That’s all the Dallas Mavericks were hoping and praying for Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.
But the Mavs couldn’t come up with that rebound and that ended up costing them dearly as the Nuggets clawed back and gutted out a 95-94 victory over Dallas at the Pepsi Center.
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The loss left the Mavs with a 36-39 record and dropped them three games in back of the Los Angeles Lakers in their quest to secure a playoff spot. But this loss must be more painful for the Mavs because they led for the majority of the game in the toughest arena to play in.
“We were right there — one rebound away,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “When [Kenneth] Faried missed the second free throw we needed to come up with that, and it didn’t happen for us.”
Faried missed a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds left and the Mavs desperately clinging to a 94-93 lead. Ex-Mavs forward Corey Brewer outhustled everyone to the long rebound on the side, and the Nuggets called timeout with 7.7 seconds left.
When play resumed, Andre Iguodala drove past Vince Carter and scored the game-winning basket inside the paint with 2.8 seconds remaining.
Brewer then blocked Anthony Morrow’s 23-footer at the buzzer as the Nuggets won at home for the 19th straight time.
For the visitors, this one hurt, because the Mavs controlled the game for the majority of the night. They even led by nine points late in the third period, by eight points early in the fourth quarter, and by one point — with the ball —with Dirk Nowitzki milking the clock for what the Mavs thought would be a game-closer.
Brewer, however, stole the ball from Nowitzki with 19.9 seconds left and that led to Morrow fouling Faried.
“Brewer played great,” Carlisle said. “He hit timely shots all night and he had a lot to do with getting [O.J.] Mayo out of the game — he kept drawing fouls on him.”
And the Nuggets kept rebounding the basketball.
“The rebounding again was a big factor,” Carlisle said. “We had some opportunities down the stretch, we didn’t execute well offensively.
“I take responsibility for that, but we’ve got to be able to come up with the rebound.”
The Nuggets are an NBA-best 34-3 at home, but the Mavs had them right on the hot seat and just couldn’t get a rebound to seal the deal.
The Mavs also couldn’t get the ball to Nowitzki — he failed to score in the fourth period. He finished with just 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
“The times we went to him they made him give it up, and it’s just one of these things,” Carlisle said. “We tried going to him the second-to-the-last play and there’s guys flying at him ripping at the ball, and our spacing wasn’t good on that play, so that’s on me.
“But it was a case of, yeah, we always want to get him the ball when we can. And when we can’t he affects the game in a way that helps other guys get shots, and that’s when we need everybody to be able to step up.”
The Nuggets (52-24) won the rebounding battle 50-41, including 18-9 on the offensive end.
The Nuggets suffered a misfortune late in the second period when forward Danilo Gallinari was helped off the court with a left knee injury. Play continued when Gallinari went crashing to the court, and the Mavs capitalized when Darren Collison blew in for a fast-break layup to put Dallas ahead 40-35.
Galinari did not return to the game and is slated to have an MRI on Friday morning.
The Mavs came in following Tuesday’s disappointing 101-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Nuggets won in Utah on Wednesday, had to travel back home — while the Mavs were sitting and resting.
“We’ve got to flush this and we’ve got to get ready to play [Friday at 9 in Sacramento],” Carlisle said. “That’s the bottom line.”