DALLAS – At a time when they need to start flexing their muscles and climbing up the old rugged Western Conference ladder, the Dallas Mavericks are nose-diving and headed south in the standings.
Showing very little fight in the third quarter Saturday night, the Mavs fell victim to the Brooklyn Nets, losing 104-94, before a sellout crowd of 20,367 at American Airlines Center. It was one of those losses to a mediocre team which could come back to haunt the Mavs when the playoff seedings are dole out next month.
"It was just one of those nights,’’ said Monta Ellis, who scored 12 points and handed out five assists. "The ball wouldn’t go in the hole.
"Missed a lot of easy layups, and it’s like that sometimes.’’
The Nets (24-33) decisively outscored the Mavs (39-22) 35-21 in the third quarter while getting a grip on a game they trailed 51-47 at the half. It was as if the Mavs came out in the second half and forgot to do the necessary things which got them that four-point lead at intermission.
"They played great and we didn’t play well,’’ said coach Rick Carlisle in trying to explain his team’s third-quarter woes. "We got bombed that quarter and that was the game.
"The third quarter did us in. The rest of (the game) was either even or we were up a point or two.’’
In losing for the second straight game and third time in their last six games, the Mavs dropped from fifth to sixth in the Western Conference standings. They also fell to an embarrassing 7-6 at home against teams from the East.
Deron Williams, a native of The Colony who contemplated signing a free agent contract with the Mavs in the summer of 2012, poured in a game-high 25 points on 9-of-14 shots. Williams tallied 12 of his points in the third quarter when the Nets took control of this game.
"They’re a skilled team and Deron had himself a ballgame,’’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds. "We never really got any traction there.
"We had a bad third quarter energy-wise and we gave up 35 points, which is obviously way too many points. We kept battling, but never got over the hump.’’
The Mavs played without center Tyson Chandler (left hip flexor) and small forward Chandler Parsons (sprain and bone bruise to left ankle), and their absence were obviously missed on a night Dallas shot 42.7 percent from the field and got outrebounded 48-37. It didn’t help, either, that backup center Amar’e Stoudemire had to get three stitches after he was clubbed across the bridge of his nose.
Without Chandler and Parsons, Carlisle started a three-guard lineup featuring J. J. Barea at small forward and Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo in the backcourt.
Early on, that lineup ruffled a few of the Nets’ feathers. Rondo, in his first game back after he was suspended from Wednesday’s contest in Atlanta following his profanity-laced confrontation with Carlisle during Tuesday’s game against Toronto, had four points and four assists in the first quarter.
Rondo finished with eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and four turnovers in 28 minutes.
"I thought he tried, I thought he really tried hard,’’ Carlisle said. "He had some unlucky plays, a couple layups were right there, didn’t go down.’’
Brooklyn led 80-67 late in the third quarter after Thaddeus Young tallied seven straight points. A fast break layup by Rondo would have cut the deficit to 97-91 with 3:19 to go in the game – but Rondo surprisingly missed the layup.
Still, a 3-point play by Nowitzki enabled the Mavs to inch within 97-92 with 2:37 remaining. But Young scored inside and Jarrett Jack added a floater to put the Nets ahead 101-92 with 53.2 seconds left.
"I thought we were quicker to the ball,’’ said Nets center Mason Plumlee, who collected 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. "We got some loose ball, some rebounds and getting those 50-50 balls really helped us, as well as scoring down the stretch.
‘It’s easy to say ‘scoring down the stretch.’ But we got a lot of loose balls.’’
The Nets shot 51.9 percent from the field and converted 10-of-23 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. That type of blistering shooting put a lot of pressure on the Mavs’ defense.
On his team’s third-quarter meltdown, Carlisle gave credit to the Nets, who lost a heartbreaker Friday night in Huoston.
"They scored early and they got energy and juice on the offensive end,’’ Carlisle said. "We didn’t respond well – they kept scoring and we were having a hard time getting it in the bucket.
"It was a struggled. We had a couple of chances to make runs. I thought guys were trying, but we played poorly in the second half.’’
So poorly that the Mavs have now lost two straight games and must find a way to stem the tide and win Monday’s home game against New Orleans before they embark on a three-game road trip to Portland, Golden State and the Los Angles Lakers.
"The games are going to continue to be hard,’’ Carlisle said. "I don’t care what anybody’s record is, whether they’re coming in here or we’re going in there.
"This (Nets) team is a damn good basketball team, they’ve got a lot of really good players. Give them a lot of credit – we just didn’t do well enough.’’
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760