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Blazers take slim playoff hopes into Dallas

The defending champion Dallas Mavericks should have no trouble locking up one of the final playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but the same can't be said for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Dallas and Portland will square off tonight in Big D.

The Trail Blazers will play back-to-back road games in Dallas and Milwaukee, and have lost three in a row away from Rip City. They are just 7-19 as the visitor this season and sit 3 1/2 games off the eighth and final playoff berth in the conference. Portland has alternated wins and losses over its last 10 games and recorded a 101-88 victory versus New Jersey on Wednesday in the finale of a three-game homestand.

LaMarcus Aldridge posted 24 points and nine rebounds, while Nicolas Batum had 20 points and 10 boards. J.J. Hickson added 18 points and eight rebounds, and Raymond Felton came close to a triple-double with 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

"Our defense was the type of defense that we want to play for 48 minutes," said Portland head coach Kaleb Canales. "That's our identity, that's who we want to be. I thought it was a very good defensive effort tonight."

Aldridge has scored 20-plus points in his last five games played, averaging 24.4 ppg over that time. He did not play March 30 against the LA Clippers.

Dallas will close the books on a three-game homestand tonight before playing five of six games on the road, and handed Memphis a 95-85 loss the previous time out on Wednesday.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Shawn Marion scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Jason Terry netted 15 points, as the Mavericks rebounded from a loss to the Clippers to win for the eighth time in their last 12 tries.

"It was a good bounce back for us," Terry said. "Obviously we're fighting with all of these teams for playoff positioning and this was a crucial game for us as are all of them."

The Mavs are 20-9 as the host this season and sit sixth in the West standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of Houston. Nowitzki has scored 20-plus points in 11 of his last 13 contests, and is averaging 25.0 points per game over that time.

Dallas needed double overtime to upend the Blazers, 97-94, in the first meeting of the season on Feb. 11 at American Airlines Center. Nowitzki scored a team-high 20 points and Aldridge netted a game-high 33 points. Portland has lost 14 of 16 and 17 of its last 20 trips to Big D.

These two teams will meet again April 13 at Portland.