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Aldridge: 'I was waiting for it to go in'

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: NICK FOCHTMAN - Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge gets a hug from teammate J.J. Hickson (right) after nailing the winning jump shot at the buzzer Tuesday night at the Rose Garden. Portland beat Dallas 106-104.Even before LaMarcus Aldridge’s 18-foot turnaround baseline jumper tickled the twine at the buzzer to give Portland a 106-104 victory over Dallas Tuesday night at the Rose Garden, teammate Nicolas Batum was racing across the court, his hands raised in jubilation.

“He said he had a lot of faith in me,” Aldridge said, laughing. “That’s good, because I didn’t know yet. I was waiting for it to go in.”

If time stood still for the crowd of 18,888 as Aldridge released his game-winner over the outstretched arm of Dallas’ Brandan Wright, there was no such suspense for Batum.

“I knew it,” Batum said with a grin. “That’s the NBA. Something amazing can happen every time. I knew he was going to make it.”

The shot capped an epic comeback for the Trail Blazers and touched off a dogpile by the players, with Aldridge on the floor and teammates piling on in celebration.

“Just another win,” Portland coach Terry Stotts deadpanned after the Blazers (23-22) stormed back from deficits of 21 points in the third quarter and seven points in the final two minutes.

“I can’t get tired of appreciating what our team does as far as competing and never giving up,” Stotts said. “We’ve seen it a number of times this year, but it never gets old. We keep finding a way.”

Aldridge, who led Portland with 29 points and 13 rebounds, also nailed a 3-pointer from the side to tie the score at 104-104 with 4.5 seconds left. Prior to that shot, Aldridge — recently named to his second straight All-Star Game — was 0 for 9 from beyond the arc this season.

“I was surprised (Batum) threw me the ball,” Aldridge said with a grin. “That I made it, no. Felt good, but the game wasn’t over yet.”

Batum showed no reluctance. It was a feeling shared by all the Blazers and their coaches.

“LaMarcus has a nice touch out there,” Stotts said. “He took his time, and he made it. It’s not like he’s a non-shooter. I was glad to see it go in.”

“He shoots that corner 3 every day in practice,” said Wesley Matthews, who collected 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. “It looked good coming off his hands — bucket.”

Aldridge “makes that shot all the time,” seconded J.J. Hickson, whose 26 points and 15 rebounds for his 25th double-double were integral to the victory. “Y’all don’t get to see it, but we see it.

“The way he shot it, it wasn’t like, ‘Ah, bleep.’ It was like, ‘Yeah, good.’ We had confidence in him. And it went in.”

After a timeout, Dallas got the ball to O.J. Mayo, who was called for a charge on Ronnie Price as he drove for a missed layup.

With 1.5 seconds left, Portland called timeout and drew up a play with first option going to Batum on a cut to the basket. But Mayo denied him the ball, and Matthews inbounded on the left block to Aldridge, who turned and hit his patented fadeaway as time expired.

“I was surprised. I was able to catch it so deep,” Aldridge said. “We had drawn up a play on the other side, but the ref said no. I was happy about it. I got the ball, and I hit my shot.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: NICK FOCHTMAN - Teammates get Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge to the floor as they mob him after his winning shot Tuesday versus Dallas.Though Aldridge hit the winning shot as time expired in a 99-97 overtime victory at Dallas last April 12, he has not exactly been “Mr. Clutch” through his career with the Blazers. So his come-through performance Tuesday night was a good sign.

“It’s big for his confidence, when he gets in that position again,” Matthews said. “Those were big shots for him. He’s an All-Star, well-deserving, and he showed it tonight.”

The Mavericks dominated the early going as Portland played some of its most porous defense of the season.

“We gave too much space to their shooters,” Stotts said. “They got in a rhythm. We were slow getting to Dirk (Nowitzki). They were pushing the ball. We weren’t getting back. We weren’t being the aggressor, weren’t anticipating very well.

“We did all those things much better the second half.”

