LOS ANGELES — At a time when the Dallas Mavericks desperately needed some type of break, they couldn’t get one Sunday afternoon during their 97-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at STAPLES Center.
A potential three-point play by Jalen Brunson would have gotten the Mavs within 94-92 of the Clippers with 52.2 seconds remaining. However, although a foul was called on Clippers guard Terance Mann on the play, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue challenged the call, and after the officials reviewed it, they overturned it and charged Brunson with an offensive foul.
That invariably changed the complexion of the balance of the game, and a scoop shot by Reggie Jackson padded the Clippers’ lead to 96-89 with 29 seconds left.
“I thought (Brunson) got fouled and I thought he made a great play, but they challenged it and they overturned it,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It was a strange play because we lose the two points and then we lose the ball.
“It put you in a difficult situation coming down the stretch. Unfortunately, they overturned it and it becomes their ball, which is kind of different, but it’s the rule.”
It’s a rule that turned into a bitter loss for the Mavs (9-7) to swallow.
“I didn’t really touch (Mann), but they clearly didn’t see that, so on to the next one,” Brunson said. “It would have put us in a one-possession game, or it kept us at a two-possession game with the turnover, so a big call.”
The Mavs, who play the Clippers again here on Tuesday, were hoping they would get superstar point guard Luka Doncic back for Sunday’s game. Doncic was a game-time decision, but after working out before the game, he was ruled out as he continues to deal with sprains in his left knee and left ankle.
“We’re learning to play without Luka,” Kidd said. “This team was built around Luka, so with Luka out we’re learning how to play.
“He was a game-time decision. He was out there warming up. We’ll go through practice tomorrow and see how he feels and hopefully he can go Tuesday.”
The Mavs did welcome the return of forward Maxi Kleber, who missed the previous nine games with a left oblique strain. And when he entered Sunday’s contest for the first time with 5:20 remaining in the first quarter, Kleber immediately collected a rebound, blocked a shot and drained a 3-pointer that got the Mavs within 19-17 of the Clippers.
“Obviously my conditioning is not there, my rhythm is not really there,” said Kleber, who finished with five points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. “But I feel fine right now, so that’s the most important thing.”
The Clippers led, 87-75, with 5:31 left following a driving hoop by Jackson. But after Dorian Finney-Smith drilled a three-pointer, and Brunson scored inside, Porzingis scored six consecutive points to get the Mavs within 92-89 of the Clippers with 1:19 to go.
“With each game I’m feeling more and more comfortable,” said Porzingis, who had 25 points and eight rebounds. “My teammates are finding me in those mismatches and I’m trying to take advantage of them.
“I’m grateful for my teammates and for the coaches around me. I’m grateful for the support around me.”
The Mavs reeled off 10 straight points and toted a 22-19 lead into the second quarter. The Clippers trimmed the deficit to 47-46 at the half, and then assumed control of the game when they went up, 61-52, after Jackson nailed a three-pointer at the 6:19 mark of the third quarter.
It’s the third consecutive loss by the Mavs, by seven, eight and six points. And all three came with Doncic on the mend.
“I think one big important thing for us is to balance our shots better, especially when we don’t make shots from outside, including me. We’ve got to get more to the point and balance it. We have to stop just shooting threes and attack the basket more.”
On a day when they shot just 41 percent from the field, the Mavs were only 6-of-30 from beyond the three-point arc for a mere 20 percent. That, along with the 12 baskets the Clippers made from downtown, proved to be fatal.
And that call that went against Brunson didn’t help, either.
“That was a tough one,” Porzingis said. “Good call on their part to challenge. And then the one I missed before.
“We were down three and I missed an easy hook shot and they scored on the other end and they were up five. That one also kind of hurt. But yeah, plays toward that end that we could have (made) went a different way.”