(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Los Angeles, where the Dallas Mavericks saw their three-game win streak snapped after a fourth loss of the season to the Lakers.
Recap: Mavericks 108 at Lakers 112 F/OT
LOS ANGELES — Much has changed since the Dallas Mavericks handed the Los Angeles Lakers a second-round playoff series sweep en route to last season’s title.
But if the playoffs were to begin on Sunday, then the two Western Conference powers would meet again with the opportunity to end each others’ seasons as the Mavs entered their matinee matchup in the sixth spot against the third-place Lakers.
And with both teams riding three-game winning streaks entering the day, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle stopped short of calling Sunday’s early tipoff a potential playoff preview.
“We need to play well and we need to get wins,” Carlisle said before the opening tip. “So, it’s important from that standpoint. As far as potential playoff things, it’s not really in my sort of focus at this point. But we’re trying to get to where we’re playing good, consistent basketball. We’ve made some strides and we want to keep going in the right direction.”
Still, the Mavs stepped into the Staples Center ready to send a message to the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers as the L.A. team took the court without the league’s top scorer for a fifth straight game due to a bruised shin. And after dropping the three previous meetings between the two teams earlier in the year, Carlisle and the defending champions tried to avoid a season series sweep while playing without reserve guard Rodrigue Beaubois due to a right calf strain.
But even without Bryant’s lethal offensive game on the floor, the Lakers (39-22) would find a way to hold the Mavericks off. And despite a valiant effort, the Mavericks (34-27) would fall for a forth time to the Lakers, this time in overtime, 112-108.
“Hopefully down the road it doesn’t happen again,” sixth man Jason Terry simply said after the loss.
Welcoming back point guard Jason Kidd after a one-game scheduled rest, the Mavericks got off to a quick start thanks to their floor general’s perimeter shooting. Kidd and new addition Delonte West then lifted the Mavs to a lead as large as eight, taking a 27-22 edge after the backcourt duo accounted for 20 first-quarter points.
It wouldn’t take long for the Mavs to open up a double-digit lead in the second period. But with Mavs leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki struggling to a 0-for-7 start, the Lakers climbed back into the game at the other end with a 9-0 run despite West’s best efforts.
Still, thanks to a late three by Terry, the Mavs entered the halftime intermission with a 54-48 lead.
Despite the Lakers’ 23-21 rebounding margin and 26-22 edge in points in the paint, the Mavs grabbed the advantage at the midway mark with 4-of-8 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Led by West’s 16 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting, the Mavs also outshot the Lakers through two quarters, 55 percent to 39.5 percent.
“Delonte being out five or six weeks (with a fractured right ring ringer) really hurt us. You’ve seen what he can do coming off screen-and-rolls,” Nowitzki explained. “I think that gives us another scorer, another option, and he was phenomenal tonight.”
Battling an aggressive Metta World Peace on the offensive end for the Lakers, again the Mavs looked in Kidd’s direction for offense from the outside. Then Nowitzki began to show signs of life after his sluggish start, draining a three of his own before another jumper to keep the Lakers at bay.
But the Lakers would emerge with a 64-63 lead on Devin Ebanks’ jumper before Kidd and Ramon Sessions exchanged threes. And even with Terry draining a three just before the close of the third, the Mavs trailed 76-75 entering the final 12 minutes of play.
Looking for a spark, the Mavs went to their go-to scorers down the stretch and Nowitzki and Terry gladly rose to the occasion, draining back-to-back 3-pointers to take an 83-80 lead. Using a zone defense at the other end, the Mavs then looked to slow the Lakers down inside, turning defensive stops into an 87-81 lead with 6:51 remaining on West’s driving score.
Still, after Andrew Bynum’s dunk-tip inside, the Mavs nursed just an 89-88 edge with 5:25 on the game clock.
Nowitzki then put his team on his back with an array of offensive moves. But Sessions stroked once again from the outside, swishing in a three from the top of the key to lift the Lakers to a 95-93 edge with 3:24 left that would eventually be answered again by Terry from behind the arc to stay within an arm’s reach.
Terry then tied the game at 98-all on a clutch jumper with 55.4 ticks remaining, before the Dallas defense held firm and secured a rebound, which led to a timeout with a chance to win it in the final 1.5 seconds.
