This apparently is not the NBA game Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle grew up on.
Nowadays, huge leads change hands and disappear in the blink of an eye and quicker than a NASCAR driver can get around a racetrack. The Mavericks know this all too well.
The Mavericks are 37-10 this season when they’ve built leads of 10 or more points, and only 5-22 when they’ve trailed by at least 10 points in a game. That includes losing six games when they’ve led by as many as 16 points, which frustrates the Mavs (43-30) even more in their quest to grab one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots.
“A 10-point lead at any juncture of the game, unless you’ve got it with a minute left, doesn’t guarantee anything,” Carlisle said after Friday’s practice. “We’ve seen it all year. We’ve beaten teams and we’ve come back from 10-point-plus deficits. The 3-ball is more prolific, the floor is being spaced more, guys are driving it, getting fouled more, so there’s a lot of wild-card stuff going on.”
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Some wild stuff happened to the Mavericks again Thursday when they led the Los Angeles Clippers 93-82 with 8:40 left. Dallas was still ahead 98-93 with 5:31 remaining.
However, the Mavs missed their final 10 shots and the Clippers finished on a 12-2 run and escaped with a 109-103 victory.
“We didn’t get the shots we needed in the clutch,” forward Jae Crowder said. “We knew they were going to make one more run.”
Just because the lowly Sacramento Kings are coming to American Airlines Center on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff, the Mavs are not expecting an easy game.
The Kings blew out Dallas 112-97 in Sacramento on Dec. 9 behind 32 points and 19 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousin, and 31 points from Derrick Williams. On Jan. 31 in Dallas, the Kings led 78-64 with 3:44 remaining in the third period before the Mavs rallied for a 107-103 victory behind 34 points from Dirk Nowitzki.
The Mavericks know they can’t afford to be looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown against the Golden State Warriors.
“We are not in a position to take anybody lightly,” Carlisle said. “On paper and on the court this is a very difficult team for us. We had to scramble our [rear ends] off to win that [Jan. 31] game, and it was a hard game. I can’t remember the last time we had an easy game.”
Easy games are just not a part of the Mavs’ vocabulary these days. Particularly when it comes to the Kings.
“The game that we played them here was a dogfight for us,” Crowder said. “We came out with the win, but we had to fight and we started off a little sluggish. But I feel like if we play harder everything else will take care of itself.”
Nowitzki off target
The game against the Clippers was such a weird contest for the Mavericks that it included the usually reliable Dirk Nowitzki missing four free throws in 10 attempts.
The only other time Nowitzki has missed four from the line in a game this season came when he went 5-of-9 during a Jan. 5 game against the New York Knicks. In the 18 games since the All-Star break before Thursday, Nowitzki was 70 of 74 from the line.
Also, with 3:05 left and the Mavericks clinging to a one-point lead, Nowitzki was fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. But Nowitzki, who entered the game shooting an impressive .918 percent from the line, missed two of his three free throws.
“We’re not likely to see that again for maybe a few more years,” Carlisle said. “But it happened — other guys missed, too.
“We spent some time on free-throw shooting [Friday] and we’ve got to get better [Saturday].”
Overall, the Mavericks were 19 of 27 from the line against the Clippers.