PORTLAND – Unfortunately, the Dallas Mavericks are mired right smack in the middle of a losing streak right now. But they sure know how to have a flair for the dramatics.
One night after taking the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors down to the wire in dramatic fashion, the Mavs were back flashing their magical style again on Sunday night, this time against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rookie Luka Doncic created some spectacular eye-popping dramatics for the ages when he connected on a high-arching improbable 3-point shot in the right corner as time expired to send the game against the Blazers into overtime. However, Portland regrouped in the extra session and wound up nipping the Mavs, 121-118, before a Moda Center sellout crowd of 19,707.
The ending put closure on a disappointing 0-4 road trip for the Mavs, who lost their sixth straight game and dropped to 15-17 on the season. Three of the four losses on this frenetic road trip were by four points or less, making matters even more frustrating for the Mavs.
“We’ve done a lot of good things with really nothing to show in terms of wins, but there is progress,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We need to keep building on the good things and keep working on the challenging things.
“It took a lot of resolve to hang in there when you’re down 14, second night of a back-to-back, getaway game, all that stuff. This team is playing with a lot of heart and we just have to stay with it.”
The Mavs were down, 66-52, early in the third quarter as the game appeared to be getting away from them. And on the last game of a week-long road trip – and on a back-to-back – not many would have blamed them if they decided to mail it in.
Instead, the Mavs kept making big bucket after big bucket after big bucket. And the biggest bucket of them all came when rookie point guard Jalen Brunson inbounded the ball to Doncic with a mere 0.6 seconds left in regulation.
Doncic quickly rose up and launched the ball over Maurice Harkless—a ball that seemingly stayed suspended in air forever. As the ball finally nestled into the nets, tying the score at 107-107, the arena got eerily quiet – except for the thunderous noise coming from the Mavs’ contingent.
“It just went in – it was a tough shot,” Doncic said. “I don’t know what to say.”
Neither did Carlisle.
“I don’t know what to say,” Carlisle said. “The guy’s got an uncanny knack for making shots like that.
“I can’t say I was surprised when it went in. I’ve seen him do things like that too many times.”
It’s a shot Doncic often practices – and perfects — in practice. And it was on full display during the final frantic seconds of Sunday’s game.
“It’s amazing,” guard J. J. Barea said. “He loves those moments, those shots. We see him practicing it.
“I think you guys are going to see more of those in the next few years.”
Unfortunately, while the hair-raising shot by Doncic gave the Mavs some much-needed momentum going into overtime, they failed to seize the opportunity. Portland opened the overtime session with a dunk by C. J. McCollum and a 3-pointer by Al-Farouq to take a 112-107 lead, and the Mavs found themselves again in chase mode.
Still, with some fight left in their tank, the Mavs inched to within 116-115 of the Blazers when DeAndre Jordan received a pass from Doncic and dunked it. But Damian Lillard slithered inside to score two of his 33 points and give Portland a 118-115 lead with 34.2 seconds remaining.
But with a chance to tie the score, Harrison Barnes, Doncic and Brunson all misfired on 3-point attempts on the same trip down the court, and a pair of free throws by Lillard with 15.6 seconds left gave Portland an insurmountable 120-115 lead.
“Getting into overtime was great, and then we got a bit of a sluggish start, which got us up against it a little bit, and then it was tough,” Carlisle said. “It’s a case of the Western Conference being almost an invisible margin for errors. We’ll just keep banging away.”
It was the fifth straight road loss for the Mavs and dropped their record away from American Airlines Center to 2-14. The Mavs, who led 27-25 after the first quarter, but trailed 62-52 at the half, must feel like they can’t catch a break.
Barnes led the Mavs with 27 points, Doncic finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and Jordan added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Also for the Mavs, Dwight Powell scored 14 points in 19 minutes, and Brunson collected 11 points and six boards.
Now as they pause to celebrate Christmas, the Mavs will try and snap out of their doldrums when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
“We’re in a tough stretch, but the last two games we showed a lot,” Barea said. “We had a chance in both games.
“It’s tough to win here. But we had a chance. We just have to stay together and keep fighting and go home and get a win and see if we can get back on track.”
NOTES: Since it was the second leg of a back-to-back, Sunday’s game was a scheduled off day for Dirk Nowitzki, who has played limited duty in his four games since returning from left ankle surgery. . .Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is hopeful of playing Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans after missing nine of the last 10 games with a sprained right wrist. . .Prior to Sunday’s game, coach Rick Carlisle was asked when was the last time he’d seen a rookie like Luka Doncic come into the NBA and be so effective so fast. “There’s a lot of (rookies) that play well,” Carlisle said. “(Dennis) Smith (Jr.) played well for us last year. Look, I understand the questions. Every time we go to a new city there’s a new round of reporters asking the same questions. I get it. It’s OK. (Doncic is) a good player and we really like him and he’s doing a lot of good things. He’s good, he loves to play, he loves playing with his teammates. He has fun playing, and that’s one of the reasons people like watching him.” Carlisle noted that Mavs president of basketball operations Donne Nelson had his eyes set on Doncic as a possible high draft pick for quite some time. “We knew he was good,” Carlisle said. “How good, how fast, nobody knew. Donnie Nelson had a great good grasp on the situation. He has felt for well over a year that he was the best player in that draft last year. We’ve been in rebuilding modes, so we’ve been looking very closely at draft prospects during the season – the last two seasons — way more than I ever have. So we’re very pleased to have him and have an opportunity to draft him.”