• The game should have been called when Shabazz Napier dunked.

    Not actually, of course. There was still 37 minutes and 20 seconds of game time when the Portland Trail Blazers’ dynamo guard swiped J.J. Barea’s dribble, sauntered down the floor by his lonesome, peppered his steps for liftoff and rose for the first dunk of his four-year NBA career. The highlight isn’t especially impressive, safe for the fact it’s emblematic of how the Blazers are feeling after ending their three-game homestand undefeated.

    suPortland beat the Dallas Mavericks 117-108 on Saturday night, moving to 25-21 on the season and alone at sixth place in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard was absolutely brilliant for Portland, hitting his first nine shots from the field – including seven(!) 3-pointers – to finish with 31 points, five rebounds and nine assists. The Blazers tied a season-high by making 18 3-pointers; six players drained at least two shots from deep, including Evan Turner, the third time he’s accomplished that feat this month.

    It seemed like the game was essentially over on multiple occasions in the first half, when Portland consistently held a double-digit lead. But hot shooting from Wesley Matthews and overall aggressiveness from Dennis Smith, Jr. got the Mavericks back in the game after intermission, to the point that Dallas trailed just 74-69 in the third quarter, and again trailed by five following a layup by Smith with 38 seconds remaining.

    But the Blazers’ lead and their penchant for timely shot-making from the perimeter kept the Mavericks at bay, even when tensions began flaring in the fourth quarter. Jusuf Nurkic was assessed a technical for shoving Salah Mejri, who clearly flopped, after a foul by Turner, and Matthews picked up a technical shortly thereafter for complaining to officials after a wild scrum for a loose ball.

    It speaks volumes of Dallas’ effort and commitment that it was able to withstand Portland’s early onslaught to make the game not just competitive, but downright contentious in its final minutes. The Mavericks aren’t the most talented team in the world, obviously, but never stop fighting for Rick Carlisle, an attribute sure to pay dividends as this roster continues to grow around an upper-echelon talent like Smith.

    Dallas might have even stolen a victory on the road if Harrison Barnes, one of few players on this roster considered a potential keeper, had found his range. Instead, the Mavericks’ leading scorer went just 3-of-13 from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc, scoring eight points despite a bevy of open looks from the outside.

    Turner, after a stinker against the Indiana Pacers, played one of his best games of the season on Saturday night. Terry Stotts got him going early with a pair of successfully designed post-ups, a look the Blazers went back to with equal effect as the game suddenly hung in the balance late. Ed Davis had a huge offensive rebound that led directly to a Napier triple midway through the fourth quarter, putting their team back up by 10 and briefly stemming the Dallas tide. This was a true team effort for the Blazers, basically. The only player who appeared in the game and didn’t perform objectively well was Zach Collins, who went scoreless and grabbed four rebounds in 13 minutes.

    No game is a guarantee in the NBA, and the Mavericks are better than their record suggests. That Portland, then, was able to hold off Dallas without momentum in its favor is just as encouraging as the Blazers’ ability to build a lead that proved too much to overcome in the first place. Some wins are just wins, but this is one of which Portland can be proud – especially given the context of a 3-0 stretch at home that gives this team an early leg up on its competition in the Western Conference playoff race.

    NOTES

    • Nowitzki has lost the suddenness needed to abuse defenders in the post like he did in his heyday. When matched up with a player against whom he has a sizable height advantage, though, he occasionally turns back the clock to a time that reminds of that surreal championship run in 2011. Case in point: On a classic isolation at the nail after a switch in the first quarter, Nowitzki nudged McCollum off and rose up over him for a swish. It wouldn’t have necessary been notable for other scorers, but the opportunities we have to watch Dirk make his brand of magic – which he created, remember – are fewer and further between every night. But not on Saturday, as he scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
    • Lillard and Matthews had a noticeable dialogue going from the opening tip to the final buzzer. It was never outwardly contentious between them, but rarely outwardly friendly, either – exactly what you’d expect from former teammates turned competitors who have scratched and clawed their way to meaningful, long-lasting NBA careers. What a treat for Blazers fans, who still hold a special place in their heart for Matthews, to watch them play on the Moda Center floor once again.
    • Stotts is clearly making an effort to get Turner going early these days, and it paid off against Dallas. Turner was active and engaged on both ends from the opening tip, scoring 17 points on 7-of-13 from the field. The Blazers might want to re-think calling his number on the block in crunch time when the games really start to matter, though. As good as Turner can be with his back to the basket, he’s not so good that teams send an extra defender his way. Finding a shot within flow of the offense or spreading the floor and running ball-screen action with Lillard or McCollum is surely a more prudent offensive option in times of need than a right-shoulder fadeaway from Turner.
    • It’s rare that a team gets outscored by 13 points at freeree throw line and nearly comes away with a double-digit victory, but that’s what Portland did on Saturday. How? The Blazers made up for the free throw disparity by outscoring the Mavericks by 24 points from 3-point range.

