Those beards aren't coming off yet.
Chris Kaman scored a season-high 26 points and the unshaven 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 2 1/2 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.
Led by veteran Dirk Nowitzki, a handful of the Mavs have been growing out their beards since early February, vowing not to shave until they reach .500 and make the playoffs. Kaman is among them.
"I'm not sure how excited everyone else is about it because I don't think they like how it looks,'' he said. "But I'm not really thinking about it because it's important for us to finish the season on a good note and we have the next five games to do that.''
After the game, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he held Nowitzki out of the fourth quarter because of a sore foot. Nowitzki said it wasn't serious and he would play Wednesday when the Mavericks host Phoenix
"We just felt like, either way, it was more important to keep him out,'' Carlisle said.
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.
Rookie 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.
"We're one of those teams that lets other teams back in so it was kind of frustrating, but we're lucky there wasn't much time left on the clock because I think it might have been a different game,'' Kaman said.
Barton's breakout performance had the Blazers in an upbeat mood following the game, despite the loss. Barton had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the second half alone.
"Yeah Willie B! Yeah Willie B!'' two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge shouted a cross the locker room. "What did you eat today?''
Barton, who was a second-round pick by the Blazers out of Memphis, was brimming with confidence.
"Everyone on the team says I've got a special talent,'' he said. "You've just got to wait your turn sometimes.''
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. His 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 but Matthews was on crutches following the game.
The three-year NBA veteran was averaging 15 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists going into the game.
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 Aldridge, for the final push but came up short.
As for his beard, Kaman said he's thinking about keeping it.
"I don't care it's a lot of work. I just let it go,'' he said. "It's like a Chia Pet.''
Those beards aren't coming off yet.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
3A AREA PLAYOFFS: Tahlequah Sequoyah wins nail-biter over No. 4 Verdigris
The Tahlequah Sequoyah Indians pulled the upset Friday night and punched their ticket to the Class 3A State Tournament.
Behind Caisen Green’s game-high 26 points and B.J. Leach’s 16 points, the Indians roared past No. 4 Verdigris, 64-55 in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
4A AREA PLAYOFFS: Stilwell eliminates Inola
The Inola Longhorns got behind early and never could recover as Stilwell rolled to a 73-47 win in the Class 4A Area Tournament Friday afternoon at Claremore High School Gymnasium.
4A AREA PLAYOFFS: Inola knocks out Locust Grove
The Inola Lady Longhorns moved one win closer to punching their ticket to the Class 4A State Tournament Friday afternoon.
With the 37-35 win over Locust Grove, the Lady Longhorns advanced to the Area Finals Saturday night against Vinita.
High School Basketball State Tournament Brackets
The Oklahoma High School Basketball State Tournaments will get under way this week in Oklahoma City and the Tulsa-Metro Area.
Below is a listing of the Class 3A-6A State Tournament Pairings.
Arkansas fires women's basketball coach Tom Collen
Arkansas fired women's basketball coach Tom Collen on Friday, bringing a close to a disappointing stretch for the program.
The Razorbacks (19-11) lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament to Mississippi on Wednesday, the eighth time in nine seasons they've failed to advance past the opening game.
SEC MBB: Alabama snaps Arkansas' 6-game win streak
Trevor Releford scored 24 points and Shannon Hale added 18 to lead Alabama to an 83-58 victory over Arkansas on Saturday, snapping the Razorbacks' six-game winning streak.
SEC MBB: Tennessee trounces Missouri, 72-45
Antonio Barton scored 16 points and Jarnell Stokes had a double-double Saturday as Tennessee trounced Missouri 72-45 to win its fourth straight game and boost its NCAA tournament hopes.
BIG 12 MBB: Crockett leads Texas Tech past Texas
Jaye Crockett scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Texas Tech to a 59-53 win over Texas in a regular-season finale on Saturday.
This was the Red Raiders' (14-17, 6-12 Big 12) first win over the Longhorns (22-9, 11-7) since 2008 in Lubbock.
- More Sports Headlines
- 'Twice as Nice'