Sickening as it might have been to see Stephen Curry's pull-up jumper splash through the net with a tenth of a second left on the clock, the 122-120 overtime loss Tuesday night seemed a fitting way to wrap up the Mavs’ marathon homestand.
There was a lot of heartbreak during the longest homestand in franchise history. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Mavs split the eight games at the American Airlines Center, suffering three losses in overtime and blowing a late lead in the other L as well.
“All four losses that we took were just brutal, just gut punches,” said Mavs star forward Dirk Nowitzki, whose 33-point, 11-rebound performance wasn’t good enough to lead the Mavs to a win. “If we pull out one or two somehow, I think it’s a decent homestand. But we didn’t.
“Somehow down the stretch, we just seem to always make a little mistake, and good teams make you pay. A 4-4 homestand was not what we’re looking for, but we’ve got to keep fighting.”
A win over the Warriors would have given the Mavs sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference, just a game behind Golden State. Instead, the loss dropped Dallas to ninth, a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns for the final two playoff spots.
That’s how much these games matter for the 44-31 Mavs, who leave Wednesday for a four-game West Coast swing that starts with back-to-back games against the Staples Center squads.
The margin of error for the Mavs is miniscule. And the Mavs, as well as they played offensively for most of the homestand, made some massive crunch-time errors.
“We’ve made poor decisions,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We haven’t done what we needed to do to get stops. We’re paying the price.”
Case in point: Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson was wide open for a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining in regulation. Carlisle might have been the closest Mav to Thompson at the time.
Big man DeJuan Blair had switched onto Thompson, but figured that the Dallas defense wasn’t designed for a 260-plus-pound dude to chase a shooting guard more than 20 feet. It appeared that Blair expected Mavs stopper Shawn Marion to pick up Thompson as he ran past, but that memo never got to Marion.
It was an inexcusable defensive breakdown for a veteran team that made upgrading its basketball IQ a major priority over the offseason. But it wasn’t uncharacteristic. The Mavs made several similar mistakes this homestand and many more over the course of the season.
“Late in the game, you can’t have that,” said sixth man Vince Carter, who was on the bench at the time. “Can’t have it. We’ve just got to figure it out.”
Ideally, a team whose top six players have a combined 76 seasons of NBA experience would have those sorts of things figured out 75 games into a season.
But that isn’t the case for Dallas, which has to overachieve to be decent defensively and is often dreadful on that end of the floor. That was true Tuesday night, when the Warriors had 62 points in the paint, shot 57.1 percent from the floor and made 15 of 31 3-point attempts.
Still, the Mavs had many chances to win against the Warriors, a testament to a terrific offensive performance led by Nowitzki and Monta Ellis (27 points).
The Mavs led by five with 3:24 remaining in regulation and four after Nowitzki’s 1-foot fadeaway with 1:43 to go. They couldn’t get the stops to close it out.
The Mavs led by four midway through overtime and couldn’t get the stops to close it out. There was a controversial no-call on Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal’s blocked shot of Ellis’ potential go-ahead floater with 13 seconds remaining, but blame the Mavs for letting the game be that close down the stretch against a Golden State team missing two starters.
This was a massive missed opportunity to end a half-empty homestand.
“I’m not big on analyzing how disappointing it is,” Carlisle said. “I know how disappointing it is. We didn’t deserve to win tonight.”
With only two home dates among the seven games remaining on the schedule, the Mavs will have to prove they deserve a playoff spot on the road.