Mavs know they’ll need to hit first Saturday in Portland after narrow defeat at Denver

DALLAS — Despite rallying back from a 23-point deficit to pull within one during the final minute of Tuesday’s 105-102 loss at Denver, the Dallas Mavericks know it was a missed opportunity to claim a coveted road win after putting themselves in an uphill climb.

The Mavericks (15-30) outscored the Nuggets during the fourth quarter, 33-19, led by rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. posting 11 of his 25 points in the final period. The Mavs also trailed by just one at 103-102 after Smith’s driving three-point play with 10.4 seconds remaining. Still, despite the valiant comeback, the Mavericks know they’ll have to avoid putting themselves in that position Saturday night on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“We already know we’re going to come back, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Mavs veteran swingman Wesley Matthews proclaimed before playing his former team. “[The Nuggets] are a good team, and [Denver] is obviously a tough environment to play in, but we did what we were supposed to do. I wish we could have taken care of business a little earlier in the game and not make it so close, but they’re a good team. We’ve got to be better come Saturday.”

Since capturing four straight wins from Dec. 26-31, the Mavericks have dropped five out of seven games by a combined 19 points. Nine of their last 12 games have also been decided by five points or less, going 6-6 during that span. That trend could continue if the Mavs find themselves in another dogfight in the fourth quarter Saturday night during their first matchup of the season with the Trail Blazers (24-21). But according to Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes, it’s imperative that his team gets off to a better start in order to avoid another narrow defeat.

The Mavericks have been outscored in the first quarter during six of their last seven games by a total of 211-171. The outcome has been a 2-5 record during that stretch, falling by an average of 3.8 points in the five losses. That said, the Mavs can credit their sluggish starts to games for their recent slide. And as Barnes points out, the Mavericks will need to come out aggressively to capture a win Saturday night.

“I mean, it’s realizing that, although we can fight back, we always can’t get the lead and just can’t get the win. So, it’s about starting the game out the right way,” Barnes explained. “We obviously have had a lot of different lineups in. But as a group with the starting unit, we’ve just got to do a better job of starting out the game the right way, holding down the fort and setting the tone.

“I mean, one way to look at it is we’re in a lot of close games, and we just can’t get over the hump. The other way to look at it is we’re 15-30, so I think the biggest thing we have to do is we just have to convert late-game,” he added. “Whether it’s defensive execution or offensive execution, I think we’ve won and lost games down the stretch almost every imaginable way. So, I think collectively it’s our starts. I think that’s where it’s happening. The starts in the first (quarter) and the starts in the third (quarter). It’s not always what happens late-game.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Portland for Saturday’s matchup against the Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 9 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.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Jan. 22 against the Washington Wizards. Dallas leads the season series 1-0 after a 113-99 road win on Nov. 7. 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:

J.J. Barea (left groin strain) — day-to-day
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

Game 43: Mavs at Hornets

GAME RECAP: Mavericks 115, Hornets 111

Harrison Barnes scores 25 points with 11 rebounds to top Kemba Walker's 41-point output, as the Mavericks edge Charlotte, 115-111.

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

Game 36: Mavs at Pacers

Patented Dirk

Dirk Nowitzki scores on his patented one-legged, step-back jumper.

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.

Game 27: Mavs at Timberwolves

Ferrell Physical Lay-In

Yogi Ferrell uses the handles to get by Jeff Teague, then beats Karl-Anthony Towns for a lay-in.

Game 26: Mavs at Bucks

Shootaround: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki talks about Giannis Antetokounmpo's season and gives his thoughts on Maxi Kleber's emergence as a starter!