SAN ANTONIO – Put the brooms away. Any dreams the Mavericks had of sweeping the season series against the Spurs for the first time vanished in a flash during a second-half meltdown Tuesday night.
A 13-point lead disappeared in a hurry and the Mavericks got pulverized when they let their guard down at a time when they should have mashed on San Antonio’s throat.
Instead, a 21-5 blitz by the Spurs ignited them to a 119-109 victory over the Mavericks at AT&T Center.
The Mavericks went from an 80-71 lead late in the third quarter to down 92-85 early in the fourth.
They never recovered.
“The second half really hurt us,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They played great. We did not play consistently well. When we pushed the lead to 13 in the third quarter, right there we needed to bear down and sustain and try to build it. They immediately made a big run back at us, got the crowd into it. And from there, the momentum was difficult to get back.”
The Mavericks had hoped to go 4-0 against the Spurs this season, something they’d never done. Instead, they settled for a 3-1 series win against their Interstate 35 rivals.
They also now have a two-game losing streak. They have not lost three in a row all season and will try to avoid that fate Wednesday night when Denver visits American Airlines Center.
The worst part about Tuesday was that it was another instance of the Mavericks booting away a game they felt like they should have won. They now are 7-17 in games when they fail to reach 110 points.
“In the fourth quarter, we gave up the lead,” Doncic said. “It wasn’t our best defensive game.”
The point guard, who played brilliantly despite a sore right wrist and gimpy left thumb, said he’s not overly concerned about the fourth-quarter blues that continue to hound this team.
“I’m not worried at all,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, people had us out of the playoffs. We’ve shown we can be in the playoffs and as of now we’re in the playoffs. There’s a long way (to go). We got a lot of stuff to learn.”
Doncic is no stranger to pressure cookers. He played for the team with the target on its back all the time in Europe, Real Madrid. And he said that’s the only real difference between a playoff race there and in the NBA.
“The difference in Europe is we were Real Madrid,” he said. “Everybody wanted to beat us. Obviously, here too. But we were the top team and every game we lost was a disappointment for us. So it’s different basketball, it’s a lot more games.”
Ones like like Tuesday’s will leave a mark. The Mavericks again were shorthanded and while they never trailed in the first three quarters, neither could they take charge of the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge, back after missing six games with a shoulder problem, got the Spurs rolling with 24 points, but it was a bench group led by Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli that outscored the Mavericks’ bench 47-25. Not having Seth Curry again (sprained ankle) certainly didn’t help things for the Mavericks.
But they know the injuries they have now can’t be an excuse. Everybody is running out of gas at this time of the season.
“The schedule is pretty busy right now,” Maxi Kleber said. “We need more bodies and it would help us if everybody is healthy. But other teams fight through that, too. We’re not the only ones.”
Mostly, the Mavericks know they let another game get away that they felt should have been in their hip pocket.
“When you build a lead in the third quarter the way we did and put yourself in a good position, you’ve got to find a way to sustain,” Carlisle said. “You’ve got to have a collective determination to fight through. You know you’re on the road, you know it’s a loud building and they’re going to make some runs. But we made too many mistakes when we had worked so hard to build that lead.”