The Dallas Mavericks were neck-and-neck with the Los Angeles Clippers through three quarters on Sunday afternoon. ThenLuka the fourth quarter happened.

The Clippers were more polished at both ends of the court in the fourth quarter, and as a result they were able to get out of American Airlines Center with a 112-98 victory. But what bothered the sellout crowd of 20,026 probably more than anything was the Mavs’ inability to step to the line and make their free throws.

While the Clippers converted 30 of their 31 free throws, the Mavs were just 15-of-26 from the charity stripe. So, how do the Mavs fix that free throw discrepancy?

“You’ve got to work, you’ve got to be confident,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Your routine, you’ve got to work on it every day at practice. It is a big thing.

“When you get to the line the most in the league and you’re shooting in the bottom of the league, that doesn’t help you win. Free throws can help you win, especially when you’re a good team. Understand it stops runs and it continues to keep a run going. That’s our next step, being able to make those free throws.”

Free throws notwithstanding, this was still a seven-point game – the Clippers were up, 100-93 – with under five minutes left. Kawhi Leonard then grabbed an offensive rebound and buried a three-pointer to put the Clippers up by 10.

That ignited a 10-2 rally by LA, who eventually bolted ahead, 110-95, with 2:16 left following three free throws and a tip-in by Marcus Morris Sr., and a basket by Paul George.

SpencerThe game was knotted at 79 entering the fourth quarter. Then, the Mavs had a meltdown at both end of the court.

The Mavs were just 7-of-17 from the field and 4-of-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, while the Clippers were 11-of 19 from the floor in the fourth quarter and 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.

“We did have some good looks,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., referring to the fourth quarter. “We didn’t capitalize on them.

“They did a good job of running their lanes and trying to get easy ones and getting us cross-matched. Their supporting cast did a good job of knocking down shots and taking advantage of matchups.”

While Leonard and George led the Clippers with 30 and 21 points, respectively, LA’s bench also did its share of damage. Behind 19 points from Norman Powell and 10 from Reggie Jackson, the Clippers’ reserves outscored the Mavs’ reserves, 40-9.

The Mavs dropped to 25-23 and will host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday before embarking on a two-game road trip to Phoenix on Thursday and Utah on Saturday.

Luka Doncic paced the Mavs with 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 22 points and eight boards, and Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 21 points and five assists.

“For now, after this loss, we went back into the locker room and it was positive,” Hardaway said. “We know we can hang with the guys. We know defensively we’re starting to get better, especially with Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) and Josh (Green) being back.

“I think the mood in the locker room is positive. We have to limit little funny mistakes andJosh keeping some guys off the line. I think that will go a long way for us.”

The Mavs got hot, took control of the game and forged ahead, 48-38, with 2:45 left before halftime following a pair of buckets by Spencer Dinwiddie and a three-pointer from Hardaway.

However, the Clippers (25-24) cut the Mavs’ lead to 54-49 at intermission. From there, the game steadily flipped in the Clippers’ favor.

“I thought the second half, we just came out a little flat,” Kidd said. “Giving up the lead and then being down by five, we kept fighting.

“Give them credit – they were the better team. But I think we learned a lot this afternoon.”

A key moment in the game occurred when Clippers’ center Ivica Zubac picked up his fourth foul with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter with LA up, 70-69. From there, the Clippers went with a small lineup and that kept the Mavs off-balance.

“(The small lineup) puts a lot of pressure on our wings being able to close out to their wings,” Kidd said. “They won that battle this afternoon. When we closed out, they just re-drove us. If it wasn’t a layup, it was free throws.

“That’s something that we can learn to do when we are small. I thought we settled for some threes there when we could have re-drove when they are small to get to the rim. That’s something that we’ll look at and we’ll get better at.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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