By the slimmest of margins, the Dallas Mavericks will be headed South down Interstate-35 to San Antonio to start a playoff series this weekend instead of heading North up I-35 to Oklahoma City.
That’s how close the Mavericks came to knocking off the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Monta Ellis missed a wide-open 18-footer at the final buzzer as the Grizzlies held on to edge the Mavericks 106-105 in overtime before 17,323 at the FedEx Forum.
The loss left the Mavericks with the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed with a regular-season record of 49-33. The Mavericks will open a best-of-seven first-round playoff series in San Antonio at noon Sunday against the No. 1-seeded Spurs.
The Grizzlies finished the season 50-32 and the No. 7 seed and will play at No. 2-seeded Oklahoma City on Saturday.
Mike Conley drained a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left for the game-winner after he was fouled in traffic by Vince Carter. Then, after three timeouts, Dallas got the ball to Ellis, who was wide open inside the 3-point arc.
But Ellis’ shot hit the inside of the rim and careened away as time expired.
“I got a great look, it didn’t go down,” said Ellis, who finished with 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime session. “I think we did a great job, we competed, it went down to the wire and they won.
“We went out and played our hearts out. We did enough to get it to overtime and make our run and we came up short, but I think we finished the regular season on a positive note and we’re about to get ready for the playoffs now.”
The Mavericks went toe-to-toe with the burly Grizzlies for most of the night. They even had to battle back from a 10-point deficit just to force overtime, which occurred after Ellis drilled a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
As for that final shot at the end of overtime by Ellis, the Mavericks know many fortunes changed on that miss.
“It was a good look, and the way he’d been shooting it, I just really thought it was going to go in,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He played with such courage in the fourth quarter I doubt we would have been in the position we were in with a chance to win it if it hadn’t been for him.
“He’s just got to keep lacing those up, because he’s going to make more than he misses.”
Dallas led 105-102 in overtime after a 3-pointer by Dirk Nowitzki (30 points) with 46 seconds left. But an offensive rebound and basket by Tony Allen got the Grizzlies within a point with only 31.4 seconds left.
Ellis then missed a tough shot, Conley grabbed the rebound and zoomed down the floor and ran into a bevy of players, and Carter was whistled for a foul.
“Our guys played with a lot of courage and a lot of guts and they hung in there,” Carlisle said. “There were some calls that were, I thought, were clearly missed, and we played through those things and gave ourselves a great chance.”
Memphis led 29-24 after the first period as Samuel Dalembert got into foul trouble trying to tussle with Zach Randolph (27 points, 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists).
The Mavericks led 53-51 at intermission, but trailed 75-73 after three quarter. Mostly, it was a nip-and-tuck game with the Grizzlies enjoying a 48-39 advantage on the boards, including a 20-15 edge on the offensive boards.
Still, the Mavs had their chances down the stretch, as Ellis missed a shot on a similar play when he drilled a game-winner at the buzzer in Portland earlier this season.
“It ends up coming down to one shot, which probably it should in a game like this that was so hard fought,” Carlisle said. “We got to regroup and we got to get ready for San Antonio.”