Things weren't pretty on Thursday night in the NBA, but both games on TNT turned out to be more exciting than most people expected. Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs were expected to easily dispatch the Mavericks, but Dallas hung around long enough to give the Spurs a scare as Vince Carter got an excellent look at a potential game-winning shot on the last play the game. In the late action, Raymond Felton's return to Portland didn't go according to plan, as rookie point guard Damian Lillard stole the show and led the Trail Blazers to a win.
Spurs 92, Mavericks 91
Tony Parker did not play, but the Spurs still assisted each other on 31 of their 37 made field goals. Don't let that fool you though, this was an ugly performance by the team with the top record in the West. The offense never quite clicked for San Antonio, who shot 44 percent from the field as a team and attempted just 13 threes on the night. Tim Duncan led the way with 28 points and 19 rebounds, and only three players scored in double figures for the Spurs. Gary Neal added 16 points and Kawhi Leonard contributed 12 points and this dunk.
The Mavs were out-rebounded 49-35 on the night, but they fought hard to stay in the game and used a balanced offensive attack to do so. Dirk Nowitzki led the team with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Darren Collison (12 points), Brandan Wright (10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks) and others chipped in with solid performances as well.
Dirk had his mojo going -- he even borrowed Joakim Noah's FINGA GUNZ at one point in the night -- and he drained a late jumper to give the Mavs an opportunity to push the game to the buzzer. Vince Carter had the final look at a potential-game winning shot, but his three-point shot from the top of the key rimmed out. It was a lucky bounce for the Spurs that ended the Mavs' four-game winning streak on Thursday night.
Vince Carter is the best in the NBA from that spot this year. Good look...— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) March 15, 2013
Perhaps Gregg Popovich said it best after the game (via Pounding the Rock):
"Overall I thought (the Mavericks) played better than us. I thought they executed better than we did. They were more physical and aggressive," Pop said. "We continued to play in mud like we have been for the last two weeks. I'm not sure what to attribute it to, but it's a fact. It shows at the defensive end and it shows a pretty dead offense on the offensive end.
"We were really fortunate to win this game."
Spurs: clinch playoff spot with win; 14th straight season with 50+ wins— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 15, 2013
Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 90
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler both missed the game due to lingering injuries, and the Trail Blazers capitalized on the talent void in New York's lineup as Damian Lillard pushed Portland past the Knicks in the late game on TNT.
Raymond Felton had talked some smack about Portland fans prior to his return, but he failed to back up his talk at the Rose Garden on Thursday night. Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge didn't mind poking fun at Felton after the game:
He shot 4-for-12, badly bricking a number of jumpers, to finish with 11 points, three assists and two turnovers. He wound up only 39 points short of the 50 he had promised to "drop on 'em" last summer, leaving "those bloggers and those people who write" to make a chart to compare his puffy-chested proclamation to the relatively puny final output.
"It was what I expected," Felton said of the crowd reaction. "Some boos. Boos the whole time actually. It made me laugh."
Not only did the former Blazers guard fall short of his scoring goal, he also ceded plenty of points to Damian Lillard. The rookie point guard scored a team-high 26 points on 11-18 shooting and dished out a game-high 10 assists as Portland used a 56-32 run in the second and third quarters to create a comfortable lead and pave the way to victory. LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points, 10 rebounds) and J.J. Hickson (19 points, 16 rebounds) each added double-doubles to the effort.