The struggle to win a close one? The Mavs are now 7-11 when they're within three points in the last minute, so, check. Aldridge with a familiar buzzer-beater? This is the second time the Blazers star has done it to his hometown team, so, check. Inventing ways to blow games? Dallas was up 21 before dropping a 106-104 decision at Portland on Tuesday, so, check.
The Blazers have a knack for the comeback when it comes to staying in games they should lose. The Dallas Mavericks have a habit of inventiveness when it comes to losing games they've seemingly had won.
The knacks and the habits did their thing Tuesday in Portland. The Mavs allowed the Blazers to erase a 21-point third-quarter deficit and then witnessed LaMarcus Aldridge make an 18-footer on his trademark turnaround at the final buzzer to give the Blazers the win.
"We've got to continue playing the entire game out,'' OJ Mayo said, "and we've got to step on an opponent's neck and not let them get going."
Three-pointers were the order of the closing moments, Nicolas Batum made a three-pointer with 29 seconds left to tie. Dirk Nowitzki (with a season-best 26) answered with a bomb at the 11.4-seconds mark to vault Dallas back in front 104-101. Then Aldridge -- not a three-point threat -- made one anyway, with four seconds left.
Mavs fans probably worried about the inevitable overtime (where Dallas is legendarily bad). Mavs fans maybe were still chuckling over an earlier gaffe that had six Dallas guys on the court at once. ...
But this fate was worse and not funny: With those four seconds left, Mayo was called for a charge, giving Aldridge another chance at heroics ... just like the chance moments earlier, and just like the chance he took and made last May in Dallas, where the DFW native makes his offseason home.
Aldridge -- good for 29 points and 13 rebounds, his 21st double double of the season -- made the 18-footer, erasing all the positives created by Dallas' massive lead.
In the home-team locker room, Aldridge was explaining the feeling.
"That one felt great,'' he said of the last shot, which gave him five points in five seconds. "That one felt real easy."
In the visitors' room? No great feeling. And no easy explanation, either. But we now know about Dallas' negative creativity, about what happens when LA shoots against his hometown team, and about what happens when it's tight and late.
"Down the stretch, we weren't very good,'' Dirk said. "We should have never been in that position."