Just when it appeared as though the Dallas Mavericks had turned the corner, they hit a curve and ran into a ditch Friday night after picking up a couple of flat tires.
Unable to steer clear of Los Angeles after the Clippers lost point guard Chris Paul to a right shoulder injury in the third period, the Mavericks walked off the American Airlines Center court with a disappointing 119-112 loss in front of 20,187 exasperating fans.
The loss stung deeply because the Mavericks came bouncing home after going 3-0 on a road trip for the first time in nearly two years. But after suffering their third consecutive loss on their home floor, the Mavericks (19-14) need to put some air in their tires before hosting the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
The Clippers ended the game on a spirited 16-2 run as the Mavs left the floor shell-shocked.
“As hard as we worked to get the lead back up to seven in the fourth, we just gave it away too easy,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Defensively, they went right through us, and offensively, without getting stops, the shots got harder.”
Dallas assumed a 110-103 lead with 4:06 left when Shawn Marion dropped in a floater from the right side off a feed from Monta Ellis. After that the Mavs’ offense — and defense — took the rest of the night off and their chances of winning fizzled along with that poor performance to the wire.
In the stretch run, the Mavericks went only 1-of-7 from the field and had as many points (two) as turnovers (two). Meanwhile, the Clippers made 4-of-9 shots and were 8-of-8 from the free-throw line when the game was still there to be had.
“It’s on all of us, every one of us,” Carlisle said. “Coaches, players, everybody. It’s very disappointing because it was an opportunity lost.”
Indeed it was. Particularly after Paul went to the dressing room in obvious pain after colliding with Ellis with 6:43 left in the third period and the Clippers nursing a 77-75 lead.
But instead of the Mavericks seizing the moment, they allowed the Clippers to hang around and hang around, and they paid for it dearly in the end.
“Well, I’m frustrated,” said Ellis, who finished with 13 points and nine assists. “I thought we had a chance down the stretch.
“I just think their big guys were really big and we had no answer for them on the boards.”
DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with a career-high 25 points and 18 rebounds, and Blake Griffin collected 25 points and 15 rebounds.
But the Clippers guards also torched Dallas as Paul finished with 19 points and six assists, Jamal Crawford scored 17 and ex-Mavs guard Darren Collison added a season-high 20 points and four assists in a season-high 35 minutes.
Paul will be out three to five weeks with a separated right shoulder. The Mavericks are also hurting after not being able to add to the momentum they recently built on the road.
“The problem was we gave up a 16-2 run at the end of the game.” Carlisle said. “They have won some games without Chris Paul when he was out and they are very capable. But when you build a lead you can’t just allow it to go away like that.”
Griffin’s three-point play put the Clippers ahead 113-112, and then Dirk Nowitzki missed a jumper. From there, Griffin drilled a pair of free throws, Ellis dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds; Nowitzki missed another jumper and Crawford nailed two free throws to increase the Clippers’ lead to 117-112 with 11.9 seconds remaining.
Nowitzki, who shook off a left foot injury, led the Mavericks with 24 points, Marion scored 20, Brandan Wright had 12 and Jose Calderon finished with 11 points and five assists.
The Mavericks jumped out to a 13-point lead (24-11) late in the first period. They led 39-33 at the conclusion of the first quarter and 70-67 at the half.
The 70 points were the most the Mavericks have scored in any half this season. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up the pace in the second half.
“We had a lot of open shots that we usually make,” Ellis said. “Can’t do nothing about it but put this behind us and get better in practice and get ready for Sunday.”