The Dallas Mavericks missed an opportunity to close out the Rockets and clinch a playoff berth by taking their foot off the gas late.
Dallas Mavericks basketball was back this past Friday and the stars were stars, but Dallas failed to put away the Houston Rockets in OT, falling 153-149. In a game that should’ve never even gotten to OT, the Mavs couldn’t get themselves together on the defensive end to put away James Harden and the Rockets.
The Mavs had a chance to put things away in the fourth as had a seven-point lead with just 45 seconds to play but took their foot on the gas thinking they had already won the game. Something you should never do in general, but especially against two former MVPs in Harden and Russell Westbrook.
In that final minute of regulation after going up by seven, Dallas allowed Harden to walk down court and make an easy three, trimming the lead to just four. An empty possession by the Mavs on offense next led to another chance for the Rockets, which ended up with Dallas fouling Harden on a 3-point attempt trying to bring it within one.
Harden made 2-of-3 at the line and on his third shot, which he missed, the Mavs didn’t box out and Robert Covington got an easy tip-in to tie the game and take it into OT. Rockets finished the extra session on a 14-6 run to close out the Mavs.
Dallas started the game out a bit sluggish on the defensive end of the ball early, allowing a litany of easy baskets by the Rockets. The trend continued throughout the game. A pair of early fouls by the Mavs best defender, Dorian Finney-Smith, along with lackadaisical defense made things easy for the Rockets in the first half.
Houston was in the penalty by the 5:11 mark in the first quarter and it led to a 9-2 run late in the first. The sluggish play early and lack of having a defender like Finney-Smith on the floor to limit Harden led to him finishing the first quarter with 23 of his 49 points.
Dallas’ stars were aggressive early, as was the entire team, tying a franchise record for first-half points with 85 and had a 141.7 offensive rating.
The biggest aggressor in the first half for the Mavericks was Trey Burke, who was signed by the team as a replacement player after Willie Cauley-Stein opted out of the restart. His play caught the attention of Rick Carlisle.
“He’s a very good player; a terrific scorer,” Carlisle said postgame on Burke. “I was thrilled when we were able to get him back. He’s worked, kept himself in great shape, only had a couple of live practices and one scrimmage. What he did was terrific. Right now it’s about who’s ready to play. Who can help us. He was terrific and he gave us a lot of juice the whole game.”
Burke had 19 of his season-high 31 points in the first half, going 5-for-5 from 3-point range and 7-of-8 shooting from the field. Burke finished with a career-high eight 3-pointers made.
Regardless of the loss, the Mavs’ stars still had big games. Kristaps Porzingis finished with a season-high 39 points to go along with 16 rebounds and Luka Doncic finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, marking his 15th triple-double of the season.
Porzingis believes the team began to slow things down at the end of the game.
“I think we should have stayed probably just more offensive-minded the way we were the whole game,” Porzingis said. “At the end, we kind of tried to slow it down, and their pressure was up obviously. And we tried to slow it down and kind of just cruise and win the game – or maybe not to lose the game.”
“That was maybe our mindset a little bit. We just have to go out there and keep playing aggressively and attack. Obviously, we still had many chances to win the game.”
Losses like this can’t become a theme for the Mavs as they look to clinch a playoff berth and possibly better their seeding for a playoff run. Carlisle puts blame on himself for the Mavs’ loss to Houston.
“I’ll take full responsibility for the loss,” Carlisle said. “I want to keep the pressure off the players. They really played their butts off. But we were unable to make a few key plays that we needed to make.”
The Mavs will look to regain their footing and get back in the win column as they take on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night on Fox Sports Southwest at 9 PM EST.