That Thanksgiving turkey and dressing probably won’t go down too well for the Dallas Mavericks.
That’s because the Mavs had to swallow yet another gut-wrenching loss after yet another valiant comeback fell short.
Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs added to the Mavs’ misery by upending Dallas 88-83 in a defensive struggle Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 18,418 at AT&T Center.
Leonard’s game-deciding 3-pointer with a mere 15.1 seconds remaining padded the Spurs’ lead to 87-83 as the Mavs went winless on a three-game road trip.
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The Mavs now go into the very brief Thanksgiving break with a precarious 9-7 record and won’t play again until they host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. And they’ll do so knowing they held the highly touted Spurs to under 90 points in their own building, and probably should have gotten out of here with a victory.
The difference was they hit two or three really difficult lucky shots.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
“I thought our effort was fantastic from start to finish,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “We withstood a big run at the beginning of the game.
“I thought we played four really solid quarters. The difference was they hit two or three really difficult lucky shots.’’
Following Leonard’s big-time 3-pointer, Wesley Matthews missed a trey at the other end, and the Mavs flew home contemplating losses to Oklahoma City, Memphis and San Antonio on a trip which they hoped would tell a lot about how they stand against Western elite.
“This is the Western Conference and it’s going to be hard,’’ Carlisle said. “And we just got to keep bringing it like this.’’
Dirk Nowitzki (13 points, 14 rebounds) picked up a double-double for the Mavs, who lost Tuesday night in Memphis. But the Spurs kept running so many defenders hard at Nowitzki that he was only able to hoist eight field-goal attempts in 35 minutes. He made 5 of 8.
“As soon as we threw it to him they were coming at him on the double team, and he was making great plays and great passes out of it,’’ guard Deron Williams said. “We still got to find ways to get him the ball, regardless.
“If we make some more shots, because they were pretty much daring me to shoot, I think they would had to play him more different.’’
The Mavs never led in this game. They trailed 20-8 with 3:51 left in the first quarter after an offensive rebound and basket by Seagoville native LaMarcus Aldridge. At that point, the Mavs were just 4-of-15 from the field as they continued to struggle with slow starts that require too much energy just to get back in the game.
But as has been part of their pattern lately, the Mavs fought back and had the game tied twice — the last time at 60-60 — late in the third quarter. And in the fourth period, the Mavs stayed on the Spurs’ heels and were poised to pull off the upset.
Until Leonard’s critical 3-pointer nestled through the nets, a dagger in the Mavs’ back.
“We were right there and had a couple of shots to take the lead or tie it at the end, so it was a tough one,’’ Nowitzki said. “[But] Kawhi made some big baskets.
“We cut it to one and then he basically put the game away with a tough three.’’
This is one of our best defensive efforts of the year.
Mavericks guard Deron Williams
Dallas shot 41 percent from the field, including that ugly 8-of-22 performance in the first quarter, which concluded with San Antonio ahead 24-18. But the Mavs’ surprisingly played better overall defense than the Spurs, who shot only 40.7 percent from the floor
“This is one of our best defensive efforts of the year,’’ said Williams, who was just 4 of 16 from the floor and finished with eight points and nine assists. “After the first quarter I felt we tighten things up, we got after them, we made things hard on them.
“That’s the type of basketball we have to play defensively against everybody, because we did make things tough on them, as they did us.’’
Still, that lockdown defensive performance was no consolation prize for the Mavs, who won six straight games before they started this road trip.
“It hurts ether way to me,’’ Nowitzki said. “A loss is a loss no matter how well you play.
“We lost three in a row now in the tough West. This one hurts, but I thought we played them well and we made them battle.’’
Matthews scored 15 points for the Mavs, but also saw his shot falling astray too often.
“We fought, we competed, we got down, but we didn’t give up at any point,’’ said Matthews, who converted just 6 of 16 shots. “We continued to play our brand of basketball even though our shots weren’t falling.
“We were collapsing, we were rebounding — the weakside and help-side [defense] was good — we were active on the defensive end. We just didn’t get enough stops and enough buckets when we needed to.’’
Mavs guard J.J. Barea was lost with 7:41 left to a sprained ankle, and forward Chandler Parsons, coming off off-season surgery, did not play.
The Mavs lost backup guard J.J. Barea with a sprained right ankle for good with 7:41 left in the game. Barea, who had to be helped off the court, suffered no contact on the play.
“It happened so quick, but it’s just a sprained ankle — pretty good,’’ Barea said. “I’m pretty sure I was by myself when I tried to turn, the ankle just rolled up.’’
It was that kind of night for the Mavs, who fell behind 46-39 at intermission.
The Mavs, who played without Chandler Parsons, did get nine points and six rebounds in 16 minutes from JaVale McGee. But they know their dismal shot-making must improve if they plan on winning their share of games.
I like the grit and the fight we showed in the entire night to keep coming back and be in position to be right there at the end.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki
“I had a lot of wide-open looks that I felt like were good, but they weren’t, so it is frustrating,’’ Williams said. “We shoot it well during practice, and we just got to translate it to the game.
“I was just missing shots, and I could have helped my team win.’’
That about sums up not only Wednesday’s game, but this entire road trip. But Nowitzki walked away encouraged.
“I like the grit and the fight we showed in the entire night to keep coming back and be in position to be right there at the end,’’ Nowitzki said. “And with a bounce or two, we could have stolen the game.’’