Pelicans.com postgame: Mavericks 110, Pelicans 107 (1/11/14)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
DALLAS – As the frantic final seconds ticked down Saturday, New Orleans guard Austin Rivers dribbled into the frontcourt, seeing his realistic options quickly dwindling. With a split-second remaining on the clock, Rivers rose for a potential game-tying three-pointer, but couldn’t get an off-balance shot to the basket 25 feet away, due to being obstructed by Dallas defender Monta Ellis. The ball fell harmlessly to the floor, not far from where Rivers himself landed, pleading with a nearby official for a foul call and three shot attempts.
Rivers’ game-ending sequence was similar to short-handed New Orleans’ performance Saturday. The Pelicans turned in a valiant effort against the Mavericks – despite playing without three key players in Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans – but ultimately came up just shy of posting a road upset. New Orleans (15-21) lost for the fifth straight time in heartbreaking fashion, but this time was significantly more competitive than in previous defeats to Indiana, Miami, Washington and the same Mavericks on Friday. Anderson, Holiday and Evans are the club’s No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 scorers in 2013-14.
“We basically have a new team now,” Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams said of again having to shuffle his lineup due to players being unavailable. “And we want to get better in (the next) two weeks. It’s going to take us going after it like we did today against a really good team that’s probably going to be in the playoffs. We’ve got to go after it the way we did.”
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Anthony Davis, who piled up 28 points and 14 rebounds. “We came out and fought tonight. Guys stepped up. All the guys off the bench came in and stepped up for us. And that’s what we’re going to need until guys get back (from injury). That’s the league. Things are going to happen. Guys have to be ready to step up.”
In addition to Davis’ monster 28-14 game, fellow starter Eric Gordon tallied 20 points, though Gordon did commit eight turnovers. In a reserve role, Darius Miller made his most important contributions of his second NBA season, scoring 12 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting. All of Miller’s treys came in the second half, an entertaining 24 minutes of basketball after the Pelicans and Mavericks played an eyesore of an opening half.
New Orleans trailed 42-37 at halftime and was down by as many as 11 points amid a barrage of Dirk Nowitzki long-range baskets. The best player in Mavericks franchise history finished with a season-high 40 points and ignited the hosts’ 42-point third quarter with 20 points. Still, the Pelicans came all the way back to take the lead midway through the fourth period. The game was tied at 99 before the Mavericks went on a crucial 7-0 run to go up 106-99 at 2:42 left. The Pelicans again answered, pulling within 108-107 when Miller buried a deep three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. Elite Dallas free-throw shooter Jose Calderon sank two foul shots for a 110-107 lead, however, forcing New Orleans to have to seek a three-pointer to tie. With no timeouts remaining for either side, the Pelicans drew up a play for fill-in starting point guard Brian Roberts to advance the ball up the floor, but the Mavericks denied Roberts the ball. Rivers instead tried to improvise but was denied the chance at a clear look at the rim.
As Rivers fell on his backside to the floor, he and Pelicans players and coaches pleaded for a foul call and the chance to potentially force overtime with about five-tenths of a second remaining.
"I tried to get a shot off," Rivers said when asked by media to describe the final play. "Y'all know what happened. That's all I can really say. The video speaks for itself. I can't really comment on it. I'm not trying to lose any money over this. An unfortunate event happened. It happens in basketball. We made mistakes down the stretch and you can't put the game in the hands of one person. It's not the referee's fault."