Mavs Lose Thriller to Nuggets, 107-106, as Clutch Woes Continue
As good as the Dallas Mavericks are offensively, they've struggled heavily in that department lately when games get close at the end. That was on display at AAC Wednesday night, as the Mavs failed to execute down the stretch and suffered a gut-wrenching 107-106 loss at home to the Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic, who finished with 33 points, six rebounds and seven assists, gave the Nuggets a one-point lead with just 7.9 seconds remaining in the game. After a Mavs timeout, Luka Doncic received the inbounds pass and passed it to Dorian Finney-Smith in the corner due to a hard Nuggets' double-team. Finney-Smith then attempted to get the ball out to the top of the three-point arc to either Doncic or Delon Wright, but he misfired the pass between the two players into the backcourt, and the Mavs watched hopelessly as time expired.
“Yeah, it’s (on) me," said head coach Rick Carlisle of the final play. "It’s my responsibility. I’m not going to get into explanations, but we didn’t handle it well, and that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job."
Doncic finished with 27 points through three quarters, but unfortunately, he wasn't able to score in the most important quarter on this night. Doncic also dished out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds. Overall, Doncic shot just 11-of-24 from the field and 1-of-7 from the three-point line. Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Seth Curry joined Doncic in scoring double-digit points.
The Mavs, now with a 23-14 overall record on the season, only have a subpar 11-9 record at home. Even more concerning, though, is how the league's best offense continues to crumble in late-game situations. In 'clutch' games, meaning the score is within five points or less with five minutes remaining in the game, the Mavs have just a 8-12 record. That's the tenth-worst winning percentage in the clutch in the league. The San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic are the only current playoff teams that have a worse clutch record than the Mavs.
“Execution," said Carlisle of why the team has struggled in these clutch situations. "And in a lot of cases, our defense isn’t as good as it is during other stretches of the game. When your defense is better, you’re going to produce better offense. Both sides of the ball are related. I thought in the first half, it was much more of an offensive game. [In the] second half there was better defense by both teams. But we’ve got to be thinking ‘defense first’ all the time, especially at home."
As the Mavs continue to look for answers, there's no doubt that they miss the on-court presence of Kristaps Porzingis, who has now missed five games due to what the team is calling "knee soreness." Although the Mavs themselves don't seem worried, the fan base continues to grow more anxious with each game Porzingis misses.
Things won't be getting any easier for the Mavs anytime soon, as they now shift their focus to a Friday night home date with LeBron James and the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. After taking a hard fall against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, Anthony Davis is being listed as questionable for Friday's game. The Mavs will then finish off their six-game home-stand on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers on the second night of a back-to-back.