NEW ORLEANS – For the Dallas Mavericks, trying to pull out a victory on the road this season has been like pulling teeth. Or in the Mavs’ case, liking going through a root canal.
The Mavs failed to execute down the stretch Friday night, got beat up inside the paint and also missed 10 free throws on their way to suffering an excruciatingly painful 114-112 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Arena.
It was the eighth straight road loss for the Mavs (16-18) and dropped their overall road record to an NBA-worst 2-15.
The Mavs, who led 66-55 at the half and 72-57 early in the third quarter, had a chance to either win the game with a 3-pointer or tie it up and send it into overtime with a 2-pointer. But the last-second shot never materialized.
With four seconds remaining in the game, Dennis Smith Jr. tossed an inbounds pass to DeAndre Jordan, who threw it back to Smith. As Smith was curling on the right side of the key he was met by Anthony Davis.
So, Smith tried to weave his way past Davis. However, by the time Smith scooted by Davis and got inside the paint, he failed to get off the shot before time expired.
“I take responsibility for the last play,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s on me the fact that it was unsuccessful, so let’s just get that out of the way.
“These road games come down to a lot of little things. We missed 10 free throws, we were at a 10-rebound deficit, we were at a five-turnover deficit. Those are things we just got to keep working to shore up. That’s where we are, that’s how close we were. “
Playing his first game after missing 10 of the previous 11 contests with a sprained right wrist, an exasperated Smith said he didn’t lose track of how much time was remaining in the game as he was trying to maneuver past Davis.
“I got to get a shot up, that’s all that is,” Smith said. “It’s on me,
“That extra dribble cost me.”
Forward Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a season-high 11 points in 11 minutes, said the close losses on the road are beginning to sound like a broken record. Last week the Mavs lost at the Los Angeles Clippers by four points, at the Golden State Warriors by four points, and at Portland in overtime by three points.
“We’ve got to find a way to win some of these close games on the road or it’s going to be tough to look around in April and look back and a lot of ones we shoulda, coulda won and we didn’t,” Nowitzki said. “We just got to find a way somehow to get that extra stop, be a little smarter, don’t turn the ball over, take good shots, put the ball in our playmakers’ hands.
“It’s just tough to not pull at least one of those out in the last five or six road games. It’s just super, super frustrating.”
It also was super, super frustrating for the Mavs as they tried to contain Davis. The Pelican’s perennial All-Star powered his way for 48 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and two blocks as New Orleans enjoyed a massive 70-32 advantage in points in the paint and a 30-14 advantage in second-chance points.
Luka Doncic drilled a step-back 3-pointer — en route to scoring a career-high 34 points – that gave the Mavs a 112-111 lead with 1:18 left in the game. But Davis came back and drained a 14-footer and completed a three-point play after he was fouled, and that put New Orleans ahead, 114-112 with 43,9 seconds remaining.
“If he’s not the MVP, he’s going to be right there,” Carlisle said of Davis. “You double-team him and he finds people for open threes and then you have a hard time rebounding.
“If you don’t double-team him he’s going to grind you and make tough shots. So it’s a pick your poison situation. What can you say? The guy is a breath-taking talent. He’s a great, great player.”
A short time after Davis’ 3-point play, he missed a 3-pointer. That set the stage for the final frantic seconds when the Mavs initially tried to get the ball to Doncic, but he was closely guarded by Jrue Holiday.
As a whole, Doncic was magnificent as he was 10-of-16 from the field, including 7-of-10 from 3-point territory. However, he missed six of his 13 free throw attempts and that bothered him afterwards.
“We had some great looks, but personally I missed a lot of free throws,” Doncic said. “I’m missing a lot, so I’ve got to work on that.
“It’s tough, especially for me. I hate losing. I hate it so much. I hate losing, so it’s frustrating for me, especially today. I think we did a great job.”
Besides Doncic, Harrison Barnes tallied 21 points for the Mavs, Smith scored 14 points in 30 minutes, Jordan had nine points, 15 rebounds and a season-high four blocks, and Dwight Powell added 10 points and eight rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
“The effort was great, (there was) a lot going on, a lot of noise, a lot of emotions, guys fought their butts off, played well to win, but we just didn’t quite get there,” Carlisle said. “It’s a good group of guys that’s fighting their tails off.
“They all believe in each other, we believe in them, we trust them. We’re in the midst of a tough stretch where we’ve got to make one or two more plays to win on the road.”
On Friday night, that just didn’t happen for the Mavs.
NOTES: The Mavs will next play a home-and-home back-to-back against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas plays host to the Thunder on Sunday at American Airlines Center, and then play the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Monday in the first of a four-game road trip. . .Guard Wesley Matthews didn’t make the trip to New Orleans due to soreness in his right foot. . .The Mavs are in the midst of playing 14 games in 11 different cities and four different time zones in a 25-day span. It could be overwhelming, but coach Rick Carlisle said they don’t look at the Schule in that fashion. “Looking at the big picture and how daunting it all looks, I’m not into that.” So how do the Mavs find suitable practice time? “We’ll see what the schedule looks like,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes your practices during the busy stretches are film sessions — simple adjustments, tweaking of things. Everybody at this point has got enough stuff in, unless you trade half your team or something like that, and that’s not going to happen. We’ve got a good group of guys who’ve shown that we can play well consistently at times, and we’ve got to do better on the road.”. .In Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J. J. Barea, Devin Harris and Jalen Brunson, the Mavs have at least five players who can effectively run their offense. And that gives them a distinct advantage over a lot of teams. “Today’s game is built on play-making, so having multiple play-makers is a very important thing to have on your roster,” Carlisle said. “I’ve been talking about this for many years now. We couldn’t have won (the NBA title) in 2011 without having two of those kinds of guys on the floor at al times. It’s Smith, Doncic, Barea, Harris, Brunson. Those guys can (run the offense). We’ve got bigs that can make plays, too. In today’s game there’s no substitute for guys that can see things, put the ball in the hole, find people, drive it and making plays that are the right plays at the right time.”