DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks started Wednesday three games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as they opened a six-game home stand. Before the Nets-at-Dallas tip, coach Rick Carlisle said his Mavs needed to ‘be in the moment’ but also acknowledged a desire to win at least five of the next six games. Nets 113, Mavs 96 marks a failure in both the short- and long-term goals.
In what might serve as a dagger in the Dallas Mavericks’ desire to qualify for a 12th straight postseason, they found no answer inside for Brook Lopez (38 points) and no answer outside for Deron Williams (31 points) as Dallas dropped to 32-36 — and 3.5 back — with only 14 games remaining.
There were some hints of a clutch-time shootout between Williams (the DFW native who considered jumping from Brooklyn to the Mavs during free agency last summer) and Dirk (who surpassed the 9,000-rebound mark and became the 10th NBA player with at least 24,000 points and 9,000 boards). But Dallas again struggled to feed Nowitzki as he ended with 16 points.
In short, The UberMan didn’t get much help — and he said as much.
“They (defenses) don’t leave me much anymore,” said Nowitzki, who took just 10 shots and made eight of them while being allowed no free throws. “It’s up to other guys to make plays. It’s as simple as that.”
Meanwhile, Williams scored 26 of his points in the second half.
Williams was naturally a pre-, post- and in-game focus of Dallas. Before the game, Mavs owner Mark Cuban — criticized for not personally traveling to New York for the Deron courtship to instead tape his “Shark Tank” TV show — called Dallas’ free-agency swing-and-miss “old, old, old, old news.”
In fact, of course, eventually succeeding in such a quest is paramount for the Mavs organization. So it’s “news” of a sort. And fans know it, which is why some American Airlines Center ticket-holders showered Deron with boos.
But that didn’t deter him, or Lopez, who was 15-of-22 from the field and with 11 boards helped Brooklyn out rebound the Mavericks 45-34. Lopez totaled seven offensive boards, one more than the entire Mavs team. The Nets’ Reggie Evans pulled down 22 rebounds to help fill out Deron’s supporting cast.
“My family is here, my friends are here, and I grew up a Mavericks fan,” said Deron, savoring the night. “It’s always good to come back here and play.”
And it’s always bad for the Mavs when they have a short-term goal and a long-term goal and they fall short of both.