Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from ORACLE Arena after the Mavericks' Saturday night showdown with the Warriors, as the Dallas team failed to sweep the season series while dropping its second straight game.
OAKLAND, Calif. — With his team looking to rebound from its worst loss of the season — a 110-82 defeat at the hands of the back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night — Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle expressed to his players the importance of staying in the moment, as the team entered ORACLE Arena on Saturday night hoping for a four-game season series sweep of the Golden State Warriors.
And with the second half of a back-to-back coming on Sunday night in a potential playoff preview against Portland to conclude Dallas’ longest road trip of the season, Carlisle hammered into his players’ skulls words that would keep the squad from looking back to a tough loss and looking forward to what still lies ahead.
“Look, we’ve got a veteran team and these guys have been through tough games before,” Carlisle said before the matchup. “Big picture-wise we have some team goals that we identified as being important. We’re on track for some of those, and so the last seven games are what we’ve got to focus on and being ready for the first round [of the playoffs]. And playing well tonight is key. Winning tonight is key. But it’s staying in the moment, staying in the present and thinking and working on a process rather than results.”
Under that premise, Carlisle’s crew took the court looking to repeat the events of March 20, when the Dallas team handed the Warriors a 101-73 loss at the American Airlines Center in the Mavs’ most decisive win of the season. But their coach’s encouraging words wouldn’t be enough to spark a Dallas win on this night, as the Warriors claimed their only victory in the season series, 99-92, while handing the Mavericks (53-23) a second straight loss.
Carlisle had a trick up his sleeve before the game even tipped off, inserting swingman DeShawn Stevenson back into the starting lineup for the 52nd time this season, as the 10-year pro made his first start since the last time the two teams squared off. Meanwhile, four-time All-Star forward Shawn Marion headed back to the second unit after starting five straight games.
Stevenson would draw the first assignment on the Warriors’ leading scorer, Monta Ellis, while second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois lined up opposite of fellow sophomore Stephen Curry. And after surrendering the opening basket of the game, the Mavericks would surge ahead with a Dirk Nowitzki-led 8-0 run.
But Ellis would shoot the Warriors (33-44) back into the game, trading shot for shot with Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry, before the Dallas squad escaped the opening period with a 29-28 edge on reserve guard J.J. Barea’s driving and-1 finish.
Nowitzki and Terry combined to score 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first quarter to combat Ellis’ 11 first-period points.
Barea’s three-point play to end the first would give the Mavericks the momentum needed to begin the second stanza with four straight scores. And all told, it would be an 11-0 spurt for the Mavs, as the visiting team opened up a lead as large as 10.
But that advantage would be gone in an instance, as Ellis once again fired away and nailed a 3-pointer that put Golden State ahead, 45-44. The Mavericks would again respond, however, to take a 50-48 advantage into the halftime break.
Despite hitting just 1-of-9 from 3-point range, the Mavericks still managed to outshoot the Warriors in the first half, 48.8 percent to 45.5 percent.
“We’ve got to just keep stepping into those 3s if they’re there,” Nowitzki said. “If not, we’ve got to take it to the basket…On a night like tonight, if the shots aren’t going in we’ve got to find something else.”
Ellis led all scorers with 14 points at the midway point to go along with Warriors big man David Lee’s 10, while Nowitzki’s 11 points and 24 combined from the trio of Terry, Marion and Barea paced the Mavericks.
Carlisle again saw the need to make a switch in his lineup just before the start of the third quarter, sitting Beaubois in favor of Barea as the teams took the court for the second half of play. Still, the Mavericks’ cold-shooting night from long range would catch up with them while the Warriors opened up a lead as large as 11.
“Our undoing was the beginning of the third quarter when we went 3-for-19,” Carlisle said. “I just kept believing that we were going to hit a hot streak.”
Around the same time Dallas’ starting center Tyson Chandler tried to play on despite being visibly slowed after landing hard on his back from a tough fall while trying to draw a charge. And with their defensive enforcer and high-flying big man grounded, the Mavericks’ inside attack would suffer.
