After falling behind early in the game, the Dallas Mavericks fought force with force Saturday night at American Airlines Center. But in the end, they came up on the short end of the stick in losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-90.Tim and Maxi

Playing without Luka Doncic (left ankle soreness) and Kristaps Porzingis (left knee contusion), the Mavs lost for the seventh time in their last nine games and saw their win-loss record fall to 11-11. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, got 29 points from former TCU star Desmond Bane and won for the fourth straight time and padded their record to 13-10.

Although the Mavs lost their fourth consecutive home game, they know the effort was much, much better than it was during Friday’s surprising 107-91 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

“There were a lot of positives — the effort, just the little things,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We got (Memphis) to miss. We just couldn’t come up with the rebound.

“Those guys that were in uniform tonight fought and they gave themselves a chance to get back in the game. It was just the little things down the stretch that we just couldn’t capitalize on.”

The Mavs sliced a 16-point deficit all the way down to 93-88 with 1:45 left after Tim Hardaway Jr. drained a three-pointer. Hardaway was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.

Brunson dodged a bullet.However, Jalen Brunson (15 points, eight assists) chased down the rebound, but officials ruled that he stepped on the out of bounds line near the Mavs’ bench. Coach Jason Kidd used his coach’s challenge to challenge the call, but his challenge was unsuccessful.

“We asked the (Mavs’) people who were sitting behind the seats if there is an angle that he’s out,” Kidd said. “Also, at that time you only have a few seconds to make that decision.

“If we did win that challenge, it’s our ball. If we lose the challenge, it’s still their ball. And it also gives us a chance to rest to catch our breath, so there’s a lot of things factoring into that one play. Unfortunately, we didn’t win that challenge.”

Not long after Memphis won that coach’s challenge, Tyus Jones tossed in a bucket in the lane to put the Grizzlies ahead, 95-88, with 45 seconds left. Dorian Finney-Smith scored with 38 seconds to go to bring the Mavs within 95-90 of the Grizzlies.

But a pair of free throws by Jones with 23.3 seconds remaining sealed the deal as the Mavs now look ahead to Tuesday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I think we kept fighting and we showed some resiliency,” said Finney-Smith, who tallied 14 points. “We just didn’t get enough stops down the stretch.”

And getting those stops is what Finney-Smith believe the Mavs must do in order to climb out of this rut.Dorian balling

“We’ve got to stick together,” he said.” It’s going to be a long season. It’s hard to win in the NBA and I think we’ve got to realize that as a team.

“Sometimes you think it’s easy because we feel like we’ve got a better team in the locker room than last year. But the NBA is hard.”

It’s especially hard for the Mavs to try and win games without both Doncic and Porzingis. Saturday was the first time they’ve played a game when both of their top two players were in street clothes.

“It’s not easy,” said Hardaway, who poured in 20 of his 29 points in the frantic fourth quarter. “We’ve got to go out there with that energy and that motivation to go out there to have that next man-up mentality, and when you’re out there be precise, don’t be hesitant and just go out there and compete.

“Just try to do the best we can just to stay together. We know it’s frustrating, it’s tough. No one is going to feel sorry for us. We just got to go out and play ball and have fun.”

Bane tallied 11 of his points in the fourth quarter and kept producing a key basket whenever the Mavs would make a run.

“We talked about it in pregame that he’s one of their better players and he’s playing at a high level for them, and he did that tonight,” Kidd said. “There were no secrets about the way he’s playing when we talked about him in the locker room.

“He got into the paint and he shot the three well. So we’ve got to do a better job next time when we play them (on Wednesday in Memphis).

Hardaway dreamt about a Game 7A pair of three-pointers by Jaren Jackson Jr. and one from Bane got the Grizzlies off to a fast 13-2 lead less than four minutes into the game. From there, the Mavs were trying to keep their heads above water the duration of a game they trailed 49-37 at halftime and 72-58 after the third quarter.

“We had a lot of good looks even without Luka or KP on the floor,” Kidd said. “The ball touched the paint, we kicked it, made a play for a teammate, Tim gets going there making shots and we played through Tim.

“We believed the whole time when (the deficit) was at 12 we had a chance, and those guys kept fighting. We caused (22) turnovers.”

But the Mavs shot just 33.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three-point range and were outrebounded, 52-42.

“I feel like we’re 10th right now (in the Western Conference) and we’re just trying to make something happen as a team,” Hardaway said. “We just got to do a better job of trying to will these wins out and try to make sure we put the ball in the basket.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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