A popular question in the NBA these days: Are the Trail Blazers for real?

Portland fans might hope the Blazers are truly one the league’s best teams, critics might suggest they’re interlopers in the elite class. Guess what? They don’t care.

“We just take it day-by-day and game-by-game,” forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. “We don’t get caught up in all the hype. We just focus on doing our things that we need to do. Getting better defensively, staying focused on us.”

The Blazers were very good defensively and focused like a laser Saturday as they put on as impressive a performance as they’ve had all season, running the Dallas Mavericks out of American Airlines Center for three quarters in a 127-111 victory. The fourth quarter was a different story, but more on that later.

First the dominance: One night after putting San Antonio away with a strong fourth-quarter stretch, the Blazers took that sharp play and extended into a dominant first half, when they outscored Dallas 71-52, then revved things up further in the third, when they outscored the Mavericks 33-18.

The Blazers (31-9) have a reputation of a team that relies heavily on three-pointers and tries to outscore the other team, but on this night the catalyst was defense as they held Dallas to 39.4 percent field goal shooting in the first three quarters.

“Having the lead at halftime and coming out with that defensive focus in the third quarter was a really good sign for us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

After several weeks in which the Blazers slipped defensively, they spent three recent practices working on it before embarking on their current four-games-in-five-nights trip. It paid off handsomely Saturday, not only in keeping the Mavericks down, but also in allowing the Blazers to get out and run after Dallas misses.

Portland was averaging just 10.9 fastbreak points but finished with 31, including 30 in those dominant three quarters. Even though both teams played Friday, Dallas’ game was farther away, in Phoenix. Portland took advantage, with point guard Damian Lillard pushing the ball after Dallas misses on his way to 10 assists.