PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Chris Kaman scored a season-high 26 points and the Dallas Mavericks boosted their faint playoff hopes with a 96-91 victory over the slumping Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Kaman added 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, who were 2½ games back of Utah for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference, and two games behind the Lakers. Dallas (38-39) has just five games left, but four of those are at home.
The Mavs led by as many as 26 points, but the Blazers closed the gap in the fourth quarter — even after sitting most of their starters.
Will Barton came off the bench with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who have lost eight straight for their longest losing streak since the 2005-06 season. Portland (33-44) was eliminated from the playoffs after Friday night’s 116-98 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Rookie Damian Lillard’s layup narrowed Dallas’ lead to 88-80 with 4:48 left. The Blazers pulled closer at 88-83 on Barton’s jumper.
O.J. Mayo and Shawn Marion had consecutive baskets to slow Portland’s momentum, but Eric Maynor’s layup and a pair of free throws got the Blazers within 94-91 with 39 seconds left.
After Mayo missed a 3-pointer on the other end, Lillard’s attempted layup with 6.9 seconds to go didn’t fall. Marion scored at the buzzer for the final margin.
Portland was without starting forward Nicolas Batum for the third straight game because of a sore right shoulder. Victor Claver started in his place.
Elton Brand missed his third straight game for the Mavericks with a sore right calf.
The Mavs went up 13-3 early and Kaman took over with 12 points in the opening six minutes alone. Kaman’s short jumper late in the second quarter gave Dallas a 46-24 lead.
The Blazers were stung when guard Wesley Matthews was helped off the court with a right ankle injury with 8:27 left in the second quarter. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.
The three-year NBA veteran was averaging 15 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists going into the game. Matthews was upset following Friday night’s loss, lamenting the team’s lack of heart in the defeat.
The Mavericks led 56-32 at the break. Dallas extended the lead to 79-53 late in the third quarter after Vince Carter’s 3-pointer.
With an 81-61 Dallas lead going into the final quarter, Portland rested its starters except for Lillard, a five-time rookie of the month. The young group narrowed the Mavs’ lead to 86-72 after Maynor’s long jumper with 7:37 left.
Barton got alley-oops from Maynor for back-to-back dunks, making it 86-76. The Blazers re-inserted some of their starters, including LaMarcus Aldridge, for the final push but came up short.
Notes: Should they stumble, it would be the first time since 2000 that the Mavericks miss the playoffs. ... Mavs rookie Jared Cunningham, a local favorite because he played at Oregon State, was inactive for the game. ... The Blazers’ 24-point deficit at halftime was their largest of the season. ... Dallas wrapped up a four-game road trip 2-2. The Mavs were coming off a 117-108 victory over Sacramento. ... Dallas won the season series against the Blazers 3-1.