Mavericks-Trail Blazers Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks are catching a huge break in their pursuit of a playoff spot on this critical road trip.

The Mavericks have had plenty of trouble defending LaMarcus Aldridge over the last two seasons, but won't have to deal with the injured Portland Trail Blazers star in Friday night's matchup.

Portland (28-31) announced Thursday that Aldridge will have surgery on his right hip and miss the rest of the season. The first-time All-Star averaged 21.7 points and 8.0 rebounds this season while shooting a career-high 51.2 percent.

"I'm very disappointed," Aldridge said. "I feel we have a really good group of guys here. I feel we're starting to find a really good rhythm together. So it's definitely hard to do right now."

Not including playoffs, Aldridge is averaging 28.2 points against the Mavericks (33-26) over the last two seasons to lead all players, shooting 51.1 percent and averaging 10.0 rebounds in six meetings. Most recently, the Dallas native capped a 25-point, 12-rebound effort with the game-winning 17-footer at the overtime buzzer in last Friday's 99-97 road win over the Mavericks.

These teams also went past regulation in their first 2011-12 meeting Feb. 11, when Delonte West scored six of his 10 points in the second overtime in a 97-94 home win for Dallas.

The Mavericks are visiting Portland for the first time since Game 6 of last year's first-round playoff series, in which Dirk Nowitzki had 33 points and 11 rebounds as Dallas won 103-96 to eliminate the Trail Blazers.

Dallas moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings by opening a four-game, five-day trip with Thursday's 112-103 victory at Golden State. Nowitzki scored 27 points and Jason Kidd barely missed a triple-double with 12 assists, 10 rebounds and nine points.

"It's the kind of pressure that you like," said coach Rick Carlisle about trying to reach the postseason. "It brings you to higher levels and we embrace it. We embraced it last year in the playoffs and it got us a ring."

The Mavs got 57 points Thursday from their reserves, with Jason Terry and Brandan Wright each scoring 16 as the team continues to adjust after parting ways with Lamar Odom earlier this week.

"It's going to take us some time but we feel we can compete with the best," Kidd said.

The Blazers are also entering off a victory over the lowly Warriors, 118-110 on Wednesday. Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 34 points and J.J. Hickson added 23 and 13 rebounds.

"I envisioned more nights like this when I first came here, but everything happens for a reason and better late than never," said Crawford, who joined Portland as a free agent before this season.

Hickson, inserted into the lineup for Aldridge, is averaging 22.3 points on 63.0 percent shooting and 11.7 rebounds in three starts since the Blazers signed him March 21.

Portland is 4 1/2 games out of the West's final playoff spot with seven games left.

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