Fantasy News

  • Robert Williams III
    C-F, Boston Celtics

    Robert Williams (right ankle soreness) is being listed as questionable for Sunday's matchup vs. the Kings.

    Williams played 10 minutes in his last outing and it should be more of the same in this one. Luckily, he's always efficient in the time that he plays and he should be able to get a couple of blocks while he's on the court.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Elfrid Payton
    PG, New York Knicks

    Elfrid Payton (sore left hamstring) has been ruled out on Monday vs. the Cavs.

    He can be let go of in 12-team leagues as he hasn't shown much progress in his recovery process. Not to mention, coach David Fizdale's lineups are so sporadic that Payton might not even return to the starting lineup when he returns.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Thomas Bryant
    C, Washington Wizards

    Thomas Bryant (sore left hip) has been upgraded to probable for Sunday's game vs. the Magic.

    He was questionable heading into this one so the upgrade to probable is great news for his owners. Moritz Wagner is coming off of a career-best game of 30 points and 15 rebounds so he'll likely eat into Bryant's minutes tonight but hopefully things will get back to normal sooner rather than later.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Ante Zizic
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Ante Zizic (plantar fasciitis) is available to play in Sunday's game vs. the Sixers.

    This will be Zizic's debut game and with Larry Nance Jr. out he could pick up some extra minutes tonight. Keep in mind the fact that the Cavs will likely ease him back into the action so he could be on a minutes limit tonight.

    Source: James Rapien on Twitter

  • Mitchell Robinson
    C, New York Knicks

    Mitchell Robinson missed Sunday’s practice due to a sprained right ankle, but is still considred probable for Monday’s matchup against the Cavaliers.

    This is the first we’ve heard of a sprained ankle for Robinson, but the probable tag suggests it’s not too serious. Robinson has been dinged up a few times already this season with a finger sprain, concussion and now this ankle sprain. His hinderances in fantasy, however, have far more to do with the Knicks’ rotation and personal foul trouble than injury concerns.

    Source: Knicks PR on Twitter

  • De'Anthony Melton
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    De'Anthony Melton has been assigned to the Grizzlies' G League team for their team practice on Sunday, but will be recalled afterwards and will be available for the Grizzlies' games against the Nuggets.

    The availability tag doesn't mean he'll see game action, as he's only suited up for four games so far this season. It's worth keeping his name in mind for his per-minute upside, but until time opens up via an injury he's not on the radar in any setting.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Rodions Kurucs
    PF, Brooklyn Nets

    Rodions Kurucs has been assigned to the Nets’ G-League affiliate on Sunday.

    There were hopes that Kurucs would be able to build upon his solid rookie season heading into this one. However, he has dissapointed many with an offseason arrest and subsequent poor play through the early season. He is not on the fantasy radar, and he has a lot to prove before he returns to play on an NBA team.

    Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter

  • Delon Wright
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    Delon Wright scored an efficient 15 points off the bench for Dallas on 6-of-8 shooting, adding four rebounds, one assist and three steals in Saturday's win over Toronto.

    Wright played well and was extremely efficient for the Mavs. The three steals are great and his value lies within his abilities to generate defensive statistics.

  • Jerome Robinson
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    A career night for Jerome Robinson who scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, adding five 3's, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks in Saturday's win over the Hawks.

    Robinson got an extended run in tonight's 150-101 blowout win over the Hawks. A nice game for the second-year player.

  • Terance Mann
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Getting the start, Terance Mann scored a career-high 13 points in 33 minutes of action, adding six rebounds and eight assists in Saturday's blowout win over the Hawks.

    With teammate Patrick Beverley out, Mann got the start and made the most of it earning career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. This is a great game for him, and something for him to build off of, but this type of output should not be expected again pending prolonged injuries to Beverley.