• OPPONENT: Dallas Mavericks

    RECORD: 15-30 (6-15 on road, 5-5 last 10 games)

    MEASURABLES: 104.7 offensive rating (14th), 107.0 defensive rating (22nd), -2.3 net rating (22nd)

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

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 10:00 EST, Moda Center (Portland) NBC Sports Northwest/Fox Sports Southwest

    Don’t be fooled by the Dallas Mavericks’ record. No team in the league has played more clutch games than Rick Carlisle’s, and no team in the league has been less fortunate under that duress. Dallas is just 7-23 in games this season in which the score was within five points in the last five minutes, per NBA.com/stats, good for a win percentage of .233 – the NBA’s worst mark by a considerable margin.

    The Mavericks, clearly, are better than their record suggests, and random misfortune down the stretch of close games is hardly the lone indication of that reality. More convincing is that they’re 10-13 since December 1st, with a +1.9 net rating over the same timeframe. None of that means the Portland Trail Blazers shouldn’t win this game, of course. They’re heavy favorites, and rightfully so. But Blazers fans expecting a blowout victory to end a crucial three-game homestand undefeated could be setting themselves up for disappointment.

    Offense has been driving Dallas’ relative recent success. After an understandably ugly start to his 19th professional season, Dirk Nowitzki has again proven the bellwether for his team’s offensive performance, despite an utter lack of mobility that makes him a major athletic liability – even against opposing centers.

    But that’s a double-edged sword, of course, and the other side of it will be especially difficult for the Trail Blazers to blunt. Portland’s pick-and-roll defense calls for Jusuf Nurkic to drop back into the lane to prevent penetration while the primary defender trails from behind. That’s a losing strategy against a screen-setter who shoots like Nowitzki, though, which leads some teams to alter their scheme when facing the Mavericks. Should the Blazers elect for a more aggressive approach to defending ball screens involving Nowitzki, don’t be surprised if Ed Davis gets more playing time than normal. Foot speed is key to recovering to popping big men in pick-and-roll play, and Davis has far more of it to offer than Nurkic.

    Dennis Smith, Jr. is the player who’s been tasked with taking the torch from Nowitzki. With good size, world-class athleticism and natural ball-handling verve, it seems only a matter of time until he’s a star. Smith isn’t there yet, however. He’s been one of the league’s most inconsistent players on a nightly basis, routinely following high-impact performances with the type of clunkers that are an inevitable stage of the growth process all players of his age must experience. Undoubtedly more frustrating for Carlisle is Smith’s apparent apathy and obvious lack of awareness on defense. Look for Portland to try and exploit that weakness early, attacking with whomever player the rookie is tasked with guarding.

    Harrison Barnes, a known commodity to Blazers fans by now, is largely the same player he’s been since signing with Dallas two years ago. The same goes for organizational stalwarts like Wes Matthews, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Dwight Powell, the latter three of whom are part of the Mavericks’ most efficient lineup. The quintet of Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Harris, Powell and Nowitzki has played 208 minutes, a team-high, and boasts a net rating of +18.8, according to NBA.com/stats. Watching Carlisle and Stotts match wits, perhaps three-guard lineup for three-guard lineup, when the former pulls that rotational trump card will be a fascinating study for basketball nerds.

    This matchup represents another golden opportunity for Lillard and company to build on encouraging recent play, while putting further distance between them and the morass of teams fighting for playoff seeds and positioning in the Western Conference middle class. Portland has the talent to win this game handily, and Stotts, a member of the staff that helped Dallas win the 2011 championship, is as familiar with Carlisle’s in-game x-and-o gambits as any coach in the league.

    If the Blazers come out flat, though, the Mavericks are certainly good enough to steal a win on the Blazers’ home floor, and take any momentum gleaned from consecutive wins over the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers with them.

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.