Recap: Valiant Mavs fall to league-best Clippers to move to 0-2 on road trip
Recap: Mavericks 93 at Clippers 99
Valiant Mavs fall to league-best Clippers to move to 0-2 on road trip
With his team slumping, frustration building and speculation swirling, Dirk Nowitzki set the record straight before the Dallas Mavericks looked to bring an end to their three-game losing streak against the NBA-best Los Angeles Clippers.
Entering Wednesday night with his team nine games below .500, the 11-time All-Star forward put to rest any speculation that he would ever request a trade from the only franchise he’s ever suited up for in his illustrious career. Nowitzki also made it clear that it’s time for him to lead the turnaround as his team attempts to fight its way up the standings, looking to avenge a 112-90 road defeat at the hands of the Clippers on Dec. 5.
“Dallas has been my home for so long, I’ve grown to love the people. They took me under their wing when I first got there and didn’t know anything. They were phenomenal to me, so I can’t really see myself anywhere else,” Nowitzki said.
He added: “Losing is frustrating, but we’ve got to stay positive. Keep your head up and keep working. That’s what I’ll do, push forward. … During an 82-game season, there’s always ups and downs. No matter how good your team is, you have to fight through some adversity to get better. So it’s been a tough stretch, obviously a lot longer than we all expected, but we’ve got to fight through it now, keep pushing and keep plugging.”
The Mavericks (13-23) then continued plugging away but again found themselves on the downside of a great effort, falling to the league’s top team after a 99-93 defeat to move to 0-2 on their current three-game road trip following a 13th loss of the last 15 outings.
Even with Nowitzki in the starting lineup for the third straight game after preseason arthroscopic knee surgery, the Mavericks would find themselves in an early hole. Still, even after falling behind by eight points in the early going, the Mavs escaped into the second period trailing just 25-21 despite 9-of-24 shooting and four turnovers in the first 12 minutes of action.
Led by their bench, the Clippers (28-8) again began to surge ahead while creating separation on the scoreboard. But after falling behind by nine, point guard Darren Collison took the game into his own hands, draining a 3 from the wing before attacking the lane for a trio of driving scores.
“The lane was pretty much open. I was just trying to be myself and be aggressive any way I can,” Collison modestly said.
However, the Clippers immediately turned to sharpshooter Matt Barnes from behind the 3-point arc, before Collison’s furious rally to close the half ended with the Mavs down two, 52-50, following Chris Paul’s floater at the buzzer.
Despite Collison’s 15-point second quarter to bring his total to 17 through the first 24 minutes of action, the Mavericks were outshot at the midway mark, 48.8 percent to 40 percent. The Mavs did make up for their shooting disadvantage and 22-21 rebounding deficit, however, with a 29-18 edge in points in the paint and 12 points off the Clippers’ 13 turnovers.
But again the Clippers charged back, cutting their deficit from 10 to just three, 75-72, entering the fourth after Barnes’ 3 swished in as the buzzer sounded to end the third period.
“Barnes got loose a couple of times when he shouldn’t have,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle later admitted. “But some of them were plays that Paul hit him with timely passes and he was opportunistic.”
After Nowitzki’s turnover to open the final 12 minutes of action led to a dunk by Barnes, the Mavs found themselves up by just a single point. But Nowitzki would get his revenge, draining back-to-back vintage jumpers before a steal and breakaway score by Paul put the Clippers ahead by two, 82-80, with 9:05 still on the clock.
The Mavs would briefly settle down after a timeout, taking the lead right back as Nowitzki found rookie Jae Crowder on the wing for a 3-pointer before Barnes returned fire by hitting his fifth triple of the night. However, the Clippers refused to allow the visiting team to creep back into the game, taking a 90-83 advantage on Jamal Crawford’s score to force a Dallas timeout with 6:44 remaining.
Paul then tried to put the Mavs away with his end-to-end play, while leading scorer O.J. Mayo began to will his team back into the game with consecutive driving baskets to make it a 92-87 score with 3:59 left.
“We knew Chris Paul was going to turn it up. You know, he was very passive in the first three quarters, basically till the middle of the third quarter, and then we knew he was going to dominate the ball a little more and try to look for his stuff. And they turned up the energy a little bit. We were down seven in the fourth and still fought back. I like how we responded to their run. We came back and we had our chances,” Nowitzki said.
After back-to-back jumpers by sixth man Vince Carter and Mayo cut the disadvantage to just three, Nowitzki followed up a 1-of-2 trip to the foul line by Blake Griffin with another jumper to bring the Mavs within two. But Griffin would come right back with a jumper before Dallas’ inability to keep ex-Mav Caron Butler off the glass would become the eventual downfall, as a miss by Carter and free throws by Paul put the game away.
“We had two good stops and being unable to finish it off with rebounds in a one-position game is really tough,” Carlisle concluded.
He added: “They had some fortunate things happen. They’re a good team and we’ve just simply have to do better and simply have to keep working. That’s where we are. … We did a good job in a lot of areas and right now that’s the best team in the league. We’re right there, but we’ve just got to keep working to get over the hump.”
Finishing with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, Collison led four Mavericks in double figures while adding four rebounds and six assists. Hitting 6-of-15 from the field, Mayo pitched in 17 points, while Nowitzki recorded 15 points and Marion registered 11 points in the first unit.
Meanwhile, Paul matched Barnes for team-high honors with 19 points, as the All-Star point guard also ditched out 16 assists. And with Griffin adding 15 points and 13 rebounds, the Clippers also finished outshooting the Mavs on the night, 48.1 percent to 42.9 percent, while claiming a 47-34 advantage on the glass to overcome 21 turnovers for 23 Dallas points.
“The game plan was to take care of lobs and take away the paint, especially on the pick-and-rolls, and you’ve got to give Matt Barnes credit. Some of their other perimeter players were hitting shots,” Collison explained after the Clippers connected on 10-of-24 from long range. “It just comes down to making shots and not making silly mistakes on the defensive end. It just seems like the same story I keep telling over and over. We’re right there making the same mistakes, but we’re all hurting, too. We’re feeling the same pain after every game and we’ve just got to make that one extra play. Whether it is on the defensive end or on the offensive end, make that one extra play to get this thing rolling.
“We’re going to keep digging,” he added. “You know, it’s early on in the season. We’re going to keep a positive mindset. And I’ll tell you one thing: once we get this thing rolling and we turn this thing over, I don’t think there’s no looking back for us. All it takes is that one game to turn things around for us and I’m going to be optimistic about the future right now for us.”
Note: The Mavericks will now conclude their road trip on the second night of a back-to-back Thursday in Sacramento in a second meeting against the Kings. The Mavs captured a 119-96 blowout win at home over the Kings back on Dec. 10. The game will air locally at 9 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.
“We’ve got to move on to tomorrow and we’ve got to play better tomorrow,” Carlisle matter-of-factly foreshadowed.