At times Friday night, it looked like the Golden State Warriors were playing chess and the Dallas Mavericks were playing checkers.
At other times, the Mavs were stride for stride with the reigning NBA champions. But when the game reached the critical stages, the Warriors made all the crucial plays and were able to get out of American Airlines Center with a hard-fought 130-112 triumph over the Mavs.
The loss was damaging to the Mavs, who are 34-35 and slipped below .500 this deep in a season for the first time since they were 33-36 after 69 games during the ill-fated 2012-’13 campaign. Dallas is just one-half game ahead of Utah (34-35) for the eight and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Klay Thompson (39 points) and Stephen Curry (31 points) combined for 70 points and the Warriors dazzled the sellout crowd of 20,515 with an exceptional shooting display while running their record to a dizzying 62-6.
Even coach Rick Carlisle had to pay homage to the Warriors, who made a remarkable 22-of-38 shots from 3-point territory and also distributed 35 assists.
“I recognize a great team that’s in the moment and in the kind of groove that they’re in,” Carlisle said. “The playmaking and shot-making is beyond breath-taking at times, but they can be beat.
“We beat them once [on Dec. 30 when an injured Curry didn’t play]. But they’ve lost six games and our plan was to win today, and we’re disappointing we didn’t.”
The Mavs, who have lost seven of their past eight games, were right there with the Warriors, trailing 98-97 after J. J. Barea made a 3-pointer with 9:13 left in the game. But the Warriors finished the game on a brisk 32-15 run and now head to San Antonio for the first of three remaining games against a Spurs team that’s four games in the loss column behind them.
Meanwhile, for the Mavs, they lost forward Chandler Parsons for the rest of the game in the third quarter due to a sore right hamstring. Not too long after that, Wesley Matthews went down in a heap —clutching his right knee — but he remained in the game.
“We don’t think it’s serious [with Parsons], but he was struggling to move a little bit and we didn’t want to take a risk,” Carlisle said. “So he’ll get treatment today and tomorrow and we’ll see where he is on Sunday [when the Mavs host Portland].”
Utilizing its small ball lineup with guard Raymond Felton in the starting lineup for center Zaza Pachulia, the Mavs came out huffing and puffing and ready to blow away the Warriors. Behind seven points from Felton, the Mavs led 20-12.
But Curry scored 14 of his points in the first quarter, which ended with the visitors ahead 42-36. But Curry was just getting started as he had his shot blocked by David Lee, then he floated out to the right corner and banked in a 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki.
“When Curry hit the one that hit the side of the backboard and went in from the right corner, you got to keep fighting through that stuff, and I thought our guys did,” Carlisle said. “We just didn’t quite have enough in the tank to get over the hump.”
Nowitzki led the Mavs with 24 points and nine rebounds, Barea had 16 points and seven assists, and Lee added 16 points and 16 rebounds. Yet it wasn’t enough to defeat a Warriors team that was one 3-poiinter shy of tying the NBA record for 3-pointers made in a game.
“I am not a moral victory guy, but we have to love the way we played tonight,” Matthews said. “We had the desperation and the urgency and the put-togetherness.”
The Mavs just couldn’t put it all together when they needed to.
“It’s a loss where we played with great effort,” Carlisle said. “We needed to make a few more shots at key times, we needed to get a little luckier with them missing a few.
“For a team that good, things have got to kind of go a certain way. You got to make them go a certain way, but the stars didn’t quite align for us.”
Mavericks vs. Blazers
3 p.m. Sunday, FSSW