With the toughest part of their schedule just beyond the horizon, the Dallas Mavericks failed to take care of the last soft portion of the schedule.
Showing that they know how to win a game in Dallas, the Sacramento Kings played like they were the team fighting for a playoff spot.
DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo each collected a double-double as the Kings finally beat the odds and stunned the Mavs 104-101 Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
This marked the first time Sacramento has won a game in Dallas since Feb. 27, 2003, snapping a streak that had covered 22 straight games. Meanwhile, a loss such as this one could come back and haunt the Mavs, who are 33-29 and will play nine of their next 10 games against teams that currently have a winning record.
We just weren’t good enough, and I’m disappointed.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
That thought must have been on the mind of coach Rick Carlisle, who, in a somber way, summed up the loss that ended this homestand at 4-2.
“We just weren’t good enough, and I’m disappointed,” Carlisle said. “I take a lot of responsibility when we lose. It’s tough because we had a chance to end the homestand the right way, but we didn’t deserve it.”
The Mavs, who play in Denver on Sunday, never had a firm grip on this game. And that had to be surprising because the Kings played Wednesday night in Memphis.
But with Cousins producing 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Rondo adding 18 points, 12 assists and three steals, the Mavs were swimming upstream all night.
Cousins had a couple of plays where he tipped his own miss in.
Carlisle on DeMarcus Cousins, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings
In the fourth quarter, the Kings shot 60 percent from the field (9-of-15) and led 94-80 with 5:04 left. A lot of that dominance came with Cousins bullying his way through traffic and daring any member of the Mavs to corral him.
“Cousins had a couple of plays where he tipped his own miss in,” Carlisle said. “When he’s allowed to plow in there and get it up on the boards, it’s tough, and we made some mistakes, too.
“We fronted him a couple of times when we shouldn’t have. You make too many mistakes and don’t make enough shots and give up that many fast-break points, you’re going to get beat most nights in this league.”
While getting outscored 27-19 in fast-break points, the Mavs made a frantic comeback. Dirk Nowitzki (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) scored inside to get Dallas within 102-99.
Then, when Marco Belinelli misfired on two free throws with 10.1 seconds left — leaving Sacramento with a three-point lead — the Mavs had a golden opportunity. But after a wild scramble on Belinelli’s second missed free throw, Deron Williams was whistled for fouling Daren Collison.
Also a former Mavs player, Collison sealed the game with a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds that gave the Kings a 104-99 lead.
He played great. Their entire team played great.
Carlisle on former Maverick Rajon Rondo
Rondo was booed during pregame introductions and every time he touched the ball. But it didn’t seem to phase him.
“He played great,” Carlisle said of Rondo. “Their entire team played great.”
Chandler Parsons led the Mavs with 28 points and nine rebounds, but the Kings shot 52.5 percent from the field and led 50-45 at the half.
“We keep fighting back at the end, but you can’t always put yourself in position to be down 10 with a couple of minutes left and basically have to play perfect basketball,” Nowitzki said. “You’re not going to score the game every time like we did lately.
“We can’t put ourselves in that position all the time.”
It’s a song Carlisle knows all too well.
“We’ve got to learn from this,” Carlisle said. “There are a lot of games left and each one is really important.”
Mavericks at Nuggets
4 p.m. Sunday, FSSW