Mavericks lose late lead, game to conference-leading Clippers

LOS ANGELES - For some odd reason, the Dallas Mavericks keep running re-runs of their games.

It's a similar pattern that led to yet another loss by the Mavs on Wednesday night at the Staples Center, this time 99-93 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The loss was the 13th in the past 15 games for the struggling Mavs, who dropped to 0-2 on this three-game road trip going into Thursday night's game in Sacramento. The Mavs are 13-23 overall, 10 games under .500 for the first time since March 30, 2000. They are 5-16 on the road and the frustrations are boiling.

“I'm sick and this is very sickening," forward Shawn Marion said. “Words can't even express it right now.

“This is painful right now to be losing like this when we were so close. We just find a way to bite ourselves in the [butt]. It seems like when we get right, then we're going to do something to mess it up.''

The Mavs were right there - again - leading 75-65 with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter. Then, it was as if they stopped playing and allowed the Clippers - who have won a franchise-record 13 straight home games - to show why they have the best record (29-8) in the NBA.

While the Mavs were sagging behind, the Clips went on a torrid 25-8 run to go up 90-83 midway through the fourth quarter.

“They went on a run. We had a couple of situations where we didn't handle it well at the end of the third quarter,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. “We made a mistake that was my fault.

“We used the foul-to-give, which took the lead from six to three. In the fourth quarter we need to stay with the aggressiveness, but they turned it up and we just didn't get it done.''

In other words, it was just another lost opportunity for the Mavs, who have seen plenty of those during this disjointed season.

When Chris Paul (19 points, 16 assists) wasn't flawlessly directing the Clippers' offense, either Matt Barnes or Jamal Crawford was banging in back-breaking 3-pointers that took the Mavs' breath away.

“He's a great player,'' Carlisle said of Paul. “But we've got to do more things to help ourselves win.

“They're a good team. We simply have to be better and have to keep working."

The Mavs needed just one key stop down the stretch, and perhaps it would have enabled them to get out of town with a win. However, they allowed Caron Butler to collect two big-time offensive rebounds during one late possession down the court.

The first of Butler's crucial offensive rebound came with 1:09 left after a miss by Blake Griffin and with the Clips nursing a 97-93 lead. Butler's second offensive rebound came with 47.3 seconds remaining following a miss by Paul.

“You can't give two offensive rebounds up in the last minutes when you just got good stops and made them take some tough shots,'' said Dirk Nowitxki, who had 15 points in 33 minutes. “You've got to clean up and get those rebounds and give ourselves a chance to cut into the lead some more.''

Vince Carter missed a 16-footer with 7.9 ticks left that would have narrowed the Mavs' deficit to two points. Paul closed the scoring with a pair of free throws a few seconds later that sent the Mavs to Sacramento wondering when this nightmare will end.

“It's a little frustrating,'' said Nowitzki, who was 5-of-13 from the floor. “But we're not quitters on the team, the coaching staff is not quitters, so we're going to keep on pushing, keep on teaching the little things that really is losing us the games so far.''

The Clippers led 25-21 after the first period, but Darren Collison tallied 15 of his 22 points in the second quarter as the Mavs trailed at the half, 52-50.

Dallas built its lead to 75-65 following a three-pointer by Collison. Then the Clippers, who weren't really able to get their Lob City game going, steadily chipped away until they finally seized control of the game in the fourth quarter.

“It just seems like the same story I keep telling you guys over and over,'' Collison said. “We're right there and making the same mistakes.

“We're all hurting, too. We're feeling the same pain after every game.''

A pain that seemingly won't go away.

“We just got to make that one extra play - whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end. Make that one extra play to get this thing rolling.''

Indeed, it's another loss, but Elton Brand sees progress.

“I'd rather have the effort than what was going on 10 days ago, getting blown out in double digits,'' Brand said. “Now we're fighting, we're in every game, with opportunities to win games.

“So as soon as we turn that corner, and once we do, I think we'll be fine.''

Carlisle and the players said the Mavs did a poor job closing out the third period, which ended when Barnes nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to slice the Mavs' lead to 75-72.

“The end of the third quarter really hurt us,'' Brand said. “We didn't close that well.''

And in the fourth quarter?

“We got stops, we just couldn't get the rebounds - again!,'' Brand said “It's a tape on repeat.

“It keeps happening over and over again. In late game situations we just can't close them out.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

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