PORTLAND, Ore. —Even though they are out of the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers are still pushing toward a goal to finish out the season: a winning record.
A 108-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday left the Blazers at 40-40 with two games left—one at home against Memphis and the season finale at Phoenix.
Brandon Roy scored 23 points for Portland, which hasn’t had a winning record since the 2002-2003 season.
“For this season it’s good to get there because you need to be in the 40s or better to have any chance at the playoffs. I’m excited about this team,” coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s been a good year for us, to improve the way we have.”
The Blazers led Dallas by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Mavericks chipped away and kept it close throughout the second.
Eddie Jones hit a layup for the Mavs to make it 101-97 before Dirk Nowitzki made two consecutive jumpers to tie it at 101 with 58 seconds left.
LaMarcus Aldridge’s layup and a free throw put Portland back ahead for good at 104-101, before Jason Terry made a pair from the line for Dallas.
Travis Outlaw hit a jumper from the right baseline with 28 seconds left to extend the lead to 106-103.
Channing Frye fouled Nowitzki, who made both shots, and Jones fouled Jarrett Jack on the other end. Jack also made both shots.
Terry missed a layup and a 3-point attempt in the final seconds as the Mavericks fell short.
Aldridge had 22 points, and Jack had 19 points and 10 assists. Frye had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Coach wants us to continue to play hard and finish what we started at the beginning of the season,” Roy said. “Do not fold up the tent early and play with an attitude, and show the fans what they can look forward to next year.”
Nowitzki scored 28 points for the Mavericks, who had won their last three and were among the teams jostling for playoff position in the Western Conference.
“These last couple of games for them (the Blazers) are all about pride and we knew that they had that,” Nowitzki said. “So they really came out and played hard for their fans and they deserved to win.”
Dallas was without Josh Howard, who aggravated a bruised right knee Thursday against Utah. He originally hurt it last Saturday when he collided with Shaquille O’Neal.
Jones started in Howard’s place and finished with 16 points.
The Blazers went up 28-16 in the first quarter after Aldridge’s dunk and free throw. Before the quarter was over, Aldridge would dunk again to make it 37-21. It was Portland’s highest-scoring first quarter of the season.
Jack, on a fast break, made a perfect pass to Roy, who dunked it and put the Blazers ahead 58-43 in the second quarter. Portland led 64-50 at the half, tying its season-high first-half total.
Dallas closed to within 72-68 on Jason Kidd’s jumper midway through the third quarter, as the Blazers cooled off considerably.
The Mavericks kept the Blazers’ lead within single digits the rest of the way.
“We had our chances down the stretch but they kept on coming and kept making great plays,” Nowitzki said. “We had a chance to tie it at the end but we just couldn’t get that one stop we needed.”