Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports Editor

PORTLAND, OR – The 34-24 Dallas Mavericks built an 81-61 lead going into the 4th quarter of Friday night’s matchup in Portland, surviving a late run by the Trail Blazers for 97-94 victory.

Portland center Joel Pryzbilla (left) pulls down a rebound over Dallas center Brendan Hayword in Friday night's loss (Photo credit: Don Ryan/AP)

At 28-32 on the season, Portland’s hopes of making an incredible finishing run for a final playoff spot when they lost all-star LaMarcus Aldridge to what might be a season long injury. With three home games and no road games, hopes were high that Portland might sweep and decrease the gap between the No. 8 and No. 10 seed where the Blazers currently sit.

The first game of the Blazers’ week began with a 94-89 loss at home to the Houston Rockets behind a superb effort of point guard Goran Dragic (22 Pts, 2 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl) who may just be one of the biggest targets for the Blazers this offense, desperate for a point guard.

“It is going to be a crazy summer for me, but now I just want to be focused and play hard in every game,” said Dragic. “We are focused on the playoffs with Houston.”

Portland point guard Raymond Felton has done little to ensure the confidence of fans who would be excited to add Dragic to the team. Aldridge led the Blazers with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals/blocks/assists in what might have been his last game of the season.

Former Blazers center Marcus Camby, now with the Rockets, got revenge on his former team while contributing nine points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes of work.

In game two this week, the Blazers got a much-needed 118-110 win over Golden State on Wednesday despite the loss of Aldridge.

It took a complete effort from everyone to get the victory. Point guard Raymond Felton, answering to Dragic’s impressive performance for the Rockets, finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds in one of his most impressive performance as a Trail Blazer.

The two stars of the game were power forward J.J. Hickson (23 Pts, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk) and guard Jamal Crawford who scored 34 points coming off of the bench.

“I envisioned more nights like this when I first came here, but everything happens for a reason and better late than never,” Crawford said after the game.

Game three was a complete disappointment for the Blazers as they were never in it. A strong effort at the end brought the score to a respectful 3-point loss, reminiscent of Game 3 in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Interim head coach Kale Canales’ record sits at 8-9 as he tries to make a case to remain the coach into the long-term for the Blazers.

“I think the Mavericks won the game,” Canales said to reporters after the game. “I don’t think we gave them the game.”

The Blazers are 4.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the No. 8 seed in the Western Division, a substantial gap with just six games remaining.

From here, the Blazers will look to climb the “lottery boards” for a high pick in the draft. With their own pick and New Jersey’s first round, the Blazers’ odds of receiving two high draft picks are incredibly likely.

With that said, there are an abundance of areas the Blazers must address in the offense, beginning with the front office.

Wesley Matthews (left) steals the ball from Jason Terry (right) in a game earlier in the season (Photo credit: Tim Sharp/AP)

First and foremost, Paul Allen needs to find a permanent GM replacement. Whether that’s sticking with interim GM Chad Buchannan, or finding a more experienced candidate, the Blazers need a permanent fixture.

From there, the GM can begin the process of finding a head coach to replace fired coach Nate McMillan.

Several names that have floated around are John Calipari from the University of Kentucky and Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic, if Van Gundy was to be fired.

As for players, the obvious question mark is the point guard position. The Blazers have the option of going after someone in free agency or addressing the issue in the draft.

The two most likely guards in the draft are Kendall Marshall (North Carolina) and Jeremy Lamb (UConn). Lamb, more of a shooting guard, would be less suitable than Marshall who is a pure point guard.

Portland also needs an answer at the center position. Joel Pryzbilla, while a well-liked player, does not help the Blazers long-term. Depending on where Portland ends up in the draft, they could go with Andre Drummond (UConn) or Tyler Zeller (North Carolina).

Another “big-man” option would be Jared Sullinger of Ohio State. To those who believe in superstitions, maybe drafting a center out of Ohio State isn’t the best idea. Fans have not forgot you Greg Oden.

Looking at the week ahead, the Blazers play four games with the first to on the road Sunday night against Sacramento and Monday at Phoenix. Portland will host the Jazz on Wednesday before travelling to Memphis on Saturday to conclude the week.

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