The Dallas Mavericks’ season-high six-game road trip is coming to an end in a venue where opponents haven’t been very successful recently.
Aldridge scored 32 points Friday in a 98-91 victory against Oklahoma City as sixth-place Portland (44-32) pulled within 2 1/2 games of Denver for fifth in the Western Conference. The Blazers lead seventh-place Memphis by one-half game and eighth-place New Orleans by a full game with six remaining.
Given the tight playoff race, Aldridge said Portland simply needs to keep winning.
“I feel like if we stay solid, and we keep playing like we did (Friday), we’ll be fine,” Aldridge said
Coach Nate McMillan shuffled his lineup against the Thunder, bringing Nicolas Batum(notes) off the bench for the first time in 48 games and starting Marcus Camby(notes). Gerald Wallace(notes) also was shifted to small forward.
Batum responded with 19 points, but McMillan would not commit to the same lineup against the Mavericks.
“I thought tonight we did some good things. We may have to make some adjustments,” McMillan said. “I thought that small unit when Nicolas came into the game, we were aggressive. Guys just have to be ready to play.”
Aldridge has seemed more than ready when facing Dallas. He’s averaging 31.0 points in three meetings this season, including 30 in the most recent matchup - a 104-101 victory on March 15 in Portland.
However, the Mavericks won the previous two contests and look to take three of four in the season series.
The Mavericks (53-23) fell 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for second in the West with a 99-92 loss Saturday at Golden State. Dallas has lost two straight following a five-game winning streak and dropped to 3-2 on their road trip.
The Mavericks lead fourth-place Oklahoma City by three games with six remaining.
Dallas and Portland could meet in the postseason for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when the third-seeded Mavericks beat the No. 6-seed Blazers in seven games.
“We’d love to get some wins here before we start off, but the playoffs are also a completely new season,” Nowitzki said. “We’d love to get some momentum, start making some shots, look a little better. We look a little flat lately, look a little tired. So hopefully we can step it up here.”
Nowitzki scored 28 points in the most recent loss to the Blazers, but he’s averaging just 20.8 points against them in his career. That marks the second-worst average against any team, just ahead of the 20.3 points he’s averaging against Cleveland.
Dallas has won three of the last five meetings in Portland.