Despite pushing defending champion Warriors for 48 minutes, Mavs take no solace in heartbreaking loss

DALLAS — Although the Dallas Mavericks showed just how well they measure up against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors during Wednesday’s 125-122 defeat at home, falling on two-time MVP Stephen Curry’s game-winning three-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining left them admittedly dumbfounded.

Staging a late-game rally to tie the game at 120-all with 39.7 seconds remaining after leading scorer Harrison Barnes capped a 10-0 run, the Mavericks (13-26) traded haymakers with the Warriors for the better part of four quarters. The Mavs then failed to close the game strong on the defensive end of the floor, leading to Curry’s pull-up three-pointer from the top of the key. But despite pushing the reigning titleholders for nearly the entire game, the Mavericks weren’t willing to settle for a moral victory as they turn their attention to Friday’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls.

“This is who we were supposed to be all along. You know, we don’t really have a moral victory here that we took the champs to a one-possession game. We felt in our hearts that we were supposed to win that one,” veteran swingman Wesley Matthews said after scoring 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 7 of 10 from three-point range to lead the Mavericks in a losing effort. “Obviously, they’re a great team and they’re the champs for a reason, but we’re not happy right now. You know, we’ve got another tough team coming in. Chicago is playing well, so we’ve got to learn from this one and be ready to go again.”

Led by Matthews’ stellar shooting night, the Mavericks stayed in the game while being outshot as a team, 52.7 percent to 47.8 percent. Golden State also added a 46-40 rebounding edge while converting Dallas’ 13 turnovers into 20 points, overshadowing the Mavericks’ 19-of-43 shooting from behind the three-point arc. However, after a miscommunication led to Curry capping his 32-point night with a wide-open three-pointer, the Mavs weren’t satisfied with their defensive effort down the stretch. That said, the Mavericks did applaud the fight they showed after withstanding a 12-point deficit.

“It’s tough,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki admitted. “We fought back incredibly hard. We really fought back from an uphill battle all night long. They hit us with cuts and backdoor splits, and they just had too many layups all night long. But we kind of stuck around, we kept fighting, and we made some good plays the last two minutes to kind of get back in it. And it’s obviously a tough way to lose.”

“We didn’t win the game, but I think everybody on our team came out and gave it everything they had, so you can’t ask for more than that,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. added. “It was just some miscommunication up top. That’s it, and it’s something we can fix. It was a bad time for it to happen, and I think that was the best look that [Curry] got all night. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a learning situation.”

After seeing their four-game win streak fall by the wayside, the Mavericks hope to learn from the late-game miscues in time for Friday’s showdown against the Bulls (13-25). Meanwhile, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hopes the team can match the resiliency it showed during Wednesday’s loss after continuously putting up a valiant fight. Still, according to Carlisle, the Mavs will have to be better down the stretch of securing timely loose balls and collecting late-game stops in order to get back on track.

“We made a great comeback. When you’re 10 or 12 down with three minutes to go, you’ve got to pitch a shutout pretty much. We did some great things defensively, we got some steals, hit some threes, and Barnes made a great play to tie it back up after they scored on the (Klay) Thompson play. And then they ran it back at us. We had a foul to give, but we were unable to give it, and Curry got the shot. So, there you go.

“But I’m really pleased about the way we played, with how hard we played and we kept coming and kept coming,” the coach added. “You know, there were some things that were very frustrating with some missed free throws and some missed rebounds that were seemingly in our grasp, and we had a finger on it or something like that, and that’s why the possession game is so important in this league.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor and continue their four-game homestand on Friday night at American Airlines Center against the Chicago Bulls. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Warriors

Final: Warriors 125, Mavs 122

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

The Mavs had a strong second quarter on this floor earlier this season against the Warriors, and they followed it up with another good one tonight. Dallas scored 35 points in the second frame, shooting 60.0 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line eight times. That cut a nine-point deficit after the opening frame to just six at halftime.

Very loosely related to this game: After a long voting period in China, the Mavs revealed their new Chinese nickname to 独行侠 (DúXíngXiá), which translates roughly in English to “Lone Ranger Heroes.” You can read more about that process and the reasons behind it here.

