DALLAS – For a moment Wednesday night, it looked like the Dallas Mavericks were on the verge of blowing out the San Antonio Spurs. Less than eight minutes into the game and before fans could get totally comfortable in their seats, the Mavs held a massive 23-4 lead.
Final score: Spurs 105, Mavs 101.
The Spurs outscored the Mavs, 60-45, in the second half as the Mavs went 0-2 on this short home stand and lost for the fifth time in the last seven games. It was not what the American Airlines Center crowd of 20,214 – the Mavs’ 700th straight sellout – expected after the Mavs darted out of the gate like a deer trying to cross a busy highway.
“NBA teams makes run – teams that fall behind generally make some kind of run,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We kept it around 15 and got into the (halftime) locker room at 11 (56-45).
‘We knew they were going to come out in the second half with a lot of force, which they did. And we didn’t play with enough force on our end.”
The Spurs didn’t get their first lead (82-80) of the game until the 10:38 mark of the fourth quarter following a basket by DeMar DeRozan. From there, it was nip-and-tuck down the stretch.
Davis Bertans snapped a 96-96 tie when he drilled a 3-pointer with 1:41 left to put the Spurs up by three points. Luka Doncic then misfired on a 3-pointer of his own on a play where he and the Mavs thought there was enough contact to warrant a foul.
But as play continued, Seagoville native LaMarcus Aldridge shook off a foul-plagued game and tipped in a missed shot by DeRozan to put the Spurs ahead, 101-96, with 1:07 to go.
Wesley Matthews’ 3-pointer inched the Mavs to within 101-99 of the Spurs. But DeRozan connected on a pull-up 20-footer which padded San Antonio’s lead to 103-99 with just 36.8 seconds remaining, and Doncic and Matthews each missed 3-pointers down the stretch.
“I mean, we had a very good defensive game for sure,” said Doncic, who finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. “We scored a lot of points.
“I think we did a great job, but at the end we slipped up.”
The Mavs made just 9-of-26 shots in the frantic fourth quarter, including only 2-of-15 from behind the 3-point line. By contrast, San Antonio was 12-of-21 from the field in the final quarter, including 4-of-6 from downtown.
Overall, the Mavs shot 43 percent from the field and missed 27 of their 42 attempts from 3-point range, while the Spurs shot 49.4 percent and missed 17 of their 30 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
To a man, the Mavs say they didn’t relax after they bolted to that 19-point lead with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Mavs, it was just way too much game left and they couldn’t hold onto the rope at the end.
“There’s always some leads in the first half, but teams are usually always crawling back in,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who collected six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes. “It’s usually very rare that the team runs away with the lead from the first half.”
Doncic wowed the crowd when he dunked over Pau Gasol in the first half, and when he barely beat the 24-second shot clock and drained a long 3-pointer in the third quarter that put the Mavs ahead 67-59.
But the Spurs (26-20) just kept making clutch basket after clutch basket, and beating the Mavs to the 50-50 balls.
“We left 3-point shooters open a couple of times,” Carlisle said. “We just made system mistakes that you can’t make, and we have to correct it.
“We have two tough road games coming up (to Indiana and Milwaukee), and the difference between winning and losing is taking care of the ball, rebounding and loose balls, because they’re all possession things. And we’ve got to be tight with the game plan.”
Besides Doncic, the Mavs got 13 points from Matthews, 12 points from Dorian Finney-Smith, 11 points and eight rebounds from Harrison Barnes, and nine points and nine rebounds from DeAndre Jordan.
The Mavs held the Spurs’ leading scorers to a pedestrian-like night. DeRozan came in averaging 21.9 points and finished with just 14 points, and Aldridge entered the game averaging 20.8 points and finished with just eight points.
However, Marco Belinelli (17 point), Patty Mills (14 points) and Bertans (12 points) all got their points off the bench, and Rudy Gay (14 points) and Bryn Forbes (12 points) also contributed to the Spurs’ win.
In addition, the Spurs turned 14 Mavs turnovers into 24 points.
“We knew they were going to keep playing hard — that’s what they do,” Nowitzki said. “We knew they were going to somehow crawl back in it. Just down the stretch a couple of too many mistakes, a couple of turnovers, we missed a couple of good looks, we left too many shooters in the fourth quarter.
“DeRozan and Bertans were just standing there and lining up some threes. Just overall, a tough one. I thought we should have won the game tonight, but we came up short.”
NOTES: Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed his fourth straight game. Smith is dealing with a stomach virus and tightness in the middle of his back. . . This was the fifth straight game Luka Doncic has scored at least 25 points. That ties him with Stephen Curry and Carmelo Anthony for the most consecutive 25-point games by a rookie. Over the last five games Doncic is averaging 27.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 6.4 apg. . .Wesley Matthews went 3-of-7 from 3-point range and became the sixth member of the Mavs to make at least 600 treys in franchise history.