After 81 games this season, the Dallas Mavericks amazingly find themselves in the same position they were last year after 81 games.
Having one game left and needing one win to reach 50 victories.
With four-fifths of their starting lineup not playing, the short-handed Mavs got punched out by the youthful Utah Jazz on Monday, losing 109-92 at Energy Solutions Arena. The loss sent the Mavs back home with a 49-32 record to face Portland in the regular season finale Wednesday.
It also sent them home worried about an injury to backup guard Devin Harris.
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“We want to finish the season [Wednesday] with a bang,” point guard Raymond Felton said. “We’re at home and we want to finish off the season right.
“We tried to get [50 wins] tonight, but it didn’t quite go our way. Guys are little tired, a little fatigue from the game [Sunday] night [against the Los Angeles Lakers].”
Starters Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis didn’t even make the trip to Utah. A fourth starter, small forward Chandler Parsons, missed his fifth straight game as he continues to deal with swelling and pain in his right knee, a situation that could keep him out of the playoff opener this weekend.
Under that backdrop, the Mavs stayed even with the Jazz at the half 57-57. But Utah outscored Dallas 30-12 in the game-changing third quarter and cruised from there.
Asked about how his team played Monday, coach Rick Carlisle said: “I liked a lot of it, but in the end we gave up too many rebounds and we had too many turnovers. And those are all possession plays, and that stuff all added up and it hurt us.”
The Mavs also were hurt by the loss of Harris, who injured his left big toe in the first half and did not return to the game. Harris said the toe is pretty swollen and that he felt a “little pop” when the incident occurred. He hopes to at least be ready by this weekend.
“I got to go see the team doctor tomorrow and kind of go from there,” Harris said. “But I’m not really sure about Wednesday.
“It’s still pretty sore, but it should be ready to go by at least the weekend.”
The Mavs were hoping to get out of Monday’s game without any other injuries. But that wasn’t the case.
“He jammed it. We took an X-ray and it was negative, so we’ll evaluate him day-to-day,” Carlisle said of Harris. “I don’t think we feel it’s serious at this point.
“A lot of this depends on how a guy feels the next day. Hard to know right now, but we don’t think it’s serious.”
Against the Jazz, the Mavs started Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva at the forward spots, Rajon Rondo and Felton in the backcourt, and Amar’e Stoudemire at center. In the end, the Mavs shot just 41.5 percent from the field, were outrebounded 48-41, and Utah turned 17 Dallas turnovers into 21 points.
J.J. Barea paced the Mavs with 18 points in 23 minutes, Villanueva and Stoudemire scored 15 points apiece, Rondo fired in 13 points, and Al-Farouq Aminu had his second straight double-double as he finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Rondo’s 3-pointer got Dallas within 68-64 of the Jazz with 6:46 left in the third period. But Utah finished the quarter on a brisk 19-5 run and carried an 87-69 lead into the final stanza.
With the Jazz (38-43) flying all over the court, the Mavs never got closer than 13 points in the fourth quarter.
A year ago, the Mavs went into the final game of the regular season with a 49-32 record needing to win at Memphis to reach the 50-win plateau and get the No. 7 playoff seed. The Mavs lost that game to the Grizzlies 106-105 in overtime, and were bumped down to the No. 8 seed.
The Mavs lost their opening-round playoff series in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs, who went on to capture their fifth world title. There’s a good chance the No. 7-seeded Mavs could draw the Spurs again in this year’s playoffs, although the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston are still in contention for the No. 2 seed.
In the meantime, what the Mavericks couldn’t afford – another injury – is just what happened, to Harris.
“Well, we’re trying to win the game,” Carlisle said. “Injuries can happen at any time, so you don’t go into a game thinking about not getting hurt. That’s when things do happen. The important thing is to play hard all the time and you’ve got to hope for the best.”