Add Wednesday’s emotional battle against the Sacramento Kings to the list of gut-wrenching losses the Dallas Mavericks have ever experienced.KP

Chimezie Metu buried a dramatic wide-open three-point shot from right in front of the Dallas bench as time expired to lift the Kings to a heart-stopping 95-94 victory over the Mavs at Golden 1 Center. With the painful loss, the Mavs fell to 16-18 while the Kings improved to 15-21.

The two teams will meet again on Friday in Sacramento at 5 p.m. CT.

Sacramento inbounded the ball with just 3.8 seconds remaining and down, 94-92. And when Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox quickly zipped down the lane past Frank Ntilikina, Dwight Powell left Metu and scampered over to play help defense.

However, that left Metu wide open in the corner, and Fox immediately fired the ball over to the 6-9 forward and his game-winner nestled through the net as time expired.

“(Powell) was going to help,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He thought Frank might have been beat, but unfortunately if we give up a layup the game is tied and we go into overtime.

“But DP went to help and they made a shot.”

It was a heart-stopper of a loss for the Mavs, who tried to stitch together a win while taking the court with seven players in the health and safety protocols.

On the Kings’ final possession, Kristaps Porzingis said: “I think maybe we could have been a little bit less aggressive with Fox knowing how quick he is. And then DP went in to help and maybe mixed rotations should have been there a little bit earlier.

“Those are things that you can’t really blame the guys. Everything went 100 miles per hour on that last play. Just a tough, tough, tough loss.”

How tough?

KP“This one is on us – on the players,” Porzingis said. “I could have played much better. Not our best performance, and that’s on us.

“We take full responsibility, and what we’ve got to do is take this loss, take this feeling — this feeling that sucks — and take it and use it as fuel for the next game.”

Actually, the Mavs were in a very advantageous position down the stretch to get out with a victory. Porzingis buried a pair of charity tosses with 33.2 seconds left to put Dallas up, 94-92, and Ntilikina rebounded a missed shot in the lane by Harrison Barnes with 27.3 seconds left.

Following a timeout, Jalen Brunson worked most of the 24-second shot down before tossing it to Porzingis in the post. But Porzingis’ shot missed everything – Fox got a piece of the ball — the shot clock expired, and Metu eventually took advantage and nailed the game-winner.

“What I saw was we didn’t have anything at three or four seconds left,” said Porzingis, who finished with 24 points and seven boards. “I knew I was going to be able to get a shot off. I had a pretty decent position.

“I think if Fox doesn’t get his hands on the ball a little bit and kind of make me go out and fumble it for a second and went up into the shot, I think I would have gotten a pretty good look. I would have been able to shoot over Barnes.”

Brunson, who had 25 points and six assists, admitted he should have gotten into the offense quicker.

“I think we kind of got into it a little slow,” he said. “I probably should have stayed in the middle of the floor.

“It could have went a little smoother and a little better.”Kidd and Finney-Smith.

A three-pointer and hammer dunk by Dorian Finney-Smith had given the Mavs momentum and a 86-81 lead with 5:44 remaining in the game. However, the Kings outscored the Mavs, 14-8, the rest of the way and walked away with an improbable victory.

Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Brandon Knight and JaQuori McLaughlin missed Wednesday’s game while in the health and safety protocols. Center Willie Cauley-Stein also sat out his 16th consecutive game because of personal reasons.

And when Knight went into the health and safety protocols Wednesday, the Mavs had to scramble to find a replacement. They wound up signing Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah Thomas joins Mavericks.Thomas started his career with the Kings when he was the 60th and last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. He wound up playing 216 games for the Kings and received a nice ovation when he entered Wednesday’s game.

It was an auspicious debut for Thomas, considering he was in the heat of the battle and didn’t know any of the Mavs’ plays.

“I talked to him a little bit before the game and throughout the game,” Porzingis said. “He was making reads.

“He’s an experienced player. He knows this game. I think he gave us a little bit of a spark today. We’ll see going forward, but it’s good to have somebody that’s so experienced on the team.”

The Mavs got off to a terrific start and led, 30-20, after the first quarter behind nine points from Porzingis, seven from Brunson and six from Finney-Smith. In the opening quarter the Mavs were 11-of-21 from the field and 4-of-9 from three-point range, while the Kings were 9-of-23 from the floor and just 1-of-7 from downtown.

But the script totally got flipped in the second quarter when the Kings outscored the Mavs 35-13, and shot 12-of-18 from the field and 3-of-6 from behind the three-point stripe. Meanwhile, the Mavs converted just 6-of-21 shots in the second quarter, including only 1-of-6 from behind the three-point arc.

The 22-point scoring differential in the second quarter was the Mavs’ worst in any quarter this season.

Kings rookie Davion Mitchell, a first-round draft pick who led Baylor to a national championship last spring, came off the bench and poured in 12 of his 14 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shots. That includes a three-pointer with just 0.9 seconds left which gave Sacramento a 55-43 halftime lead.Sterling

However, Sterling Brown’s three-pointer capped a 12-0 run and suddenly the Mavs found themselves up, 69-68, with 2:53 left in the third quarter. But the Kings kept fighting until the very last second, and it paid off.

“Yeah, hats off to them,” Porzingis said. “They stayed in the game when we made our runs and they competed hard, so you get rewarded for that.”

It’s a reward the Mavs know was very much within their grasp.

“We didn’t have our best game, but I think we should be happy with what we’re doing,” Porzingis said. “We obviously have moments — like every team has moments — when we’re not playing good and this and that.

“But at the end we have to look at if we show up, and we show up every night. Our defense showed up for the most part, and we have a great coaching staff around us that are giving us the answers and I think as the year has gone on we’re getting better. The connection is getting better and we’re executing what we’re asked for.”

Unfortunately for the Mavs, they couldn’t pull off one final execution in the final second.

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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