A turnover-filled night turned into pure disaster for the Dallas Mavericks.
Desperately needing a win over Portland on Wednesday night at the Moda Center, the Mavs miraculously turned into gracious gift-givers. And the Trail Blazers used that sloppy play by the visitors to eke out a 109-103 victory over the Mavs.
In all, Portland exploited the Mavs’ mistakes handsomely by turning 17 Dallas turnovers into 22 points while fueling their high-octane fast break.
“The turnovers were a big problem and they were a big problem right from the beginning,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It put us up against it really in the first quarter.
“I thought we were competing well and getting some good shots, but 17 [turnovers] for 22 points is too many. The game was very well-contested by both teams and they made more plays than we did.”
With this loss, the Mavs (35-36) missed out on a chance to leap-frog the Blazers (37-35) into the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. Instead, they are tied with the Utah Jazz (35-36) for the seventh spot and just a half game ahead of the Houston Rockets (35-37), who are on the outside of the playoff window looking in.
With a trip to the defending champion Golden State Warriors on the Mavs’ docket for Friday, throwing away a chance for victory in Portland could hurt even more.
“It’s going to come down to the last few games of the season like it always has in the seedings the last few years in the West,” Nowitzki said. “I know it’s tough down there, it’s a lot of good teams and we got to find a way to win some.”
On Wednesday, the Mavs fell behind 96-80 with 6:43 remaining in the game, and proceeded to put on a furious rally to climb within 101-95 following a 3-pointer by Wesley Matthews with 1:46 left.
Matthews then blocked a jumper by Damian Lillard and saved it from going out of bounds by flipping it into the hands of Dirk Nowitzki. But Nowitzki’s pass to J.J. Barea in the backcourt went out of bounds and sealed the miserable turnover-filled night for the Mavs.
“Me and J.J. had a big miscommunication down the stretch when we were making a run,” Nowitzki said. “I thought he was going to keep on running and push the ball, but he stopped and I threw it too far.”
Following that turnover, Allen Crabbe nailed a 3-pointer to pad Portland’s lead to 104-95 and basically put the game on ice for the Blazers.
“It was definitely a tough loss,” said ex-Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, who led the Mavs with 22 points and five rebounds. “You look at the box score ... 17 turnovers and, not so much the numbers, but how we turned it over.
“We turned it over with traveling and charges and it was fueling their [fast] break. They’re a tough team, and when you’re give them possessions like that, it’s hard to get away from that.”
Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points on Sunday when the Mavs upended the Blazers in overtime. But while Nowitzki did tally 21 points on Wednesday – the ninth straight game that he’s scored 20 or more – it was a struggle for the 18-year veteran to find open looks at the basket.
“They didn’t switch [defenses] hardly at all,” Nowitzki said. “They almost started switching the last game.
“They tried to keep [Al-Farouq] Aminu on me. He was showing and trying to get back on the pick-and-rolls, and I didn’t really get a lot of looks until late when I was able to make a few plays and was able to get open.”
Deron Williams struggled after scoring 61 points in the Mavs’ previous two wins over Portland this season. On Wednesday, Williams was just 4-of-15 from the field and finished with 12 points and 11 assists.
“I love his aggression, I love the way he’s attacking,” Carlisle said of Williams. “They’re paying an awful lot of attention to him, so he’s not getting a lot of easy shots.
“He and Dirk are the two best players, so they’re all over those two guys and it’s difficult. But hey, the guy fought his butt off the entire game and I love the way he competed. We just need him to keep doing that the last 11 games.”
Carlisle started rookie Salah Mejri for the first time this season and he responded with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes.
“Salah did good things,” Carlisle said. “He’s getting tired, so I’ve got to watch his minutes that way, but he’s doing a lot of positive things. I like the way he played.”
Mejri officially was credited with one blocked shot, but he felt the official scorer missed a few more blocks that he had.
“I think they missed a couple,” Mejri said. “The coaches know what I did. It’s not about the statistic. It’s not about me. It’s about the game.”
The Mavs played their second straight game without small forward Chandler Parsons, who has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the season. That’s one of the reasons Mejri was thrust into the starting lineup, as the Mavs are now 6-4 this season without Parsons.
But the Mavs shot 43.8 percent from the field – they were just 9-of-30 from 3-point range – and had numerous chances of toppling the Blazers, who led 57-53 at the half.
“I’m not going to make an excuse,” Carlisle said. “We were missing Parsons a lot of the year and we’ve had a pretty strong record without him. I think we can win games with the team that we have. I’d much rather have Parsons, but that’s not the cards.”
Led by 27 points from Lillard, the Blazers placed six players in double-figure scoring. Ed Davis came off the bench to collect 16 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
“Right now we’re disappointed,” said Carlisle, who received one of four technical fouls handed to the Mavs. “I’m disappointed with the outcome, but not the effort.”
Carlisle was also disappointed with the sloppy way his team handled the ball, including two straight turnovers that led to four quick points for Portland after the Mavs had called a timeout midway through the second quarter.
“Every time we turned the ball over it was pretty much a layup on the other end,” Nowitzki said. “They made some tough shots and we had a couple of bad bounces here and there.
“I like the way we competed. We just couldn’t overcome some of the mistakes we made.”