Notebook

  • What a terrific game. Dallas tied it twice in the final minute but the Warriors answered both times, first via a Klay Thompson layup with 24.2 seconds left and then by a Steph Curry 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds left to give Golden State a 125-122 lead which would prove to be the final score. That was about as good as regular-season basketball will get. Ties, lead changes, insane shotmaking by both teams. You obviously want to see the result go the other way, but tonight the Mavericks proved that they can hang with the best team in the league.

  • This was an interesting game to watch Dennis Smith Jr. His jumper had been money in the previous three games, but tonight it produced mixed results. The problem there is Golden State was giving him room to shoot in exchange for building a wall to keep him out of the paint. In a few years, Smith will likely have developed a pretty nice pull-up shot that could eventually render that strategy obsolete, but in the meantime he’s got to iron out that J and then take the driving opportunities when they come. Oftentimes, that will mean pushing the ball early in the clock and trying to isolate against bigger players. He did that twice here.

    And once he gets it going downhill, he’s able to develop a rhythm to hit those jumpers.

    He’s got a lot of games yet to play in his rookie season, and even more of them in the future. In time, and with work, he could discover counters to any and every defensive coverage. In the meantime, he’s got to continue what he’s doing best: attack.

  • Dwight Powell tied his career-high with 21 points tonight, and more promisingly he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper. Powell was terrific off the bench and flashed a little bit of everything — the rolling, the long jumper, and the in-between game. He’s quietly (and quickly) become one of the team’s most consistently productive players off the bench.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (13-26) will play the Chicago Bulls (13-24) on Friday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • Game 39: Mavs vs. Warriors

    The Fast Break: Mavs at Warriors

    Final: Warriors 112, Mavs 97

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavs got off to a great start in the first quarter, scoring 1.273 points per possession and shooting 60 percent from the field. The bigger key to their success though was avoiding turnovers, committing only two in the opening frame. The Warriors scored 20 fast break points, with most coming in the second half as the Golden State defense began forcing more giveaways. Every possession is precious and especially against a team as dangerous as the Warriors, you’ve got to avoid turning it over as much as possible.

    Johnathan Motley made his NBA debut in this one, scoring his first NBA point on a free throw and later adding a left-handed baby hook for his first field goal. He finished with four points on the night.

    Notebook

  • Dirk Nowitzki had one of his better shooting nights of the season tonight, scoring 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting and adding eight rebounds. He also attempted a season-high five free throws. The Warriors are a switch-everything team almost regardless of personnel, which can lead to some zany mismatches in the post. He was able to back down guards on a couple occasions which created some fadeaway and foul opportunities, and his 3-point shot was going strong as well, at a 2-for-3 clip. He’s shooting 50.0 percent from beyond the arc in his last 11 games on a hair over four attempts per night.

  • Maxi Kleber has shown some major defensive versatility lately. He guarded Karl-Anthony Towns on the last road trip, LaMarcus Aldridge two nights ago, and then Kevin Durant tonight. Checking KD isn’t an easy task for a wing, let alone a big man like Kleber who’s more used to defending centers. But the German rookie has good, quick feet which allow him to keep up with smaller, faster players. Durant obviously had a huge game so it’s hard to argue that anyone shut him down, but of all the guys who defended him, Kleber might have made it the toughest. That’s not something I would have predicted coming into the game. Credit to the experienced rook for embracing one of the toughest assignments in basketball and performing well.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (8-21) will play the San Antonio Spurs (19-9) on Saturday at the AT&T Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • Game 29: Mavs at Warriors

    Classic Dirk

    Dirk Nowitzki shows his classic fade-away jumper as he gets the basket to go, plus the foul.

    The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Grizzlies

    Final: Mavs 103, Grizzlies 94

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavericks scored 32 points in the first quarter thanks in large part to taking 15 free throws. It was the team’s highest-scoring opening frame of the season, and the most since Dallas dropped 32 in the first against Brooklyn on March 19, 2017.

    Dallas has now attempted at least 21 free throws in all five games this season. The Mavs didn’t have a streak longer than two such games all of 2016-17. The club has clearly made a point of attacking the basket early and often, most notably Harrison Barnes, who now has three games of at least nine free throw attempts this season after doing so in just four contests all of last season.

    Coming into this game, Dennis Smith Jr. was the only teenager in Mavs history to score even five points in a game. He could very well rewrite the franchise’s age-based record book this season.

