The Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks are both struggling right now. Which team can find a little more energy and confidence in this key Western Conference game? The Mavs are a 2.5-point home favorite on the betting lines.
The Portland Trail Blazers Can Win Because…
Their opponent just isn’t giving much reason to the claim that it’s ready to contend for a title. The Mavericks were thought of as frontline NBA title contenders after they brought in Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics. Rondo is so good as a passer, defender, and perimeter rebounder that a team with Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki was supposed to be a natural fit for Rondo. Yet, the Mavericks have almost been a .500 ballclub since Rondo arrived. This team clearly has chemistry issues – ones that might be worked out in time – but ones that certainly haven’t been squared away just yet. Dallas is still a team in which players are getting to know each other and work with each other. This is what it’s like when you’re 5-5 in your last 10 games the way the Mavericks are.
One point of differentiation between these teams is that Portland allows 97.2 points per game, while Dallas allows an average of 101.1 points per game, and you should take this into consideration when looking over the NBA odds. If you have a game between two struggling teams, teams that are finding it hard to shoot well, the better defensive team would seem to have the upper hand.
The Dallas Mavericks Can Win Because…
They're facing an opponent that has not recently shown that it can win a big road game. If you look through Portland’s results this season, you’ll see that the Blazers won in Oklahoma City on December 23. Since then, the lowly Los Angeles Lakers are the only other team Portland has managed to beat away from home. The Trail Blazers fell at Milwaukee. San Antonio handled them easily. Memphis beat them. Phoenix did too. Cleveland and Atlanta took care of the Blazers as well. Portland does not have the bench needed to be a title contender – at least not yet. A representative example of Portland’s thin bench comes from earlier this week in a 103-102 home win over Utah, the kind of narrow escape at home over a bad team which does not inspire much if any confidence at all. In this game, Portland got 89 points from its starters, but only 14 from a bench in which two players played at least 21 minutes and three players gained six to 12 minutes. That’s 14 points in 70 minutes of playing time in a home game. A bench has to generally provide a lot more than that.
The Blazers just aren’t in a groove right now. They picked up a couple of wins this week, but they’re still very much looking for their best basketball. They’re 4-6 in their last 10 games and are trying to regroup just before the All-Star break.
This could very well end up being a playoff series preview as these two teams occupy the fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Conference right now. Only one game separates them, so the team that wants home-court advantage better show it on Saturday.
The issue here is that the Blazers are on the road where they have dropped six straight. They’ve also lost six of eight in Dallas. And while Dallas is without Rondo, it seems to have given them a bit of a lift without him being in the lineup as the chemistry issues have been lifted. They’ve won three of four without him – including the game he got hurt. That being the case, take the Mavs with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Dallas -2.5 at The Greek