Devin Harris said before Saturday's game against the visiting Blazers that he'd pinpointed this night for his debut after missing the first half of the season due to injury. 'It was my choice,' Devin said. 'It just felt right.' It was, unfortunately, the only thing that felt right about the event, an embarrassing 127-111 Mavs loss.
February of 2008 was the last time that Devin Harris put on a Dallas Mavericks jersey and stepped on an NBA court. A lot has happened for both sides since then.
Harris has played for three different NBA teams and participated in an All-Star Game with the Nets. The Mavericks, of course, won a Championship in 2011 while quarterbacked by the centerpiece of the Harris trade, Jason Kidd.
Saturday night Harris made his 2013-2014 season debut after returning to the team that drafted him back in 2004. After signing with the Mavericks in July, it was discovered that Harris needed to have offseason surgery on his left foot, causing him to miss the first couple months of the season.
Harris said before the game that he personally chose Saturday night’s game as the date for his return.
“It was my choice. It just felt right,” Harris said.
It was, unfortunately, the only thing that felt right about the evening.
A little extra help was needed with the Blazers in town. At 30-9 coming into the game, Portland the second-best record in the West and just beat the Spurs in San Antonio the night before.
LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at an MVP level and second-year player Damian Lillard is playing with the confidence of someone like, say, Monta Ellis. In fact, with a soft shooting power forward and a fearless, scoring guard leading the way you could certainly draw a few similarities between where the Blazers are and where the Mavericks might feel like they should be.
Both teams can score at an excellent pace, but many people question whether they can play enough defense to make any noise come playoff time.
And with this beginning to the second half of their NBA season -- a 127-111 loss -- we now have the right to question everything we thought about these Mavs.
With 3:22 left in the first quarter Devin Harris entered the game to a standing ovation from the AAC crowd. He immediately assumed the role of point guard, playing alongside Ellis, a preview of what could perhaps be one of the speediest backcourts in the NBA.
Harris didn’t take long to give the crowd another reason to cheer after hitting a buzzer-beater to end the first quarter with a contested step back jumper.
However, in the first quarter Harris couldn’t do much to help the Mavericks’ defense. In fact, the Blazers forwards Aldridge and Nicolas Batum outscored the entire Mavericks team in the first period, 25-23. A nine-point quarter from Dirk Nowitzki is the only reason that Dallas wasn’t getting blown out. They went into the second quarter down 35-23.
The Mavericks allowed Portland to shoot 59 percent in the first quarter and that didn’t change a bit in the second quarter as they maintained 59 percent for the first half.
On the other hand, the Blazers’ defense couldn’t do a whole lot to stop the Mavericks from scoring early, either. Ellis was aggressive getting to the basket in the first half and the Mavericks had a balanced offensive attack for the first two quarters. A monstrous Vince Carter dunk over Robin Lopez while drawing the foul in the second quarter stands as the rare positive highlight of the night for Dallas.
But when you get out-rebounded 30-12 in a half you are typically going to be down by quite a few points and that was the case for the Mavs as they trailed 71-52.
This marks the second time this season Dallas has allowed 70 points in a first half, something this franchise hasn't done in 14 years.
The Blazers only did more to assert their dominance in the second half. Aldridge, who before the game was labeled by coach Rick Carlisle a “no-brainer All-Star,” looked every bit the part as he scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Dallas fell behind by as many as 39 points in the third quarter as the frustration mounted. Nowitzki received a technical with 4:42 in the third. He left the game and didn’t return, finishing with 18 points and three rebounds. It was the first time all season that the Mavericks have trailed by over 30 points.
By the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks waived the white flag and put in the reserve players. When it was all said and done, they allowed the Blazers to shoot 51 percent and the rebounding margin was an embarrassing 55-30 in favor of Portland.
A slim silver lining was a solid fourth-quarter effort by the lineup of Shane Larkin, Jae Crowder, Wayne Ellington, Brandon Wright and Dejuan Blair, who treated the game like a one-possession contest and even forced Portland coach Terry Stotts to put his starters back in with four minutes left in the game despite being up nearly 40 points less than a quarter earlier. The fourth-quarter lineup outscored the Blazers 41-23. Unfortunately, the deficit was far too big for the game to ever be in jeopardy.
“The guys that were in there in the fourth quarter really fought,” Carlisle said. “I’m going to find the guys that fight and put them in the game.”
Seeing Harris back in a Mavericks uniform brought back some nice memories and hopefully it’s a positive sign moving forward.
"Obviously I've got to get used to (my teammates) and they've got to get used to me,'' said Harris, who played 17 minutes and finished with six points and two assists. "I don't think we'll re-define roles -- just tweak things.''
But it is completely overshadowed by a complete blowout at the hands of a younger, more explosive team that might be on a different level talent-wise ... and maybe in other ways, too.
Carlisle summed up the performance after the game.
“The first three quarters were beyond embarrassing,'' he said. "We weren’t playing together. We weren’t helping each other. When you do that against a high quality team like Portland, they’re going to make you pay a heavy price.”
We can tell you that if the playoffs started today, the Mavericks would matchup with the Blazers in the first round. But we can also tell you that at this moment, we have a difficult time typing "Mavericks'' and "playoffs'' in the same sentence.