CHARLOTTE – As Sunday’s game progressed, Jason Kidd probably thought he had fallen into a vicious time warp and was mistakenly reviewing film of Friday’s game between his Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Hornets instead of watching a rematch.
On Friday in Dallas, the Hornets scored 37 points in the first quarter and built an 11-point lead en route to claiming a 117-109 victory over the Mavs. On Sunday at the Spectrum Center, the Hornets scored 30 points in the first quarter, built a 14-point lead and claimed a 110-104 triumph over the Mavs.
The carbon copy losses to the same bottom-feeder NBA team by the Mavs dropped the record to 36-39 as they continue to mysteriously wobble while damaging their chances of even qualifying for the NBA’s play-in tournament. And the fact that the past two unfortunate losses were against a Hornets’ team that’s waiting to take their place in the NBA Draft Lottery makes what’s happened over the past three days a complete head scratcher.
“When you look at the start of both games, they weren’t very good,” Kidd said. “Again, talking about what happened and looking at the video pregame — and then also talking about what we needed to do — unfortunately we just didn’t do that in that first quarter.
“But just like the last game, we talked about it at halftime and I thought the effort was extremely high on the defensive end (in the second half). Offensively, all night we got great looks. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket. Wide open threes. We had some missed layup that we normally make. But that’s part of the game, but I thought the energy and effort was extremely high there in that second half.”
The energy by the Mavs will have to be even higher Monday night when they play the second game of this five-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers. That’s because, more than likely, the Mavs will be without superstar point guard Luka Doncic.
With 7:51 remaining in the third quarter and the Mavs down, 59-52, Doncic said something to referee Nick Buchert pertaining to a non-call after the fifth-year veteran thought he was fouled while he was shooting a runner on the right side of the basket. Buchert tagged Doncic with a technical foul, which was his 16th of the season and brings with it an automatic one-game suspension.
Unless that technical foul is somehow rescinded by the NBA, Doncic will be automatically suspended from playing against the Pacers. Crew chief Kevin Scott told a pool reporter after the game that: “Doncic was assessed a technical foul for his use of profanity directed at the officials in protest to a non-call that was correctly judged in postgame review.”
Guard Kyrie Irving said of playing the Pacers sans Doncic: “It’s another challenge. Obviously, I would like to have Luka out there. I just don’t think (that tech) was warranted in the flow of the game and hopefully that’ll be rescinded.
“But either way, we’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow.”
After falling down by as much as 19 points (48-29) in the second quarter, the Mavs showed some fight and chopped their deficit to 55-48 at intermission. They kept chipping away until they took their first lead of the game (92-90) when Doncic drilled one of his seven three-pointers with 5:45 remaining.
Gordon Hayward (22 points) quickly countered with a three-point play and a three-pointer as Charlotte eased ahead, 96-92. Three-pointers by Maxi Kleber (14 points) and Irving (18 points) nudged the Mavs in front, 98-97 with 4:16 left.
However, Frisco Lone Star High School product P.J. Washington (21 points, 12 boards) put the Hornets up for good at 100-98 with a bucket from downtown, although a triple by Kleber helped the Mavs inch within 106-104 of Charlotte with 56 seconds to go.
But a killer bucket inside by Mark Williams (15 points, 16 rebounds) padded the Hornets’ lead to 108-104. And after Doncic misfired from three, Svi Mykhailiuk drained a pair of charity tosses with 16.4 seconds left to seal the deal.
It was a night where the Mavs inexplicably made just three field goals – or one less than Hayward – in the entire first quarter when they missed 15 shots.
“We just didn’t make enough shots and didn’t get enough stops in that first quarter,” Irving said. “If you look at the tale of the game, the first quarter kind of was the dictator of this performance by us.
“It’s no excuses. (It was) the second slow start against a team that we obviously felt like we can beat.”
The game was so unusual that Irving had an unruly courtside fan thrown out of the game.
“He just called me out of my name, so I just had to make sure I looked at him eye-to-eye to see if he would say it to my face,” Irving said. “A lot of fans say things when you turn your head or say it in a crowd so they can get away with it.
“But the majority of the time if I can look a fan in the face and see if they really want to say that to me. . .So, he yelled it and I handled it.”
Unfortunately, the Mavs couldn’t handle the Hornets, who outscored Dallas in the paint (48-26), on second-chance points (19-4) and on fast break points (14-2). The Hornets also outrebounded the Mavs, 58-36, including 14-2 on the offensive glass, as Dallas has now dropped 13 of its last 18 games, including four in a row.
“I don’t know what to say, but I don’t think offense is the issue. I think it’s the other end,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “We got to do a better job as players of being accountable for our play and how we do things out there on the court. It’s cool and all — of the coaching staff and those guys take the hit – Luka and Kai and J-Kidd. But it’s a whole team effort. It’s the players. We’ve got to do a better job. I think it starts there.”
Doncic scored 21 of his game-high 40 points in the first half. He also collected 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks while keeping the Mavs within striking distance of the Hornets.
Overall, Doncic was 12-of-29 from the field, including 7-of-16 from downtown. Meanwhile, the Mavs converted 19-of-49 shots from beyond three-point range after going just 1-of-10 from long distance in the first quarter.
“I thought Luka, again, being able to do what he did here this afternoon after his press conference (following Friday’s loss to Charlotte), I said pregame that I thought he would have a good game and he did,” Kidd said. “It’s just unfortunate that we let these two games go, so we got to figure out how to stop the bleeding.”