After trailing by as many as 14 in the third quarter and five with five minutes to go in the game, Dirk Nowitzki hit a fadeaway jumper to record his eighth and ninth points of the fourth quarter to give the Dallas Mavericks a 100-98 lead with 2:02 remaining. That would be the last made basket of the game for the Mavs in the 102-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The final 2:01 saw Dallas go 0-of-5 from the field with the shots coming from the usual suspects in Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. As a whole, the Mavs simply ran out of gas in the mountains as they went 6-of-20 from the field in the final quarter.
“At the end of the game it’s going to be hard to get really clean, wide-open shots,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game.
That might be the case, but it’s hard not to jump at the multiple opportunities the Mavs had to win the game down the stretch.
Off a Denver miss, Nowitzki missed a turnaround jumper that could have extended the lead to four. Quickly after Randy Foye delivered a 3-point basket to give Denver the lead, Ellis missed a runner that could have given Dallas a 102-101 lead with 53 seconds left. After another Denver miss, Nowitzki then missed a relatively clean look from 19 feet away. As Denver split a pair of free throws, Ellis had the ball rattle off the rim of a driving shot that could have tied the game. Off the inbounds pass, Nowitzki missed a tough turnaround jumper from 22 feet
The scenarios are pretty much everything you would ask for with those two players, minus actually getting a victory.
“Those two guys are go-to guys,” Carlisle continued. “We’re going to live and die with them making plays. We got some pretty decent looks.”
The next-man-up theory that Carlisle usually preaches to his players had to be installed for his coaches as he was ejected in the second quarter due to arguing with the officials due to a lack of calls for Ellis.
“I didn’t ask for explanation. I thought the foul was excessive. I thought he fouled him and he came down on him extra hard. I’m going to stand up for my players,” Carlisle told reporters. “I thought our coaching staff did a great job keeping the guys together in the second half.”
While Carlisle is a guru when it comes to creating plays for his teammates, the team is aware of how to work within the flow offense. That was apparent as the right guys took the shots at the end of the game.
It’s funny what 24 hours can do to a team. There could have been a feeling of a win-loss for the Mavs as they beat Utah but finished the game plodding their feet. There easily could be a feeling of a loss-win for them after the game against the Nuggets as they battled back and clearly had multiple opportunities to steal the game.
Despite a rough start to the game, Dallas showed the tenacity that was present in the game against Houston. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they didn’t get the same result.
“I thought we hung in and gave ourselves a chance,” Carlisle continued. “I was proud of them.”
They might not have gotten the result they had against Houston, but if they have Nowitzki and Ellis get another five looks at the basket in end-of-game situations, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to come up empty-handed again.