Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be, as if some galactic force refuses to let them happen.
How else can you explain the Mavericks’ inability to score a season sweep over the San Antonio Spurs?
After Sunday night, make it 41 consecutive years that the Mavericks haven’t been able to do it. And they may never have a better chance than they did this season.
They had won the first two meetings this season, but on Sunday, DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray had an answer for everything Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis threw at them and the Spurs collected a 119-117 victory at American Airlines Center.
DeRozan nailed an 20-foot jumper over the outstretched arm of Dorian Finney-Smith with 0.5 showing on the clock to provide the Spurs with the winning margin and get them a lone victory this season in three meetings with the Mavericks.
After that shot, the Mavericks had scant time with which to work and a 35-foot heave by Dončić was not close.
“Tough loss, a disappointing loss,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had some good things going in stretches, but the NBA is a league where you got to sustain over 48 (minutes) and we didn’t do that tonight.
“We made a good run at the end, but it’s hard to live on late-game comebacks. So it’s a disappointing loss.”
Dončić agreed and said: “He (DeRozan) made a hell of a shot. It was good defense, but he made a hell of a shot.”
That defense was a key topic after the game. DeRozan had been sizzling throughout the second half, when he scored 27 of his 33 points. The Mavericks made the decision to play DeRozan one-on-one with Finney-Smith, their best defender.
DeRozan isolated on the left side, got inside the 3-point arc and swished the winner.
“We talked about the possibility of going (with a double-team), but we elected not to, elected to let Doe-Doe guard him straight up,” Carlisle said. “In hindsight, we obviously should have gone. That’s on me. That’s my decision. That’s a detailed description of it.”
DeRozan had good support from Murray with 25 points and the Spurs led 113-104 with 3 minutes remaining.
The Mavericks went to work and whittled down the lead and finally tied it at 117 when Dončić coaxed in a floater in the paint with 19 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the Spurs went to DeRozan. And he DeLivered.
It didn’t help that Porzingis, who had 31 points and 15 rebounds, fouled out with 1:14 to play and the Mavericks down 117-113.
“It’s a tough one, obviously,” Porzingis said. “I wanted to be out there. We still had a chance to win the game. DeMar hit a huge shot. Hat’s off to him and it shows how hard it is to win an NBA game.”
The loss dropped the Mavericks to 29-23 and ended a five-game losing streak for the Spurs (25-26).
And the Mavericks have no time to lick their wounds with Philadelphia visiting AAC Monday night (6:30 p.m. tipoff).
“We’re a team that’s still learning some lessons about keeping our guard up, navigating through a very busy schedule,” Carlisle said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. We’ve come a long way over two years since we kind of had this group. We got a quick turnaround. We got one of the best teams in the league coming in. It’ll be a good test for us.”