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Game 39: Mavs vs. Warriors

DALLAS — Flying high while riding a four-game winning streak, the Dallas Mavericks hoped to continue their ascension up the standings Wednesday night at home.

Welcoming in the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Mavericks tried to continue trending in the right direction. The Mavs also attempted to dethrone the reigning champs after dropping the previous two meetings against the Warriors earlier in the season. However, despite pushing the reigning titleholders for 48 minutes, the Mavericks (13-26) fell short after a heartbreaking 125-122 loss ended on two-time MVP Stephen Curry’s late three-pointer.

“We didn’t win the game, but I think everybody on our team came out and gave it everything they had, so you can’t ask for more than that,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said after the disappointing loss.

Looking to build on Sunday’s 116-113 victory in Oklahoma City, the Mavericks tried to get off to a fast start in front of their hometown fans. Smith also tried to build on his impressive play on Sunday after scoring the Mavs’ final 11 points to carry the team to a victory.

Smith’s early alley-oop connection with German big man Maxi Kleber boosted the Mavs to a 5-2 start. The first-year floor general then broke into the scoring with a three-pointer from the wing. Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki lent some assistance at the offensive end of the floor. However, with Curry and Finals MVP Kevin Durant off to fast starts, the Warriors (30-8) surged in front on the scoreboard before taking a 35-26 advantage into the second stanza.

After surrendering 25 combined points to the duo of Curry and Durant in the first quarter, the Mavericks tried to lock in at the defensive end of the floor. Second-year standout Yogi Ferrell also attempted to provide a spark off the bench, swishing a timely three-pointer from the corner after the Warriors opened up a double-digit lead.

The Warriors quickly countered as sharpshooter Klay Thompson caught fire early in the second period. Nowitzki then tried to put the Mavs on his back while moving into double figures. The 7-footer’s pass to backup big man Dwight Powell for a three cut the Dallas deficit to five at 43-38. Powell’s three-point play then made the margin one at 55-54 with 3:48 left in the half. However, the Warriors responded with a 7-0 run at the other end, forcing a timeout by Mavs coach Rick Carlisle at the 1:44 mark of the quarter as his team fell behind 62-54. And despite Smith’s thunderous driving dunk and three-pointer to answer Curry’s triple, the Mavericks trailed 67-61 at the midway mark.

Led by Curry’s 20 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting and 4 of 7 from three-point range, the Warriors outshot the Mavericks through two quarters, 55.6 percent to 47.7 percent. The Warriors also held a 22-18 rebounding edge, forcing six Dallas turnovers to overcome their own five giveaways.

“You know, early on they were making shots, but they were taking the shots that we wanted them to take. I think we held them to six threes at halftime, so we were just following the game plan,” Smith said of the first half.

Opening the second half with Barnes’ score inside, the Mavericks tried to stage a rally in the third quarter. Instead, the Warriors kept their foot on the gas, forcing a Carlisle timeout with 10:31 left in the period after opening up a 72-63 lead.

The Mavs quickly responded behind the long-range shooting of Wesley Matthews, climbing to within three at 74-71 after a pair of three-pointers by the veteran swingman. Smith’s driving score made the margin two a short time later. A jumper by Barnes made it a one-point game from there. And after Curry’s pull-up three put the Warriors up 81-77, back-to-back triples from Matthews and reserve Devin Harris put the Mavs up 84-83. Still, after a technical foul on Harris for a scrum with Warriors big man Jordan Bell as 2:25 remained in the third, the Mavericks trailed 91-89 entering the fourth following Golden State reserve Patrick McCaw’s layup to beat the buzzer.

Swishing a three-pointer after the Warriors opened up a five-point edge early in the final period, Matthews continued to keep his team in the game. Thompson then slid back into the scoring for the Warriors with a pair of long-range jumpers to keep the Mavs at bay. But after Harris’ three-point play with 8:55 remaining, the Mavericks trailed just 100-95.

Powell and backup point guard J.J. Barea then kept the Warriors from pulling away yet again, scoring on back-to-back possessions to bring the Mavs within 104-99 with 7:22 left to play. Barea kept the separation at five with a timely three to answer Draymond Green’s triple at the other end. But after Thompson’s three put the Warriors up 112-102, the visiting team started to distance itself on the scoreboard.

The deficit hit 12 before Powell’s three-pointer and Smith’s two-handed slam righted the ship for the Mavericks, forcing a Golden State timeout with Dallas down 116-107 and 3:30 left to play. A trey by Ferrell kept the Mavs in the game at 120-113 after Curry’s back-to-back layups. Barnes’ two free throws made it a five-point game with 2:01 remaining. A three by Matthews followed as the Mavs came within two. Barnes then capped a 10-0 Dallas run with a jumper after a defensive stop, tying the game at 120-all with 39.7 seconds left to play.

“It was just effort and continuing to believe in the game plan, and we went on a 10-0 run,” Smith later said of the late rally.

Not to be outdone, Thompson put the Warriors back on top with a cutting score to force a Carlisle timeout with 24.2 seconds on the game clock. Barnes answered with a spinning score in the lane to tie the game. But after Curry’s three-pointer with 3.4 ticks left put the Warriors up three, Smith’s desperation attempt as time expired fell short of the rim.

“It was just some miscommunication up top. That’s it, and something we can fix,” Smith said of the final defensive possession. “It was a bad time for it to happen, and I think that was the best look that [Curry] got all night. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a learning situation.”

Scoring 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 7 of 10 from three-point range, Matthews led the Mavericks in a losing effort. Powell tied a career high with 21 points off the bench, grabbing eight rebounds to boot. Barnes pitched in 18 points, and Smith tallied 14 points to go along with eight assists. Barea added 13 points and seven assists in a reserve role, and Nowitzki ended the night with 12 points and eight boards in the first unit.

“This is who we were supposed to be all along. You know, we don’t really have a moral victory here that we took the champs to a one-possession game. We felt in our hearts that we were supposed to win that one,” Matthews admitted. “Obviously, they’re a great team and they’re the champs for a reason, but we’re not happy right now.”

Curry led four Warriors in double figures with 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, knocking down six of his 13 shots from behind the three-point arc while grabbing five rebounds and dishing eight assists. The Warriors also outshot the Mavericks for the game, 52.7 percent to 47.8 percent, adding a 46-40 rebounding edge and converting Dallas’ 13 turnovers into 20 points.

“We made a great comeback. When you’re 10 or 12 down with three minutes to go, you’ve got to pitch a shutout pretty much,” Carlisle confessed after the game. “We did some great things defensively, we got some steals, hit some threes, and Barnes made a great play to tie it back up after they scored on the Thompson play. And then they ran it back at us. We had a foul to give, but we were unable to give it, and Curry got the shot.”

“It’s tough,” Nowitzki added. “We fought back incredibly hard. We really fought back from an uphill battle all night long. They hit us with cuts and backdoor splits, and they just had too many layups all night long. But we kind of stuck around, we kept fighting, and we made some good plays the last two minutes to kind of get back in it. And it’s obviously a tough way to lose.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor and continue their four-game homestand on Friday night at American Airlines Center against the Chicago Bulls. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out