McCollum, Lillard carry Blazers past Mavericks

PORTLAND, Oregon: CJ McCollum scored 32 points, Damian Lillard had 31 and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Dallas Mavericks, 125-119, on Friday (Saturday in Manila).

The All-Stars for each team, Lillard and Luka Doncic (38 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) both had big nights. But Lillard had much more help from his co-star as Kristaps Porzingis finished with just 11 points and didn’t make a field goal until the early third quarter.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (left) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Oregon on March 19, 2021 (March 20 in Manila). AP PHOTO

“That was my ninth time playing basketball since January 16th,” McCollum said after his best game since returning from a broken foot. “It’s hard to find a rhythm in a season like this. I was on a minutes restriction, I was rushing, I wasn’t playing with pace. I kind of settled in today. I got 23 shots up in 28 minutes.”

The teams meet again Sunday (Monday in Manila), when Dallas will look for more from Porzingis, its second-leading scorer.

“He got off to a slow start and we have just got to involve him a little bit more,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

With 4:25 left in the second quarter, Porzingis was called for a technical foul after arguing a call with the officials. Seconds later, Doncic was also assessed a technical foul. Lillard made both technical free throws and the Blazers led 64-60 at halftime.

“We made him have to work and have to make plays and I think that frustrated him,” Robert Covington said of Portland’s job against Porzingis. “He doesn’t like people to get up under him. For us, [Derrick Jones Jr.] and I did a great job of getting under him.”

Portland coach Terry Stotts earned his 500th career victory.

“After my first two years in Atlanta, I didn’t think I’d get to 100 wins,” Stotts said.

Lillard collided with two Mavericks players with 2:37 left in the third quarter, staying on the ground and grabbing his left knee for a few minutes but staying in the game.

The Mavericks led by as many as eight in the fourth quarter before Rodney Hood’s 3-pointer cut the Mavericks’ lead to 110-109 with 4:26 left.

A dunk by Carmelo Anthony with 4:04 left wrestled the lead back for the Blazers. Lillard’s jumper with 3:23 remaining pushed Portland’s lead to 113-110 and he followed with a layup for a five-point lead.

Doncic’s floater ended Portland’s 9-0 run to make it 115-112 with 2:36 left, but McCollum isolated against Porzingis to hit a 3-pointer to put Portland ahead 118-112 with 1:17 to play.

In Denver, Jamal Murray scored 34 points, including a tying 3-pointer in the final second of regulation and a crucial jumper in the final seconds of overtime, lifting the Denver Nuggets past the Chicago Bulls,131-127.