“I think we just let a few little mishaps take us out of our game,” Marion explained.
But the Mavs didn’t let the Warriors out of their sight, closing the gap to 72-67 heading to the fourth, despite the fact that Ellis outscored the entire Dallas team in the third quarter, 18-17.
The final 12 minutes of play wouldn’t start well for the Mavericks, however, as Warriors reserve forward Al Thornton began to assert himself with above-the-rim finishes. The Warriors would also begin to collect every loose ball, preventing the Mavs from mounting a comeback after the Golden State lead reached 12.
That’s when Dallas turned to its trio off the bench, and Terry, Marion and Barea would in fact muster up a rally, trimming the deficit to just three, 91-88, with 2:28 remaining after Terry found Marion underneath the basket for a two-handed flush in the midst of a 13-4 run.
But Curry immediately defused the Mavs’ momentum with a 3 inside the final two minutes to extend the Warriors’ lead to six. Golden State followed that up by increasing its defensive pressure, forcing two misses by Marion from in close in the final minute.
“I thought our defense was solid in the fourth. We just couldn’t make that one play on offense to get over the hump,” Nowitzki said of the execution down the stretch.
Thornton would do the rest, sending the Mavericks home for the night with a score to put the Warriors up seven with 26.1 seconds left.
Off the bench, Marion tallied 21 points to lead the Mavs on 10-of-17 shooting. He also rejected a season-high three blocked shots.
Terry pitched in 17 points, hitting 7-of-15 from the floor despite a 1-for-6 night from behind the arc. Nowitzki (16), Barea (13) and Chandler (12) made it five Mavericks in double figures, while Barea also dished out a game-high 11 assists on the night.
Ellis, however, led five Warriors in double figures with 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting, hitting one less 3 than the Mavs as a team with a 4-for-8 night from deep.
Albeit in a loss, the Mavs finished with a 56-26 advantage in bench scoring, adding a 50-38 margin in points in the paint and a 29-20 edge in fast-break points.
But after the Mavs’ 5-of-25 night from long range, the visiting Dallas team was outshot, 44.9 percent to 41.1 percent, while both teams grabbed 43 rebounds on the night.
“Our offense was good, our shotmaking wasn’t there. It was a tough shot-making night…It was just one of those nights when we needed to make more shots,” Carlisle concluded.
“We didn’t make shots. We had great opportunities, great looks, but we just didn’t make them,” point guard Jason Kidd echoed.
The Mavs will now wrap up their road trip Sunday night in Portland, playing in their third back-to-back on the 10-day voyage and hoping to leave the Rose Garden with a 3-1 season series win.
“We’ve been one of the better teams on back-to-backs, and I have confidence in these guys,” Carlisle said while looking ahead to Sunday night. “It was a tough night, but we’ve got to shake it off.”
“This is a big game tomorrow against a team that we could play in the first round of the playoffs. And that’s what it boils down to,” Marion added.
Note: The Mavericks-Blazers showdown will tip off at 8 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21.
The team returns to Dallas to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. The Nuggets lead the season series 2-1 including a 121-120 win over the Mavs in Denver on Feb. 10. That game has been moved up and will now tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing 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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Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the First Round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs are now on sale. Fans that purchase single-game tickets will receive a commemorative 2011 Mavs Playoff ticket*, which will allow the fans to experience augmented reality, a new technology that will bring the ticket to life with animated Mavs players including Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Game day and commemorative tickets will go live when the 2011 Playoffs begin.
Tickets will be available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX) and the American Airlines Center® North Box Office**. Ticket prices start at $15 and up and there is an eight ticket limit per game. Tickets are also sold at all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Simon Mall in Garland and Shops at Willow Bend).
Fans that purchase single game tickets at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office will receive their commemorative ticket at that time. For those purchasing online or at a Ticketmaster outlet, commemorative tickets will be available to pick up at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office or on Playoff game nights at the Mavs ticket sales table on the main concourse near the North Box Office. Augmented Reality is available only on Android phones. For more information, go to http://www.nba.com/mavericks/ar/ar.html.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.