It’s still early in the season, but the Dallas Mavericks have shown that playing at American Airlines Center has not been an advantage for them.
The Mavs proved that point again Wednesday night when they looked lackluster on offense in losing 98-95 to the Atlanta Hawks before a sellout crowd of 19,936.
The loss dropped the Mavs to 13-10 overall, including just 5-4 at home. And this one hurt even more because the Mavs lacked the necessary energy and stamina needed to win a game when they were struggling on offense.
“We’ve got to come out with a different attitude, we’ve got to give our fans something to get loud about, get rowdy about,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “We’ve got to take a stand at home, we’ve got to make a presence at home.
“This has to start becoming home court. Too many times [opponents are] coming into our building thinking that they can win the game, and that defeats the purpose of home-court advantage.”
The Hawks (14-9) trailed 93-89 with 3:07 left, but finished the game on a 9-2 run. And Matthews was involved in a key play during the Hawks’ rally.
With the Mavs down a point following a pair of free throws by Raymond Felton, Matthews was whistled for fouling Jeff Teague with 11.4 seconds left. The Mavs called foul on the play, and Teague drilled a pair of free throws for a 98-95 Atlanta lead.
Deron Williams misfired on a 3-pointer from the right side that would have tied the game. Meanwhile, Matthews felt he was a victim in the game-changing foul.
“I don’t know what they were looking at,” Matthews said. “That’s crazy to me.
“The end of the game, the game’s on the line, guy coming forward at me. Of course it’s going to be contact, but I don’t know.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had his own qualms with the officiating, especially the lack of 3-second violations called.
“Something’s happening where, and I don’t think it’s at the league level, but officials have chosen not to call defensive and in some cases offensive 3 seconds,” Cuban said. “You guys can probably hear us counting five, six, seven ... and the rule is not a difficult rule.
“Either you’re in there and actively guarding, or you’re not. And it’s not hard to see if you’re getting out of there in time.”
Officiating aside, the Mavs came in brimming with confidence after sweeping a two-game road trip against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks on back-to-back nights Sunday and Monday.
But despite firing up 100 shots — 19 more than the Hawks — the Mavs made only 36 percent. They also drew blanks from 3-point range where they were only 7-of-31 for a paltry 22.6 percent.
“We had a tough night shooting the ball, that is obviously by the stats,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But sometimes that is going to happen.
“Our undoing tonight was the first half where we had our lowest activity numbers for the entire year in terms of contesting shots and 50/50 balls. Even thought the score was (49-44 Hawks) we were not playing at the level of intensity that we needed to.”
The Mavs picked up their intensity in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
Deron Williams (18 points, seven rebounds, six assists) drained a 3-pointer that put the Mavs up 93-89 with 3:07 left. But they missed their last five shots — including back-to-back 3-point attempts by Dirk Nowitzki — and faded down the stretch.
“Yeah, it was a tough one,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting. “We fought hard here last week; it’s been a lot of traveling, I think it caught up with us here a little bit.
“But I thought we kept fighting — didn’t play too well in the first half — and kept hanging around. Shooting 36 percent on the home floor, it’s tough. I had open looks. I got to make one. It just didn’t happen.”
At one point after leading 23-22 at the end of the first quarter, the Mavs missed 15 of 17 shots from behind the 3-point line. It was an ugly sight to behold.
“The whole game from the beginning, I think we just couldn’t get the rhythm offensively,” said Zaza Pachulia, who picked up his 13th double-double while finishing with 11 points and 17 rebounds. “Definitely not our day.
“Kind of the whole team struggled and we couldn’t get the crowd involved as well. Little runs, a couple of them, but not enough to win tonight’s game, especially playing a good team.”
Even the returns of J.J. Barea (right ankle sprain) and Devin Harris (bruised ribs) couldn’t ignite the Mavs.
“It seems like we’re playing better on the road than at home, as far as energy is concerned and that’s definitely alarming because this is where we have a crowd behind us, great fans and we have to give them a reason to get behind us,” Williams said. “So when we’re not playing with energy, we’re not giving them a chance to do that.
“Tonight, I think it was a lot of 50/50 balls, loose balls on the ground and they got a lot of them, which hurts. And that says they’re hustling a little bit more than us.”
The Hawks negotiated those hustle plays into 48.1 percent shooting and the backbone needed to pull out the victory. In the meantime, Cuban was still trying to figure out the lack of 3-second violations called.
“We’ve had other instances, as I said, where we’ve turned in nine calls and the league agreed, not one time, multiple times, multiple games where we’ve turned in seven, eight, nine calls that the league agreed was defensive 3, and they weren’t at 3.1, oh we missed it,” Cuban said. “We’re talking five, six seven, eight seconds, and in one case nine seconds, so something’s going on.
“It’s not relevant specifically to the Mavs, it’s relevant specifically to the league and how it’s being officiated. And I have no idea, and as is my nature, if I can’t get answers, I let other people help me find answers.”
At the same time, the Mavs might want to get some answers as to why they can’t seem to play well on their home court.
“Like I said, traveling has been crazy, think everybody went to sleep about 4 a.m. [Tuesday] when we got home from New York after our back-to-back,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t think our tank was fully charged, but this is the NBA.
“You got to dig deep — had a day off yesterday — don’t know what else to say. We tried, we fought, Atlanta is a good team. It’s a tough loss.”