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Game of the Day: April 9

Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trailblazers — 10 PM eastern, telecast on NBA TV

After the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, the Mavericks need to respond with a win to keep pace in the Western Conference. That will be no easy task against the hungry Trailblazers, though.

The Blazers are coming off two straight wins and have won eight of their last 10 contests, thanks in large part to the defensive efforts of Marcus Camby and the balanced, multifaceted offensive attack. Furthermore, they play very well at the Rose Garden, having lost only 13 games on their home floor all season.

The Mavericks are certainly up to the challenge, though. While they have struggled a bit of late (going 5-5 in their last 10), surrendering 100+ points in seven of the previous 11 games, they field a loaded roster that can come away with a win on any given day. Dirk Nowitzki should prove a hassle for LaMarcus Aldridge on defense, and Caron Butler and Jason Terry will keep Brandon Roy on his toes.

That said, they need to step up their defense to win. Butler needs to limit Roy, and Jason Kidd needs to contain Andre Miller. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier should have no problem with the offensively challenged Camby, but Aldridge will be just as tough to contain for Nowitzki as Nowitzki will be for Aldridge.

The Blazers have won all three meetings between the two teams this season, most recently on March 25. No particular player for Portland killed Dallas, but they were balanced in their offense, resulting in four different players with 15+ points.

I see no reason why the Blazers shouldn’t complete the season sweep here. If all three of the wins had come prior to the Mavericks’ February trade, I might think otherwise. But Portland has demonstrated that they can defeat the new-look Mavs, and it seems they just pose some sort of matchup problem for Mark Cuban’s boys.

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