How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks weren’t able to finish once again.
It didn’t help matters that Dallas spotted the Atlanta Hawks a 10-0 lead, with Rick Carlisle calling a couple of timeouts before the Mavs scored a point -- but this still came down to crunch time. And the Mavs came up short again, as has so often been the case during this frustrating season for Dallas.
The Mavs, who went more than four minutes without a field goal during a fourth quarter that can be politely described as painful to watch, still had a chance to take the lead in the final minute. O.J. Mayo was bolting to the basket on a fast break, but ex-Mav Devin Harris chased him down from behind for the steal.
Mayo had another turnover with 13.6 seconds remaining to essentially seal the loss for the Mavs. With Dallas down three, Mayo made a poor pass to Vince Carter that was picked off by Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague.
The Mavs wasted a slump-busting, 24-point performance by Dirk Nowitzki, who knocked down eight of his 14 shots from the floor. Mayo added 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting, but he also had four turnovers, including the two critical cough-ups down the stretch.
The Hawks got dominant performances from their two best players. Josh Smith (26 points, 13 rebounds, six assists) and Al Horford (21 points, 10 rebounds) both had major-damage double-doubles. Teague added 20 points and nine assists.
What it means: So much for the Mavs’ hope of an undefeated homestand entering the All-Star break. The Mavs’ modest two-game winning streak was snapped, dropping Dallas to 22-29 and five games behind the Houston Rockets for eighth place in the Western Conference. The 28-22 Hawks stand in sixth place in the East.
Play of the game: Smith grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed it in transition, blew by Nowitzki and threw down a vicious one-handed dunk in Bernard James’ face. James ended up with a prominent role in the poster, but the problem was that a traffic cone could have been as effective as Nowitzki’s transition defense in this instance.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 0-4 when Nowitzki scores at least 20 points this season.