    Notebook

  • It’s good to see the Mavs get a win, and it’s even better to get one against a team playing as well as Memphis. The Grizzlies have wins this season against both Golden State and Houston, so they’re for real so far. Dallas played a really smart game on both ends of the floor, finding a way to get good shots while still playing within the offense, and forcing plenty of turnovers on defense. This is the kind of game the Mavs will need to play the rest of the year to get to where they want to be.

  • If there’s one guy we’re going to pay extra-close attention to this season, it’s going to be Dennis Smith Jr. The rookie point guard had a pretty quiet first half tonight, but he scored nine points in the third quarter alone to turn around his evening and ended up with a career-high 19 points. It began with a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper from the free throw line, and continued with consecutive drives to the basket against switched big men. He showed a little bit of everything in the third, including making a nice lob pass to a rolling Dwight Powell for an alley-oop. There’s going to be a lot of good times for him this season, probably mixed in with some awkward ones, but to borrow a line from Mark Ruffalo in “Begin Again,” you’ve got to enjoy the pearls. That third quarter was a pearl.

  • After a couple rough shooting nights to begin the season, Wesley Matthews had another solid game in this one. He scored 10 points in the first quarter to help jump-start the offense following a 19-point outing against Golden State on Monday. He’s now up above 39 percent from beyond the arc this season after a 5-of-16 start. The Mavs will undoubtedly need Matthews to continue hitting 3s at a high clip, especially since they’ve been without Seth Curry all season.

  • In other Dennis Smith Jr. news…

    His athleticism is obviously really impressive, but what’s most jaw-dropping about that play is how easy he made it look. That’s a point guard driving past his defender in one step and dunking with two hands. It’s crazy how casual he is about plays like that.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (1-4) will play the Memphis Grizzlies (3-1) on Thursday at the FedEx Forum at 7 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Warriors

    Final: Warriors 133, Mavs 103

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavs scored 62 points in the first half tonight. They did so only 10 times in 2016-17 and eight times the season before, so to do so in their fourth game this season (and second with Dennis Smith Jr.) should be taken as a good sign. Of course, offense constitutes only one half of the game, so the Mavericks still have plenty to work on. It’s still early in the year, though.

    The Mavericks shot 30 free throws in this game, a mark they topped only three times last season. To the Mavs’ credit, they haven’t taken fewer than 21 in a game this season after only taking 21+ in 26 games last year. Harrison Barnes has made a point this season to get to the rim and he was able to do that again tonight, although that didn’t manifest itself in the form of attempts. Smith, however, took 10 attempts to lead the way for Dallas.

    The Mavericks grabbed 14 offensive rebounds tonight, a mark they reached only three times last season. Barnes and Nerlens Noel each pulled down three while Dirk and Smith pulled down a pair each. While suffering through a shooting slump in the first half, the Mavs started crashing the glass to keep plays alive and earn a second chance, which helped to kick-start their comeback effort.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. was back in the lineup tonight after missing the previous two games with left knee effusion, or swelling in the left knee. Smith didn’t appear to be hindered, as he nearly threw down a pretty serious dunk on Draymond Green at one point but was fouled mid-flight. Smith said he went for an MRI last week and all turned out well, so that was certainly good news to hear. The 19-year-old was active on the glass with six rebounds, including chasing down one offensive board all the way onto the Mavs’ bench. He finished with 10 points, but a 4-of-10 night from the free throw line left a few more points on the floor. This season is going to be a learning process for him, and having to guard Steph Curry is a pretty serious challenge for a teenager. He’ll continue to watch film and improve on that end and also as it relates to running the offense.

  • Two of the Smith-Yogi Ferrell-J.J. Barea point guard trio were on the floor for the entire game for as long as it was competitive. Not surprisingly, the ball seemed to move much better tonight than it did in the previous two games when injuries kept Smith out. Rick Carlisle said after the game that he wants to see the ball move even more, which will become easier once Smith becomes more comfortable and Seth Curry and Devin Harris return to action. Dallas was able to survive on the defensive glass while playing smaller lineups, and that’s going to be the biggest “must” for the Mavs moving forward for as long as they play the multi-guard lineups.

  • After falling behind by 18 points in the second quarter, the Mavs pulled to within three points by halftime by launching a lengthy run against the Warriors’ second unit. Wesley Matthews led the way, scoring 14 first-half points on just five shots. Dallas did it with hustle plays and by getting to the free throw line. Perhaps that could be the formula to a win in the home-and-home with Memphis later this week.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (0-4) will play the Memphis Grizzlies (3-0) on Wednesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.