For the Dallas Mavericks, Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers must have seemed as though they went to play a basketball game but wound up walking on the court without their socks and sneakers.
Without Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews or JaVale McGee, the problems were plentiful for the Mavericks, who lost to the Clippers 104-88 before a sellout crowd of 19,218 at the Staples Center.
The Mavericks are 1-1 going into the finale of this three-game road trip on Sunday in the same building against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Short on manpower, the Mavericks knew the odds were stacked against them on a night when they were in hostile territory and playing on the back end of a back-to-back.
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“We really would have had to play a perfect game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought we did a lot of things well.
“In the end, from a shooting standpoint, we couldn’t hit a bull in the [rear end] with a bass fiddle. We didn’t make enough shots – I thought we had quite a few good looks.”
The Mavericks shot a frosty 36.1 percent from the field. Despite the poor shooting, Dallas was only down 51-43 at intermission.
But the Clippers (2-0) torched the Mavericks in the third quarter, outscoring them 34-25 while turning this game into a rout when they led by as many as 28 points (102-74) with 6:18 remaining in the game.
“It’s a tough matchup, but I thought we kept battling,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 16 points and seven rebounds. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and that’s was tough, but I thought we hung in there for the first half.
“The third quarter we made some rotations, missed some rotations and then they built the lead almost up to 20. The first half I thought the guys that were tried to battle and we just didn’t have enough.”
Nowitzki, himself, was caught up in battle with Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, the same player who verbally committed to sign a free-agent contract with the Mavericks in July, only to changed his mind five days later and decided to re-sign with the Clippers.
With 1:41 left before halftime and the Mavericks trailing 45-34, Nowitzki negotiated a hard foul on Jordan when the latter rose up for a dunk attempt. Players from both teams chit-chatting with each other, and the referees intervened before the tempers got nasty.
After the refs reviewed everything, Mavericks guard Raymond Felton, and two players from the Clippers – Blake Griffin and Jordan were issued technical fouls, while Nowitzki was whistled for a common foul.
“On a dunk he hit me with an elbow probably inadvertently, and then on the next time down he got an offensive rebound and I just tried to foul him,” Nowitzki said. “I tried not to let him dunk, and that was it. There’s was nothing else happening.”
When asked if he has any lasting effects from the elbow he received from Jordan, Nowitzki said: “I lost my balance for the rest of the game. I play better without my balance.”
From his perspective, Jordan didn’t dive deep into the dustup with Nowitzki.
“I just think we came out with high emotions because it was our home opener,” Jordan said. “We wanted to show our fans what we have been working on all summer and preseason, and with that we won a basketball game.”
With their starting backcourt out, the Mavericks looked nothing like the team that went on the road and bounced the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday 111-95.
“It was an emotional game obviously, with two good teams battling against each other in the beginning of the year, both playing back-to-back games,” Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia said. “We were coming from a good win, they were coming from a good win [at Sacramento] and I think we definitely fought.
“When you miss shots, then you give the opposing team the opportunity to get out on the fast break, that’s how we gave up a couple of dunks and a couple other fast-break points.”
The Mavericks intentionally fouled perennial poor free-throw shooters Josh Smith and Jordan in an effort to derail the Clippers. It worked, temporarily.
But the Clippers had too many greyhounds for the Mavericks to keep up.
“In the third quarter they heated up and they were making some of the shots that we were going to conceded,” Carlisle said. “Again, we did a lot of good things, but the manpower made it tough, and we just didn’t shoot well enough.”
John Jenkins started and led the Mavericks in scoring with 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Devin Harris and J.J. Barea came off the bench and each player popped in 12 points.
Barea also had nine of the Mavericks’ 22 assists, while Dwight Powell finished with nine points and eight rebounds. The Mavericks also were gritty enough to win the battle of the boards 55-53.
But Dallas lost the most important battle – on the scoreboard.
“I thought we gave a good effort,” Carlisle said. “We just didn’t play well enough, and some nights that’s just how it goes.
“We’ve got a couple of days here to circle the wagons, and get a little bit of rest. We’re going to practice on Saturday, and then we’ve got a much improved Laker team on Sunday.”