Self-inflicted wounds cost Mavericks one point loss to Wizards

After a hard, emotional game that came down to the last play but probably shouldn’t have, the Mavericks realized they had only themselves to blame.

They played with fire and got burned Tuesday night when the Washington Wizards, without the injured Kristaps Porzingis, took a wild 127-126 victory at the American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks had defensive problems all night and, in the end, one play on the Wizards’ defense kept the Mavericks from a potential game-winning shot.

Luka Doncic, who scored 41, made a short shot into the bank with 36.5 seconds left, then hit the ball off Bradley Beal and broke out of his hands in a fast break. He was fouled before he could attempt a layup, but Doncic only hit one of his two free throws to bring the game to 126.

The Wizards had 10.8 seconds to work. Kyle Kuzma got caught on the right touchline and made a pass/kick towards the backboard, but the whistle blew, fixing a foul by Doncic.

The Mavericks challenged him. But the offer was upheld, giving Kuzma, who by then had 29 points, two shots. He only made a second shot with 5 seconds left and the Mavericks took the last shot, narrowly a point behind.

The ball went to Luka, and the Wizards sent in a quick double-team. A pass to Spencer Dinwiddie was deflected by former Maverick Delon Wright and the Wizards flipped the ball to the other end of the court to keep their third straight win.

“We knew they were going to double,” said coach Jason Kidd. “We cleared the board. It was Spencer’s ball to shoot. We just couldn’t connect the pass. Give credit to the Wizards. We knew that with a double team we would have an advantage. We just couldn’t link the pass to Spencer. They played the play well.”

Luka’s missed free-kick with 12.5 left was another source of frustration, causing him to tear his jersey afterwards.

Luca said of the last game: “I lost the ball. That’s all. I was angry because I missed the free throw. And then I lost the ball too. This one was on me.”

Asked how frustrated he was because the Mavericks lost eight games out of 11, he said, “We just don’t win. That’s all. We’re missing a couple of games.”

The Mavericks fell to 25-24 and pretty much screwed up that four-game home stance, losing 1-3 against no-one in the top 5 in both conferences. They will play eight of their remaining 11 games before the All-Star break on the road, starting Thursday in Phoenix.

Luka finished with 15 rebounds for 41 points while Dinwiddie scored 20 points.

Although the two failed to connect in the final game, that was not the reason for their disappointment after the game.

“We shouldn’t be playing this game,” Dinwiddie said. “They have two maximum players (Porzingis and Bradley Beal) and one is injured. We need to be able to stop them enough to get our 126 points over their 125 or less. That’s really all it comes down to.

“We just have to be better in that regard. They don’t play in vain. For a team that has real aspirations, has an MVP (candidate) title and made it to the conference finals last year, we need to be better, like a man. Obviously we needed another stop, but we should have had about 15 more stops.”

The Wizards made 50.6% of shots and hit the free throw line 41 times.

Dinwiddie said: “We need to manage managed facilities better overall. We can’t contact the referee. We gave up 41 free throws. They have two maximum players there, and one of them is injured. There is no reason to give up 41 free throws. So it’s up to us.”

The Mavericks were trailing 115–110 with seven minutes left. They got a three-pointer from Dwight Powell to give them a boost.

Powell was a rock for the Mavericks in the second half and finished with a season-best 22 points. His 3-point play tied the game at 115. But the Wizards scored the next four points, including two free throws, when the Mavericks blew a double and a technical foul on Jason Kidd.

Down 119-115, they got a layup from Powell due to a good serve from Tim Hardaway Jr., and then Doncic converted a three-pointer to put the Mavericks up 120-119.

The problem was that there were still more than two minutes left.

And what two minutes it was.

This was very different from the Mavericks’ November 10 visit to Washington, when the Wizards were away from Porzingis and Bradley Beal. The Mavericks still lost, 113–105.

This time the Wizards were once again without Porzingis. And on Monday, they traded Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was Hachimura who scored 23 points and eight rebounds in the November game.

It was a more diverse lineup on Tuesday, which created problems for the Mavericks.

But in the end, it was their defense that felt like a self-inflicted wound.

Twitter: @ESefko

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