The reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks will resume a pivotal four-game road trip over a five-day span when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
The Mavs opened the critical trek in Oakland last night by disposing of Golden State, 112-103. Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and Jason Terry led a solid bench effort with 16 in that one.
Brandan Wright matched Terry with 16 points, Vince Carter chipped in 12 and Rodrigue Beaubois donated 11 for Dallas, which has won its past two. The Mavericks bench scored 57 of their 112 points, and the visitors shot 50 percent overall on the game.
"We can't really slip up at this time of year," Wright said.
The Mavs, who are just 12-16 on the road this season and will also visit the LA Lakers and Utah on the road trip, moved ahead of Denver and Houston by one- half game for the sixth spot in the jumbled Western Conference playoff picture. Just 2 1/2 games separate Dallas from 10th place Phoenix, however, so every game is key with just seven left in its regular season schedule.
The Blazers, meanwhile, suffered a virtual death blow to their slim playoff hopes on Thursday when it was announced that All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip and miss the reminder of the 2011-12 season.
Aldridge, a first-time NBA All-Star this season, averaged a team-high 21.7 points to go with 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 55 contests -- all starts. He shot 51.2 percent from the field and 81.4 percent from the foul line, both career highs.
"In his most recent MRI, and following further evaluation, it's been determined that LaMarcus has a slight labral tear and will require arthroscopic surgery," said acting general manager Chad Buchanan. "LaMarcus' priority is that he's 100-percent healthy going into training camp this fall and we all feel this is the best course. He's had an All-Star year and his long-term health is the most important thing to consider."
The Blazers are currently 4 1/2 games behind the Rockets and Nuggets after a 118-110 victory over the Warriors in their last encounter on Wednesday. Jamal Crawford scored 34 points off the bench in that one to pace Portland.
J.J. Hickson had 23 points and 13 rebounds in place of Aldridge. Wesley Matthews finished with 18 points and Raymond Felton contributed 16 points and 10 assists for Portland, which snapped a two-game slide and currently sits in the 11th seed of the Western Conference.
"[Aldridge] is our All-Star franchise player and he's done so much already in the season. We just want to see him get healthy, but for now, everybody has to step up," Crawford said.
Portland opened the season by winning 11 of its first 12 at the Rose Garden but has since sputtered to an 9-10 mark over its last 19 as the host.
The Mavs are in the Pacific Northwest for the first time since Game 6 of last season's Western Conference quarterfinals when Nowitzki had 33 points as Dallas eliminated the Trail Blazers with a 103-96 win.