They can’t afford similar slippage tonight and expect the same outcome.

Fantasy News

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    LeBron James put together a double-double in Wednesday's 120-94 win against the Warriors, ending with 23 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, a steal and a block.

    James is now averaging 11.1 assists per game and is still getting his when it comes to scoring. He is just inside the top-25 right now and will keep filling the stat sheet all season.

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma started and finished Wednesday night's contest with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, two assists, and three 3-pointers.

    Kuzma has put together a nice streak of games. He adds scoring and 3-pointers, but can't find a way to help teams in other categories. Kuzma will likely end up having late-round value at this pace.

  • JaVale McGee
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    JaVale McGee put up a double-double on Wednesday, finishing with 18 points, 17 boards, two assists, three steals and three blocks.

    McGee was the better center in this contest and played 28 minutes to Dwight Howard's (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block) 20 minutes. McGee put up one of his best performances of the season, but it's hard to get too excited by one night of work. Howard seems to be the center to own for the Lakers.

  • D'Angelo Russell
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    D'Angelo Russell ended the night with 21 points, two rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a block.

    Russell is clearly the go-to option on this Golden State team. He is a top-40 guy right now and has the potential to keep that up for the rest of the year.

  • Draymond Green
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Draymond Green didn't contribute much on Wednesday, ending with 10 points, only one rebound, five assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers.

    Green contributed in each category, barely. It was nice to see him knock down a couple shots from beyond the arc, but these are hardly the numbers owners were expecting when taking Green in the early rounds. He is currently returning top-125 value and could be a great buy-low opportunity, but it's hard to trust much on the Warriors right now.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein
    C, Golden State Warriors

    Willie Cauley-Stein scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added five rebounds, three assists and two blocks on Wednesday.

    Cauley-Stein had the best game of the Golden State big men (Marquese Chriss ended scoreless with six boards, two assists and two blocks) and is having a top-100 year so far. He might be doing it quietly, but it's hard to fault you if want to pick up Cauley-Stein now.

  • Eric Paschall
    PF, Golden State Warriors

    Eric Paschall came off the bench on Wednesday and dropped 15 points with three rebounds.

    Paschall still logged 32 minutes but didn't stuff the stat sheet like we have seen in the past. He put a nice move on LeBron, but he is starting to regress despite taking 15 shots in this one. If you picked him up, he is worth holding onto for a bit longer.

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard had trouble finding his rhythm in Wedensday night's 114-106 loss to the Raptors, ending with nine points (2-for-12 shooting), 10 assists, two blocks and two from deep.

    Lillard had a rough time finding the bottom of the net in this one, but still managed to get 10 dimes and two blocks. Lillard is a top-5 player right now and there is no reason to worry after tonight's performance.

  • CJ McCollum
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and hitting three shots from deep on Wednesday.

    McCollum has been shaky this season and it was nice to see an uptick in 3-pointers and rebounds in this one. He will likely pick it up as the season continues, and if you're looking for a buy-low candidate, this might be a good target for you.

  • Rodney Hood
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Rodney Hood (back spams) returned to action on Wednesday night and dropped 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, two boards, an assist and five 3-pointers.

    Hood looks like someone that should be owned in standard leagues as he is providing nice numbers from deep and shooting 50 percent from the field this season. He's currently inside the top-120.