PORTLAND -- A couple months ago, several members of the Dallas Mavericks vowed not to shave again until they reached a record of .500.
They've been one win shy a couple of times and failed to get there. In a home game Wednesday night against Phoenix, the Mavericks will get another chance.
Dallas built a 26-point lead late in the third quarter Sunday night at the Rose Garden, and needed every bit of its cushion to close out a 96-91 victory over Portland.
Chris Kaman scored a season-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Mavericks (38-39), who never trailed but had to hold off a furious Portland rally to win.
"We've been up and down," said Kaman, who made 12 of 21 shots from the field. "It's been frustrating. Now we have a good opportunity to go on our homecourt and play a team that's below .500. Hopefully, we can knock them off and get these beards shaven."
The win wasn't secure until the closing seconds, when, with Dallas in front 94-91, the Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard failed to convert on a driving layup. The Mavericks rebounded and got the ball to a streaking Shawn Marion for a basket at the buzzer.
With five games to play, Dallas is 2 1/2 games behind Utah (41-37) and two games back of the Los Angeles Lakers (40-37) in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Every win counts now," said Marion, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. "We have to keep winning and see what happens when we get to the finish line."
Rookie Will Barton -- playing because of a second-quarter injury to shooting guard Wesley Matthews -- came off the bench for season highs in points (22), rebounds (13) and assists (six) for the Trail Blazers (33-44), who lost their eighth straight game.
"Will had a terrific game," Portland coach Terry Stotts said, "and was the catalyst for how we played in the second half."
Barton, who carried averages of 2.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists into the game, played 32 minutes in relief of Matthews.
"I'm just a confident, silly guy," said the 6-5 guard from Memphis. "I told Sasha (Pavlovic) and Jared (Jeffries) before the game, 'I'm going to have a career night tonight,' not knowing if I was even going to get in the game."
Portland closed a 24-point halftime deficit to 58-41 with a 9-2 run to start the third quarter. Over the next six minutes, the Mavericks outscored the Blazers 21-12 to go on top 79-53 late in the quarter.
The Blazers, with four reserves teaming with Lillard, came on with a rush in the closing moments, drawing to within 88-83 with 3:30 remaining.
Eric Maynor cut the margin to 94-89 on a driving layup with 1:05 left, and Barton converted a pair at the line to get the Blazers within 94-91 with 39.4 seconds to go.
The Mavericks' O.J. Mayo missed a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go and the Blazers rebounded, calling timeout with 12.5 seconds left. But Lillard missed a driving attempt to get within one and the visitors finally had their win.
Dallas jumped to a 9-0 lead in the game's first three minutes before Matthews broke the ice with a 3-pointer. The Mavericks took their advantage to 15-3 before LaMarcus Aldridge got going, knocking down three straight jumpers to get Portland to within 17-9.
The Mavs, shooting .600 from the field the first 12 minutes, took a 29-18 edge into the second quarter.
Dallas extended the lead to 44-22 midway in the second period. By that time, Matthews had been helped off the floor and to the locker room after rolling his right ankle. The margin was 56-32 at the half, Kaman leading the way with 16 points and six rebounds.
NOTES: Lillard scored 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting. In four games against Dallas this season, the point guard out of Weber State made 17 of 60 shots (.283) and averaged 14.3 points, well below his 18.9-point average. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is still impressed. "If he's not unanimous Rookie of the Year, I'll be surprised," Carlisle said. "He's been that good. We view him as one of the top eight or 10 point guards in the league -- maybe even better than that." ... Dallas reserve forward Elton Brand (calf) did not play.