DALLAS (AP) — The most important element from an otherwise meaningless regular-season finale is settled: the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers won’t get first-round rematches in the playoffs.
The Mavericks beat the Blazers 114-98 on Wednesday night, with the game ending about the same time San Antonio lost to New Orleans to sew up Houston as the opening opponent for Dallas. Game 1 is Saturday night at the Rockets.
That means the Mavericks don’t start against the defending-champion Spurs, who opened last year’s postseason by surviving a seven-game series as the top seed against the Mavericks.
The Blazers (51-31), who beat Houston in the first round last year on Damian Lillard’s series-winning 3-pointer in Game 6, have been set as the fourth seed but still start on the road against fifth-seeded Memphis on Sunday night. The Grizzlies clinched that spot by beating Indiana 95-83.
“That doesn’t matter,” LaMarcus Aldridge said before he knew who Portland was playing. He led the Blazers with 19 points after missing two games with a sprained left foot. “Whoever we get, I think we have a chance to beat anybody.”
The Mavericks (50-32) have been locked into the seventh seed in the Western Conference for a week. The Rockets secured the No. 2 spot with the combination of their 117-91 win over Utah and San Antonio’s 108-103 loss to New Orleans.
“We have a tough task ahead of us,” said center Tyson Chandler, who had game highs with 22 points and 15 rebounds against the Blazers.
And Dallas will have some distractions, too. There are several juicy subplots between the Texas rivals, probably topped by Chandler Parsons facing his former team after spending his first three years with the Rockets before signing an offer sheet that Houston wouldn’t match last summer.
If Parsons can’t play because of right knee soreness that kept him out of the last six games of the regular season, there’s MVP candidate James Harden against Rajon Rondo, who the Mavericks traded for to improve their chances of guarding the elite point guards in the West.
And the Rockets have Jason Terry and Corey Brewer, who were teammates with Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler when the Mavericks won their only championship in 2011.
“That’s a lot of external noise,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to make sure that we ignore what’s not important. What’s important is our group, how tied together we are and how strong our will is.”
Nicolas Batum (right knee), CJ McCollum (sprained left ankle) and Chris Kaman (back) sat for Portland against Dallas after getting injured Monday in Oklahoma City. Dorell Wright (broken left hand) and Arron Afflalo (right shoulder strain) aren’t expected back until the playoffs.
The Blazers never led and were down 20 by early in the third quarter of their fourth straight loss to finish the regular season.
But Aldridge and Lillard, who had 17 points, played about the same number of minutes — close to 30 apiece. And Portland didn’t have any more injuries. Aldridge has been playing about half the season with ligament damage in his left thumb that will require surgery in the offseason.
“You always want to win your last game or your last few games, but we’ve had guys out,” Aldridge said. “I think guys just have to be ready to go now.”
ON THE ROAD
Portland was prepared to stay on the road with a Saturday opener in the playoffs, but will instead return to the West Coast since the opener is Sunday. The Blazers had already moved on to potential playoff opponents with their preparations. “We’ve kind of kept it loose,” coach Terry Stotts said before the game. “We haven’t really dived into specifics.”
THE LAST TIME
One other thing about the Rockets and Mavericks: They played a wild seven-game series in the first round in their last meeting, in 2005. Dallas lost the first two at home, then won twice in Houston. The Mavericks won the deciding game by 40 points, with Terry scoring 31.
Trail Blazers: Steve Blake had 14 points with 4-of-7 shooting on 3-pointers. … Seldom-used rookie guard Tim Frazier had his first career double-double with 13 points, tying a career high, and 10 assists.
Mavericks: Dallas secured its first 50-win season since the last of 11 straight that culminated with the championship four years ago. … Amare Stoudemire had 13 points and six rebounds.