Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from the Mavericks' Wednesday night showdown with the Denver Nuggets, as the Dallas team fell to its fourth straight loss while playing without point guard Jason Kidd (rest) and center Tyson Chandler (back).
DALLAS — Although just five games remained on the regular season schedule for the Mavericks to build consistency with their playoff rotation, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle felt that it was more important for his 38-year-old point guard to get some rest with the Denver Nuggets in town.
Despite his team’s three-game losing streak entering Wednesday night’s matchup with the Nuggets, Carlisle made the executive decision to get lead guard Jason Kidd some much-needed rest, as he joined center Tyson Chandler on the inactive list. And with Chandler slated to miss his second straight game due to a lower back contusion, the coach admitted before the game that he was excited to see how his other players would respond without both their floor general and defensive leader on the court.
“It’s a challenging game if they’re playing and if they’re not playing,” Carlisle said of his short-handed squad’s showdown with the Nuggets. “So, without them it’s gonna bring up the level of the challenge, for sure. But this is an opportunity for other guys…It’s a heck of a test for us.”
But despite scratching and clawing all night long, the Mavericks (53-25) couldn’t make up for the loss of two of their core players, as the Nuggets (48-30) outlasted the short-handed Dallas team and handed the home squad a 104-96 loss to begin its three-game homestand.
With two holes in the middle of the starting lineup, the Mavericks took the court looking to knot the season series with the Nuggets, 2-2, while also trying to end their recent skid. So, Carlisle was forced to put together a makeshift first unit, beginning the game with second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois and DeShawn Stevenson in the backcourt next to forwards Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki, with big man Brendan Haywood occupying the 5 spot.
Marion would get off to a quick start, scoring the Mavericks’ first six points of the night. Meanwhile, the Mavs would have difficulties slowing down Nuggets center Nene inside, as the Denver team capitalized off Dallas’ cold shooting and five turnovers in the first period.
And after the Mavs hit on just eight of their 25 shots in the opening quarter, they faced a 23-17 deficit following 12 minutes of play.
Dallas would get a much-needed boost from little-used swingman Corey Brewer in the second quarter, as his perimeter shooting and athletic finishing ability kept the Mavericks in the game.
“I love the points, but I love the energy more,” Carlisle said of Brewer’s play. “You talk about a guy staying ready and taking advantage of an opportunity, I thought Brewer played terrific tonight. We were down quite a bit when he came into the game, but he energized us, helped get things going and he made sound plays for the most part. I was really impressed with his game.”
“I love what Corey brought to the game today, especially for a guy that hasn’t played in a certain amount of games,” Haywood echoed. “He really hasn’t gotten any significant minutes, so to come out here and play like he did tonight was phenomenal.”
But the Nuggets would continue to fire, opening up a double-digit advantage behind mid-season additions Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Then Nene would jump back into the mix, pushing the Nuggets to a lead as large as 13 before the visiting Denver squad headed to the break with the Mavs in a 53-43 hole.
Despite Marion’s 11 first-half points and another nine points for Brewer off the bench on a combined 9-of-15 shooting, the Mavericks were outshot in the first two quarters, 50 percent to 43.2 percent. Meanwhile, Chandler paced the Nuggets, matching Marion for high-point honors at the midway mark with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
Looking for a spark to start the second half, Carlisle inserted Brewer in Stevenson’s place. But that wouldn’t slow down the Nuggets, as their advantage grew to be as large as 15. Still, behind Brewer and Nowitzki, the Mavs would continue to fight back, before Marion and sixth man Jason Terry closed the gap even more to as little as three, 72-69, heading to the final quarter.
After playing pesky defense on the Nuggets’ guards all night, J.J. Barea looked to give the Mavs an offensive spark in the fourth. But it would be Nowitzki that would give the Mavs a 77-76 edge — their first lead since a 6-5 score — in the period, although it would be short-lived.
“I thought we kept battling there,” Nowitzki said. “It wasn’t a pretty first half, we were a step slow to everything, but we kept battling there in the second half, kept making plays.”
Once they regained the lead the Nuggets continued to answer Nowitzki’s offensive attack, as the guard combination of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton began to control the game. Nuggets guard J.R. Smith would then rain in a costly 3-pointer, before Law forced a charge call on Barea and Raymond drained another 3 to protect Denver’s 94-85 lead with 5:31 remaining.
“Every time we made a run they had an answer for us,” Nowitzki simply said.
Again, the Mavericks would continue to battle, however, immediately responding with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 94-94. That’s when the Nuggets again answered with a 10-0 run — including a technical foul on Terry — to keep the Mavs at bay and regain the momentum, capitalizing once more on Dallas’ late-game turnovers and making Beaubois’ score in the last seconds merely meaningless on the final score, other than to trim the final verdict to two less.
“I loved the way we battled to 94-all, but I didn’t like the way we gave up 10 straight,” Carlisle would say after the game. “But it was turnovers and miscues…I’m upset with what happened at 94-all. You can’t have a situation where you give up a couple of shots, and then turn it over the way we did, give up another basket and then get a technical foul, regardless of the situation. We’re pros here, we’re not rookies running around out there. We can’t be doing that kind of stuff. After the fact, I think our guys realized it, but in the heat of the moment we’ve got to be better.”
“We kept plugging, kept fighting, but it just wasn’t enough down the stretch,” Nowitzki added.
Despite outshooting the Nuggets, 48.8 percent to 47.7 percent, the Mavericks did little else right on the night. Dallas finished with a 45-40 rebounding edge — led by Haywood’ season-high 19 rebounds (despite only scoring a single point) — which led to a 21-17 edge in second-chance points. But the Mavs also surrendered 17 turnovers which translated to 25 Denver points.
“The positives were that we played a good game, we didn’t have two starters, we fought back and made it a game. So, there were some positives, but at the end of the day it’s all about the wins and the losses,” Haywood concluded.
Marion finished with a team-high 21 points, while Nowitzki registered 20 to lead five Mavericks in double figures. Three of which were reserves, led by Terry’s 15 points. Brewer finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while Barea added 12 points of his own.
Off the Denver bench, Smith recorded a game-high 23 points, leading five Nuggets in double figures.
The Mavericks will now try to end their four-game losing streak in the second game of the homestand, hosting Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. The Mavs lead the season series 3-0 and will go for the season series sweep.
Chandler’s availability for the game remains in question, while Carlisle suggested that he may once again rest Kidd as the regular season winds to a close.
“We’d obviously like to end the regular season on a positive note, so hopefully we can get Tyson back soon and just win some games,” Nowitzki said while looking ahead. “We’ve just gotta settle down, hopefully get one Friday and then just go from there.”
Note: The fourth Clippers-Mavericks matchup of the season will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday night, 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).
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.