Dallas had extended a 59-42 halftime lead to 69-48 early in the third quarter, when Portland began its rally behind Aldridge, outscoring the Mavericks 26-11 the rest of the quarter to trail only 80-74 entering the final period.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: NICK FOCHTMAN - Dallas' O.J. Mayo has his drive to the basket turned back by the block of Trail Blazers' forward Nicolas Batum.“We wanted to cut it to 10 by the quarter,” Matthews said. “Anything could happen. We showed up, we played hard, we didn’t quit, and things turned our way.”

The Blazers tied the game at 88-88 on a Sasha Pavlovic breakaway dunk after a turnover, then went ahead 90-88 on Pavlovic’s driving layup with 6:43 to play.

Dallas outscored Portland 13-4 over the next five minutes — keyed by Darren Collison’s banked-in 3-pointer from out top as the shot clock was expiring — to forge a 101-94 lead with 2:03 remaining.

The Blazers cut it to 101-98 on four consecutive free throws — two each by Aldridge and Matthews — with 52.4 seconds to go.

Nowitzki missed a jumper and Batum — having a horrendous shooting game — knocked down a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to tie it at 101-101.

“He was struggling shooting the ball, his wrist was bothering him, but he’s a competitor,” Stotts said. “He didn’t shy away from the moment.”

After a timeout, Nowitzki answered with a trey to push Dallas back in front 104-101 with 11.4 seconds to go.

“When he hit that 3, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ " Hickson said. “But we never stopped playing. That’s the team we’ve been all year.”

That’s when Aldridge assumed the hero’s role in one of Portland’s biggest wins of the year.

“Probably our best win,” Hickson said. “Being down 17 at halftime and 21 in the third quarter against a veteran team like that? We stayed with it. the home crowd stayed behind us the whole time, and we pulled it off.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: NICK FOCHTMAN - Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge starts a drive on his way to a game-high 29 points versus Dallas, as the Trail Blazers win 106-104 at the Rose Garden.NOTES — Portland begins a back-to-back with Utah Friday night at Salt Lake City. ... Nowitzki led Dallas with a season-high 26 points. The perennial All-Star was playing his 18th game after missing the first six weeks of the season after knee surgery. He has hit the 20-point mark only three times. ... Dallas shot .500 from the field, including 8 for 15 from 3-point range, but still couldn’t hold off the Blazers. “We didn’t make plays, we didn’t hit enough shots, and we didn’t get enough stops,” said coach Rick Carlisle, whose Mavericks had won six of their previous eight games. “Simple as that. You have to give (the Blazers) credit. They made some phenomenal plays when they had to. It’s just very disappointing.” ... The 21-point spread was the furthest Portland has come back from to win this season. It was the 10th time Portland has rallied from a halftime deficit to win, tied with Indiana for the NBA lead. And it was the eighth time the Blazers have come back from trailing by 11 points or more, tied with Utah for the most such games in the league. ... The Blazers are 13-8 in games decided by six points or fewer.

Batum, who made only 4 of 14 shots from the field and finished with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes, said he got treatment and had his sore right wrist taped at halftime. “It bothered me a lot,” he said. “I couldn’t really shoot the first half. It was better after I got it taped.” ... Aldridge, a Dallas native, has averaged 26.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in his last four appearances against the Mavericks. ... Aldridge and Hickson are the first Blazers to post at least 26 points and 13 rebounds in the same game since Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey did it against the Los Angeles Lakers in December 1987. ... Hickson ranks third in the league in double-doubles. He was 8 for 8 from the foul line, the most free throws without a miss through his career. ... Portland scored a season-high 64 points in the second half. ... Aldridge has 13 games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, third in the NBA behind Miami’s LeBron James and Golden State’s David Lee.

Dallas center Chris Kaman did not play after suffering a concussion during practice Monday.

First-year Portland coach Stotts was an assistant under Carlisle the previous four seasons in Dallas. “Terry has done a great job here,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know exactly what expectations were, but I know (the Blazers) have exceeded them, and he has had a lot of do with that.” ... Portland is in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game behind Houston (25-22) and Utah (24-21). Eight teams in each conference qualify for the first round of the playoffs.