Inside Report: Mavericks-Hornets recap — Late-game miscues cost Mavs in the Nola
Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from New Orleans, where the Mavericks fell to a Chris Paul-less Hornets team for a second loss by a single point in the last three games.
NEW ORLEANS — If the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Hornets continue at their current paces then the two appear to be on a collision course for an opening-round playoff series.
That postseason matchup figures to look much differently than Wednesday night’s contest, however, with both teams missing a key ingredient to their success.
The Hornets took the court without their unquestioned leader, All-Star point guard Chris Paul, as he missed his second straight game due to a concussion. Meanwhile, the Mavericks would be without starting small forward Peja Stojakovic, as the ex-Hornet sharpshooter battled a stiff neck.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, center Tyson Chandler was set to make his return to the floor after a three-game absence with a sprained right ankle, giving the team a major boost as it sought a 20th victory in a 22-game stretch.
But even with the big man back to his old self the Mavericks (46-18) weren’t able to come out of the physical contest unscathed, outexecuted by the Hornets down the stretch even without Paul in the lineup and eventually suffering a 93-92 defeat. It’s the Mavericks’ eighth straight loss in New Orleans and the third one-point defeat in the last 22 outings, interrupting what would otherwise be an unbeaten stretch.
“We did everything to lose the game,” point guard Jason Kidd said after the loss. “We didn’t make plays down in the end, so you’ve got to give the Hornets credit. They kept playing, they got one. We did everything to lose it.”
“Every game you want to win, regardless of what the lineup is out there. This is a disappointing loss regardless (of Paul’s absence),” Chandler added.
Taking the court without Stojakovic in the first unit, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle opted to insert forward Shawn Marion into the starting lineup, joining Kidd, second-year standout Rodrigue Beaubois, leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler. Beaubois, however, would be the one getting the Mavs off to a quick start, as the cat-quick guard helped his team jump out to an early eight-point advantage with an explosive offensive attack.
But with both teams struggling to find the bottom of the nets the Mavericks couldn’t maintain the lead, heading into the second period knotted at 16-all in a low-scoring affair. New Orleans’ dreadful 8-of-22 shooting in the quarter still bettered Dallas’ 7-of-23 at the other end.
After watching as Beaubois handled the scoring responsibilities in the first quarter, Nowitzki took control of things in the second stanza. The 7-footer scored at will while matched up with the Hornets’ David West, producing baskets with an array of offensive moves. Nowitzki would then get a helping hand from reserve J.J. Barea, as the undersized guard rained in back-to-back 3-pointers to lift the Mavs to a controlling lead.
But a nine-point Dallas lead would be trimmed to just three, 46-43, at the halftime intermission after Marco Belinelli swished in a halfcourt heave at the buzzer.
Nowitzki led all scorers at the midway mark with 14 points, bettering Belinelli’s 12 points to lead the Hornets. Meanwhile, Barea pitched in 10 points off the bench, although the Mavericks were still outshot by the Hornets (38-29) through two quarters, 45 percent to 44 percent. And although both squads finished with 20 rebounds at the break, Chandler would show no ill effects of the ankle injury, grabbing 10 first-half boards.
“I felt good out there. I was moving around pretty well,” Chandler said of his return. “At first, obviously, when you go out there you’re a little hesitant. But I moved around, felt good and I was able to get in the flow of the game.”
After supreme work on the glass in the first half, Chandler would turn his attention to the offensive end, scoring with ease from the inside and out to collect his 17th double-double of the season in the process.
But the Mavericks would then receive a scare when Marion flew into the stands after a flagrant foul on Belinelli during a breakaway attempt. The forward would remain on the floor momentarily, but would stay in the game, knocking down the foul shot before heading to the bench to receive treatment for his sore left ribs. He would not return, saying after the game that X-rays were negative.
“I just kinda hit a spot where I was tender at already,” Marion said of the injury. “So, I’ll be alright. I just fell into a knee or a camera (on the baseline) and it hit directly into my rib cage. It’s real tender, but I’ll be alright.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs would sprint to a double-digit lead, as Brian Cardinal relieved Marion and drew consecutive loose-ball and offensive fouls on the defensive end. The Mavs would then head into the fourth up 70-60 after back-to-back 3-pointers by sixth man Jason Terry.
The Hornets would continue to battle, however, storming to within four behind Paul’s replacement, Jarrett Jack, early in the final 12 minutes of action. But Nowitzki’s and-1 jumper with 4:35 remaining would keep the Hornets at bay, fouling out Carl Landry at the same time.
