DALLAS – For the Dallas Mavericks, all good things came to an unfortunate abrupt end Sunday night at American Airlines Center against the surprising Sacramento Kings.
The Mavs entered the game packing an 11-game home winning streak. But the Kings kept producing timely baskets and making timely defensive stops and were able to get out of town armed with a 120-113 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,935.
It’s the first time the Mavs have lost at home since suffering a 118-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Nov. 2, and it’s the first time they’ve lost two games in a row since they dropped six straight games from Oct. 24-Nov. 2.
Overall, the Mavs are 15-13 and in ninth place in the Western Conference standings after going into Sunday’s game in sixth place.
For some reason, the Mavs just could dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s against the Kings. Dallas shot 41.7 percent from the field, missed 26 of their 35 shots from 3-point land, and couldn’t keep pace with the ultra-fast Kings.
“It’s a long season and it’s a process league,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’re going to have bad shooting nights.
“As we look at the film we’ll analyze whether they’re shots that we like in the context that we like. A lot of them – not all of them – but a lot were, and we were just a little unlucky tonight.”
After trailing most of the night, the Mavs inched to within 112-107 of Sacramento with 1:46 left following a three-point play by Luka Doncic and a 3-pointer by Wesley Matthews. But De’Aaron Fox scored in the lane as the 24-second shot-clock was about to expire.
And following an official’s review on a close out of bounds play gave the ball to the Kings, a dunk by Willie Cauley-Stein padded Sacramento’s lead to 116-107 with 52.6 seconds remaining in the game.
“It’s tough when you’re playing from behind,” guard Devin Harris said. “You’ve got to kind of sort of play perfect throughout.
“We got enough stops. We obviously didn’t shoot it well, especially in the second half, and we gave up a ton of points in transition.”
Doncic led the Mavs with 28 points, six rebounds and nine assists, Harrison Barnes scored 15, Wesley Matthews had 14, Jalen Brunson poured in 12, and Maxi Kleber added 11. Also for the Mavs, DeAndre Jordan blocked three shots and collected his fourth 20-plus rebound night of the season as he finished with a season-high tying 23 boards.
The game featured the 2018-’19 home debut of superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki. The 21-year veteran received a warm standing ovation when he entered the game with 3:17 to go in the opening quarter.
Nowitzki wound up leaving for good in the second quarter after playing eight minutes and 22 seconds. He finished the night with three points and four rebounds and was 1-of-4 from the field.
“It was definitely a step forward,” said Nowitzki, who played six minutes in Thursday’s game in Phoenix. “I played a couple more minutes. I thought my wind was a little better.
“(I’m) plugging along, plugging along in the right direction. But we are 0-2 since I’ve been back. We lost two tough games, two games we feel like we should have had, so it’s frustrating.”
The Mavs fell behind 34-31 after the first quarter, but received a spark – thanks to Nowitzki – in the second quarter. Dwight Powell powered home an offensive rebound for a dunk, Nowitzki drained a technical foul free throw, then added one of his patented jumpers, and Doncic drove hard to the basket and scored, and suddenly the Mavs were nursing a 47-40 lead following a brisk 14-2 run.
But that lead was short-lived as the Kings kept getting up and down the floor at a lightning pace and – led by Fox — were even scoring in about seven seconds after the Mavs scored. Sacramento led 61-58 at the half.
“He’s fast, to say the least,” Brunson said of Fox. “He’s a good playmaker, unselfish and he was a big part of why they won tonight, so you’ve got to give him credit.
“We had opportunities there, and the shots just didn’t fall. You’ve got to give them credit. They played a heckuva game.”
Buddy Hield and Fox led the Kings (16-13) with 28 point apiece.
The Mavs played with Dennis Smith Jr. (sprained right wrist) and J. J. Barea (sprained left ankle). Meanwhile, the loss was disheartening in that the Mavs now embark on a rugged four-game road trip that starts Tuesday night in Denver.
“This is a learning experience for us,” Brunson said. “We’re going to learn from this.
“We’re going to watch film tomorrow and get better from it and move forward. You can’t get down on any game. You just got to find ways to make it help you.”
NOTES: Coach Rick Carlisle was asked about all of the attention rookie forward Luka Doncic has been receiving this season. Doncic was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the months of October and November. “I’m not big into analyzing awards, but he’s a very good player,” Carlisle said. “He’s had some great games and some great stretches. In today’s world of social media and a lot of instant access from, you know, guys play well the whole universe finds out in a hurry. When guys play well they’re going to get attention.”. .J. J. Barea missed his second straight game Sunday with a sprained left ankle. But he said he plans to play Tuesday when the Mavs start a four-game road trip in Denver. Barea also said he’ll continued wearing a mouth guard after he had four stitches put in his lip two weeks ago.