With Kidd inbounding, the ball went to Nowitzki out of the timeout, but the 7-footer’s shot over Pau Gasol would hit off the back of the iron as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
Terry continued to stroke the hot hand in the extra period, before Gasol connected on a ruled three that appeared to be offensively interfered with by Matt Barnes.
“It was a goaltend that was missed,” Carlisle empathically said after the game. “And we had a one-point lead at that time, so it’s a big play. … I don’t know what to say about that. They’ll see that in black and white in New York.”
“I don’t really know what happened. It looked like he touched the ball to me, but you never know,” Nowitzki added. “Everything goes so quick, and they counted it as a three, so that was a tough one.”
Gasol and Nowitzki then exchanged 3-pointers with the Spaniards’ second triple giving the Lakers a 106-104 lead with 2:53 remaining in the extra period.
Up two, World Peace connected on a jumper to extend the Lakers’ lead inside the final minute. But after a pair of free throws by Nowitzki and strong defensive stand by Brendan Haywood on Bynum, the Mavs had the ball down two with 15.1 seconds left to respond.
The Mavs then fizzled out after Terry missed on a drive to the hoop before Shawn Marion misfired a pass for a turnover with 3.8 ticks remaining.
“I take a lot of that on my shoulders at the end on the last play, but we didn’t as a team collectively make enough plays throughout the ballgame,” Terry explained. “Wide-open layup, I solely take the blame for it. I command and ask for the ball in that situation. … Give them credit, it was a savvy defensive play. But if I do it again, I know what play I’m gonna make.”
Marion then committed a foul on Gasol with .5 left before the big man put the game away at the foul line.
“We did a lot of good things, but then we got unlucky with a couple haymaker shots and a goaltending that was allowed and some other stuff,” Carlisle concluded. “Sometimes that’s the way that it goes. We’ve gotta pack up and get ready for the next game. It’s as simply as that.”
In the defeat, Nowitzki hit just 9-of-28 from the floor but finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
“I’ve just gotta make some shots,” Nowitzki modestly said. “Tonight, I was more of a volume shooter and that’s not how I want to play. I want to be an efficient scorer, so I’ve got some work to do.”
“He had some opportunities that he missed … but, look, we’ve gotta get him some better looks,” Carlisle added. “I mean, 9-for-28 is not a Dirk Nowitzki night.”
Terry added 21 points off the bench and West recorded 20 points of his own. Kidd pitched in 13 points to go with seven rebounds while Marion added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Bynum led five Lakers in double figures with 23 points on 9-of-24 from the field to go along with 16 rebounds.
“He’s definitely a good player, but like you saw tonight, he got 24 shots. When you get that many shots, it puts you in a position to have a lot of good nights, a lot of opportunities. His game has come a long way. He’s a tough matchup for anybody. Again, he’s developed, he’s gotten better and better every year. And if we play them (in the playoffs), I hope he goes 9-for-24,” Haywood said of his matchup against the All-Star big man.
“He didn’t have a lot of free looks. He threw in a lot of shots with guys draped on him and we did make some mistakes,” Carlisle added. “But we battled hard. We didn’t make enough shots, we didn’t get enough stops.”
Sessions added 22 points and Gasol recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds. But the Mavericks finished the night outshooting the Lakers, 46.6 percent to 45.2 percent, despite L.A.’s 52-42 rebounding advantage. The Lakers also ended the game with a 50-32 edge in points in the paint and 18-9 margin in second-chance points.
“If we don’t get pounded by 20 on the glass, I think we have a chance,” Nowitzki concluded.
The Mavericks will now conclude their four-game road trip Monday night in Utah, looking to sweep the season series with the Jazz. The Mavs have won all three meetings between the two teams. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 8 p.m. CT.
“Tonight, obviously, disappointment, but we’ve gotta get over it quick. We’ve got Utah tomorrow at Utah,” Terry said while looking ahead.
Note: The Mavs return to the American Airlines Center on April 18 when they play host to the Houston Rockets. The Mavs lead the season series 2-0 and will go for the sweep. That game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the first round of the playoffs are now on sale. Tickets are available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX) or at the American Airlines Center north box Office. Ticket prices start at $12 and up and there is a four-ticket limit per game.
Dates and times for the first two games have not been announced but will be posted on mavs.com by April 27th.