Mavs, Nets looking to rebound from close losses
NEW YORK -- As the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets head to Barclays Center, both teams can commiserate after enduring close road losses to winning teams in the Eastern Conference.
Dallas and Brooklyn will attempt to rebound from those disappointing results Saturday night when they get together on the second night of a back-to-back.
Dallas (22-47) blew an 11-point lead and wound up with a 122-115 overtime loss in Toronto against the best team in the East. The Mavericks were up 65-54 early in the third but were outscored 68-50 the rest of the way.
The Mavericks also held a 10-point lead with eight minutes left but missed seven of their last 11 shots in regulation and also committed five turnovers down the stretch. Dallas then gave up the final seven points of the game, essentially losing when nobody boxed out Toronto's Pascal Siakam after a missed free throw by Jonas Valanciunas with 8.8 seconds remaining.
Despite falling apart to one of the best teams in the league, Dallas is playing better of late. After dropping 14 of 17 from Jan. 13 to March 4, the Mavericks have won three of five.
"We're still playing, we want to have a winning culture for our young guys and show them how to play, and the work ethic and how to play to win," Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki told reporters earlier this week. "So that is very important to us."
Harrison Barnes scored 27 points Friday and is averaging 22.4 points in his last eight games. Dennis Smith Jr. added 19 and the rookie is averaging 17.6 points in his last six games, though that average might be higher if not for a 2-of-12 showing in Sunday's loss to Houston.
"I'm trying to make the most out of this road trip," Smith told the Dallas Morning News. "It's the same thing it's been all year -- just working and learning. I just got to be better."
Nowitzki reached another milestone Friday by becoming the eighth player to get 11,000 career field goals. He will reach another one Saturday by appearing in his 1,463rd game, moving past Kevin Garnett into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list.
Brooklyn (21-48) has dropped three straight and is 3-19 in its last 22 games since Jan. 21. The latest loss occurred Friday when the Nets blew an early 13-point lead in a 120-116 loss at Philadelphia.
The Nets had numerous chances to win but wilted in the final minute, allowing a 3-pointer to Robert Covington with 35.4 seconds and committing a turnover when Spencer Dinwiddie attempted to drive on Joel Embiid.
"We aren't in the business of moral victories," Dinwiddie said. "The Sixers are a great team, a young team and a lot of the times they have a bright future, but we are not in this to just trade punches with them. We are in this to try and win the game."
The Nets are familiar with postgame comments of that nature. Friday dropped their record to 10-14 in games decided by five points or less.
The loss also occurred after Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson shuffled his starting lineup. Dinwiddie, whose production has dropped since the All-Star break, came off the bench while Joe Harris and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started.
"The numbers are decent," Atkinson told reporters. "I think Spencer is in a little bit of a rut. I do think that offensively.
"Defensively he's been very good. But sometimes you've got to tweak things and look at other things," Atkinson said. "Is this permanent? I have no idea."
Dinwiddie may come off the bench again and Harris may start if Allen Crabbe (illness) misses a second straight game. The Nets may also be without reserve forward Dante Cunningham, who left Friday's game with a left eye contusion.
Brooklyn claimed the first meeting by getting a 109-104 win at Dallas on Nov. 29 when DeMarre Carroll scored 15 of his 22 points in the third quarter.
Updated March 17, 2018