Recap: Hawks soar by Mavs late after costly miscues
Recap: Hawks 105 at Mavericks 101
Hawks soar by Mavs late after costly miscues
DALLAS — Although the Dallas Mavericks rode the momentum of two wins to begin their five-game homestand into Monday night’s contest against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, there was not a sense of satisfaction in the home locker room.
Still sitting 4 1/2 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference standings with 50 games in the books, the Mavericks knew that they had no other choice but to remain focused and continue surging ahead on the American Airlines Center court while looking to continue their dominance in front of the hometown fans. Instead, they would take an untimely step backwards, falling to a hard-fought 105-101 defeat.
“We’ve just got to learn from these things and get better,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle emphatically said after another loss by a narrow margin. “We have gotten better, but we haven’t broken the threshold that’s gonna make us a team that can really become a dangerous team. I think we’re a dangerous team, I think we can beat anybody on any given night, but the consistency has got to be better.”
The Mavericks (22-29) would face some early adversity, falling behind 10-0 out of the gate while missing their first six shots of the night. Leading scorer O.J. Mayo then did his best to match ex-Mav Devin Harris at the other end of the floor, taking charge of Dallas’ scoring responsibilities after the slow start. Still, even despite Mayo’s hot start while scoring eight points in the period, the Mavericks faced an uphill climb after committing six turnovers in the quarter to trail 31-23 after one.
“The game was lost in the first three minutes. We were down 10-nothing. We weren’t ready to play,” Carlisle added. “If you want it simple, that’s simple. And it’s on me. I didn’t have our guys ready to play, so I’m taking all the responsibility for this. You’ve got a team of guys that just goes out there kind of walking around at the beginning of the game. That’s on the coach.”
Mayo continued his assault on the Hawks (28-22) to start the second stanza, but the visitors maintained their separation on the scoreboard while pushing the lead back out to double figures. Then it was as if a light switch was flipped on inside of both 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and sixth man Vince Carter as they would rally the Mavs while climbing back to within one, 49-48, entering the halftime intermission.
“Everything was a little too easy for them,” Nowitzki explained. “We missed like the first three or four shots, had some turnovers, got blocked once or twice, and yeah, it was a rough start for sure. Fought way back decent, actually, towards the half. We were probably fortunate to go into halftime and only be down one.”
Led by Mayo’s 13 first-half points on 6-of-9 shooting, the Mavs remained in the game despite connecting on just 45.7 percent from the field compared to Atlanta’s 50 percent at the other end. The Mavs also hit on 5 of 12 from behind the 3-point arc at the midway mark, making up for the Hawks’ 25-20 rebounding margin and 28-18 advantage in points in the paint.
Replacing rookie center Bernard James with veteran big man Elton Brand, Carlisle right away looked for a different beginning to the third quarter than the start of the game. Meanwhile, Nowitzki began to go to work while keeping the Mavs within an arm’s reach, joining Mayo and four-time All-Star Shawn Marion in double figures in the process.
Point guard Darren Collison’s and-one jumper then tied the game at 64-all before immediately being answered by Harris’ 3-pointer. Hawks forward Josh Smith and Carter then exchanged triples before Atlanta began to gain some separation, jumping back ahead by eight before a 7-0 spurt by the Mavs to close the third down 82-81.
A 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line for Carter immediately tied the game to begin the final 12 minutes of play. After a defensive stop, the Mavs then grabbed their first lead of the night at 84-82 on rookie Jae Crowder’s jumper. But the Mavs’ offense would soon grow stagnant before Nowitzki led the break after collecting a steal, feeding Mayo for a thunderous one-handed slam after a score inside by Al Horford to tie the game. Backup big man Brandan Wright then did his best to keep the Hawks at bay, scoring five straight for the Mavs before the Hawks rallied yet again to tie the game at 91-all on Smith’s 3 with 5:43 still on the clock.
After Anthony Tolliver and Nowitzki both split a pair of free throws, the game remained tied until back-to-back Horford scores with just 2:01 left to play. A driving slam by Mayo then brought the Mavs within one possession, until Smith drained his fourth 3 of the night to make it a 99-94 score in Atlanta’s favor.
Two free throws by Nowitzki then put the Mavs down three with 1:14 left for a comeback. He then muscled in a basket inside with 44.1 seconds remaining, bringing the Mavs within one. But the Mavs would lose the momentum after Mayo stole the ball before committing a turnover of his own at the other end after Harris tracked him down for a theft, leading to a Nowitzki foul on Smith, who hit two free throws to make it a three-point game with 22.2 seconds for the home team to answer.
Another turnover by Mayo would follow, however, attempting to force the ball to Carter before Jeff Teague intercepted the pass, leading to Brand’s foul on the point guard, who calmly hit two free throws before Nowitzki rushed down to the other end to connect on a 3 with 6.4 ticks remaining.
“Just got to take care of the ball,” a disappointed Mayo said after his costly miscues. “With Harris chasing me down, and Dirk said it. He was telling me, but when the crowd was going, it’s a pretty good play on his end. And then the one to Vince, I should have read that switch and maybe took Horford off the dribble. It was just an opportunity for us to win the game and we’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
“They just made more plays than us down at the end,” Mayo concluded. “Obviously, we’re disappointed. It was a winnable game, but we didn’t make the plays down at the end and they made some plays.”
“It’s the story of our season,” Nowitzki added. “Down the stretch, we had our chances and for some reason we can never pull those close games out. We’ve been better a little bit at home, but that’s just a game we’ve got to have no matter what happens. You’ve got to find a way to win that game. Little mistakes add up. … We’ve got to execute a little bit better down the stretch. It sounds stupid, everybody says it, but what it comes down to in this league is execution down the stretch in big games and close games.”
Finishing with his second-highest points total of the season, Nowitzki tallied up 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and had a 3-of-4 night from 3-point range.
Mayo added 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting, but committed four turnovers on the night. Meanwhile, Collison — who also dished out a game-high 10 assists — registered 14 points, Carter pitched in 13 points, Wright contributed 11 points and Shawn Marion added 10 points as the Mavs finished with six scorers in double figures.
Smith led the Hawks with 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting and 4 of 5 from 3-point range, adding 13 rebounds and six assists for the double-double. The Hawks also outshot the Mavs on the night, 51.9 percent to 42.7 percent, in addition to a 48-37 rebounding advantage, a 42-36 margin in points in the paint and a 26-14 edge in fast-break points. Atlanta overcame Dallas’ 22 points off 18 Hawks’ turnovers as well by converting the Mavs’ 12 giveaways into 17 points at the other end of the floor.
“You know, it was a tough game,” Marion concluded. “They started out really good. They’re very athletic and very quick. It was a little deceiving to us at times and it took us a little while to adjust to them, but for the most part we were able to get back into the game and catch a rhythm. But we never really could get that big lead like we wanted that we normally get. They’re a tough and talented team over there, and you’ve got to give them credit. They won this game.”
“Look, this is not about one guy doing a few good things,” Carlisle added. “We’ve got to really be tough, we’ve got to be really together, and we weren’t tonight. And that was disappointing.”
Note: The Mavs will now try to get back on track before heading into the All-Star break, welcoming in the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night to the American Airlines Center. The Mavs lead the season series between the two squads 2-0. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
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