The two teams would then exchange blows, until Cardinal’s clutch corner three lifted the Mavs to an 89-81 advantage with 2:25 left. The Mavericks would continue to try to answer the call down the stretch, getting a boost from a technical foul call on West after he pushed Nowitzki into a seat on the Dallas bench.
But the Mavs would have to clear a few more hurdles after Emeka Okafor’s and-1 on Nowitzki’s fourth foul of the night, bringing the Hornets to within two, 92-90, after the center’s missed free throw with 17.7 ticks left.
“Hey, look, they had to make every play to win the game and they did,” Carlisle said of the Hornets. “They threw in a halfcourt shot at halftime, they had another shot that was a hair from counting at the end of the third quarter and, you know, those are plays that keep you in games.”
Chandler would then go 0-for-2 at the foul line on the other end of the court, before Kidd would commit a foul on Jack’s three-point attempt with 8.4 seconds remaining. And unfortunately for Dallas, the fill-in point guard would calmly nail all three shots at the charity stripe to put the Mavs in a one-point hole.
“We made some mistakes down the stretch. We had an opportunity to seal the game when I was at the free throw line,” Chandler admitted. “I missed two free throws, crucial, but I’ll do it again. I’ll step to the free throw line the next time I’m in the opportunity and I’ll knock them down.”
“If we make free throws or get a stop, the game is over,” Kidd added. “I felt that [Jack] was going to shoot the three, so I tried to crowd him. But he did a good job of drawing the foul. As a defender, you don’t think you fouled, but they called it and it was a smart play on his part. But at the same point, we had eight seconds left and came up short.”
Carlisle would call a play for Nowitzki and Kidd would find the 7-footer matched up with West. But West would switch with Okafor once the ball was inbounded, and the Hornets’ defensive leader would keep Nowitzki from getting close to his desired spot on the floor — free throw line extended — settling instead for an 18-foot fadeaway over the center’s outstretched arm that would hit the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending the Mavs to another tough last-second defeat.
“Just bad, bad execution down the stretch,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve just got to find a way to make it happen. The last possession is a play that we’ve ran before. I come off a double screen, they knew it was coming and they switched and denied me and I had to make another play off the dribble, which is really not what we wanted. But it should’ve never come down to that.”
“We didn’t make plays. You’ve gotta make free throws, you’ve gotta be able to get stops, you’ve gotta be able to get rebounds and we didn’t do it,” Carlisle said of the play late. “You’ve got a seven-point lead with 1:13 to go and you’ve gotta be able to finish it off by making the plays. You’ve gotta make a stop … Credit them for making plays and we did not.”
Despite missing the final shot, Nowitzki finished the night with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Chandler registered 16 points and 13 rebounds, albeit in a losing effort to move the Mavs to 13-4 this season when the big man has recorded a double-double.
Off the bench, Barea posted 12 points while Terry added 10 of his own.
In Paul’s place, Jack led the Hornets with 21 points, matching Belinelli for team-high honors and dishing out seven assists as well. West added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Although the Mavericks outshot the Hornets, 45 percent to 44 percent, their ultimate demise would be on the glass, as New Orleans concluded the game with a 44-31 rebounding edge and a 17-7 advantage in second-chance points.
The Mavericks will now try to immediately put the loss of their minds, welcoming in Carmelo Anthony and the new-look New York Knicks (34-29) on Thursday night to conclude a stretch of four games in five nights.
The Mavericks went into Madison Square Garden and handed the Knicks squad a 113-97 loss back on Feb. 2, but New York has since added Anthony to the equation after the three-team, 12-player transaction that sent the scoring assassin from Denver to the Big Apple.
Anthony lifted the Knicks to a 110-108 win in Memphis on Wednesday night, draining the game-winner with .5 seconds remaining. And with his team looking to rebound and get back in the win column, Nowitzki knows that he and his teammates will have to turn their attention from the tough loss in New Orleans to a Knicks team out for revenge when it heads into the American Airlines Center.
“We’ve just got to keep on plugging and we’ll see what happens next time,” Nowitzki said. “The last three weeks or whatever we’ve lost three games, all of them by one point, so that really stinks. But hey, I guess we did a nice job in the other 19 of closing out and winning, so sometimes you’re just gonna get the short end of the stick … They’re tough, they sting, but you just can’t win them all in this league.”
Note: The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center on Thursday night, hosting Carmelo Anthony and the new-look New York Knicks. Tip-off for that game will be at 8:30 pm. CT, airing nationally on TNT and locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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