DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks opened the Orlando restart schedule in electrifying yet agonizing fashion on Friday night, falling to the Houston Rockets in a high-scoring, nationally-televised overtime affair 153-149.
The Mavs had the advantage late, leading with just seconds to go. However, thanks to a heady play by Robert Covington on the final rebound of regulation, the Rockets were able to tie the game on his put-back following a missed free throw with 3.9 seconds left, sending things to overtime.
From there, the experience of the Rockets took over, and the young Mavericks were unable to weather the storm, with Houston capitalizing on the tired Dallas legs en route to the win.
"I just know that this is a tough loss - about as tough as it gets,'' said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who mentioned late-game missed free throws and that botched non-rebound as the "culprits.'' "It comes down to execution.''
It was Kristaps Porzingis who led the way for the Mavs, scoring 39 points to go along with a monstrous 16 rebounds, while also hitting 13-26 from the field and 3-8 from three.
Said KP: “I think we should have stayed probably more offensive-minded the way we were the whole game. At the end we tried to slow it down and the pressure was up obviously, and we tried to slow it down, and kind of just cruise and win the game. We just have to go out there and keep playing aggressively, attack ...
"It’s a great lesson for us to learn from and hopefully not make those same mistakes at the end in the following games.”
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Trey Burke was without a doubt the surprise of the night, pouring in 31 points on 11-16 shooting, including a sublime 8-10 from beyond the arc, in what was a welcome resurgence for the former National College Player of the Year. Burke also had six assists.
And then there was Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, who controlled much of the game with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in the 15th triple-double of the year for the young MVP talent.
As a team, the Mavs were unconscious from deep, hitting nearly 44-percent on 49 attempts, despite Doncic hitting just 1-9 from three himself. Dallas also had an edge in the rebounding department, with a 55-43 advantage, thanks in large part to the performance of the aforementioned Doncic and Porzingis.
It wasn't enough, however, as James Harden's 49 points, nine rebounds and eight assists were simply too much for Dallas to overcome.
"We're a young team,'' Doncic said. "We've got a lot to learn. We'll get better for sure. I know we're going to get together when it matters most, so I'm not worried about that."
The Mavs, who missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth by not winning, will move on to their next 'seeding game' on Sunday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns in the third matchup of the season between the two teams. Dallas split their previous meetings with Phoenix, with the Suns winning the previous contest in January 133-104 at the American Airlines Center.
They will bring with them the most incredible offense in the NBA ... and, at the same time, one of the worst clutch teams in the NBA.
“I’ll take the blame for this one,'' Carlisle said. "I’ll take full responsibility for the loss. I want to keep the pressure off the players.”