The Mavericks may not have gained any pounds on Thanksgiving, but they definitely lost a little defense somewhere between the buffet line and Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
A shootout developed against the Washington Wizards and the Mavericks came up a few bullets short as the visitors bagged a 120-114 victory, despite a big night from Luka Dončić.
The Mavericks had built a 6-1 record at AAC, but couldn’t protect the home court, nor their basket, against a rapidly improving Washington team.
“We had a healthy Thanksgiving food-wise,” coach Jason Kidd said. “There was no resistance there to start the game. Luckily, they didn’t have any resistance, either.
“It was a shootout and if you’re going to be in a shootout, you got to make shots and we just didn’t make them at the right time and they did.”
The Mavericks had some star-level hometown support on hand when actor/comedian and Terrell native Jamie Foxx was seated courtside not far from owner Mark Cuban.
It didn’t prove to be any sort of lucky charm as the Mavericks were outscored 11-5 in the final 1:35 after having tied the score at 109.
The Mavericks hadn’t played since Tuesday’s overtime win in Los Angeles against the Clippers. The Wizards were playing their third game in four nights, including back-to-back contests Friday in Oklahoma City before coming to Dallas.
“We just didn’t play a good game,” said Dončić, who had 33 points and 10 assists. “They were rebounding the ball. And they were just (strong) on the offensive end. We could have won that game. We got to be prepared better than this.
“On offense we were pretty good. We had a lot of open shots we didn’t make. But the game was on the defensive end. We got to play better defense, that’s it.”
The Wizards got sharp outings from Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and center Daniel Gafford, who had two key offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Beal drew the defense in the paint and missed a layup. But Gafford, who had an efficient night, grabbed the offensive board and found Kuzma for a 3-pointer with 1:33 to go to put Washington up 112-109.
Dončić missed a 3-pointer. Once again, Gafford got an offensive rebound at the other end and this time rammed it back home for a 114-109 lead.
Tim Hardaway Jr. made a 3-pointer, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a midrange jumper with 29.2 seconds showing for a 116-112 Washington advantage.
Dončić coaxed in a short jumper to make it 116-114, but the Mavericks had to foul and elected to try to force a turnover first. They trapped the Wizards before finally fouling Caldwell-Pope with 10.5 seconds left. He made both free throws to seal it.
Of waiting to foul on the last defensive possession, Kidd said: “We were trying to get a steal. There was plenty of time. We came close twice to getting the steal. So I thought the play was right.
“A lot of times, teams think you are going to foul and they just will hold the ball and you can get a jump ball or somehow get a deflection and steal. Some of the clock ran off, but at that point you’re trying to have them make a mistake and they didn’t.”
What was a mistake was the Mavericks’ defense most of the night. More attention to that end of the court might have rendered the finish of the game less dramatic.
Could the Mavericks have been a bit stale since they didn’t play for three days?
“Defensively, yes,” said Trey Burke, who had 14 points and four assists as the backup point guard with Jalen Brunson out. “We’re still trying to find our identity on defense.
“We have too many lapses on defense. Whether it’s against good teams or not so good teams, these are the best players in the world, you can’t have lapses on that end of the court or allow offense to dictate how you play on defense.
“But it kind of goes back to the same issue we had last year in the playoffs – continuing to find our identity on defense and not allowing made shots to ldictate how we play throughout the whole night.”
The Mavericks played without point guards Brunson (left foot) and Frank Ntilikina (right calf), which is why Burke got significant playing time.
“Jalen practiced yesterday, but is feeling sore so he’ll be out,” Kidd said pregame. “Tomorrow we’ll have a better update. I hope it’s just one game.”
Brunson was injured in the first half Tuesday against the LA Clippers.
Ntilikina missed his third game with the calf injury.