sportsMavericks

Dallas’ five-game win streak snapped as Luka Doncic, Mavericks lose ‘bad game’ to Rockets

Two nights after a season highlight win over the Jazz, the Mavericks couldn’t muster a final push to beat the Rockets.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) is fouled as he drives to the basket between during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, Pool)
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) is fouled as he drives to the basket between during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke, Pool)(Michael Wyke)

Had Texas’ severe winter weather and power outages not derailed the Mavericks’ schedule for a week in mid-February, they would’ve played the Rockets Feb. 19, not Wednesday night.

We’ll never know what the outcome would’ve been back then if the state’s electric grid held up through the freeze.

But we now know what happened almost two months later: a 102-93 Mavericks loss.

Perhaps the only thing more puzzling than that unexpected week of postponements was the Mavericks’ disjointed, unbalanced showing Wednesday in Houston’s Toyota Center.

The Mavericks entered the game aiming for their sixth straight victory, which would’ve tied the franchise’s longest winning streak since March 28 to April 8, 2016. Instead, Dallas trailed by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter to a Rockets team that had lost 27 of its previous 29 games.

Luka Doncic appeared primed to help his team avoid one of its worst losses of the season when he tied the score at 89 with 2:35 remaining, but Houston answered with the next nine points and 13 of the game’s last 17.

“Anybody can have a bad game,” said Doncic, who scored 23 points but shot 9 of 26 from the field and 1 of 9 from 3-point range. “It was a bad game by us. Bad game by me. Horrible game by me.”

Dallas played without starting power forward Maxi Kleber (lower right leg soreness) for the second time in three games. Reserve point guard Trey Burke (left calf strain) and veteran trade addition JJ Redick (right heel soreness) remained in Dallas to rehabilitate during the one-game trip.

If Kristaps Porizngis hadn’t returned from a two-game absence for load management and a nagging right wrist sprain, the Mavericks’ stagnant offense might’ve slumped even more.

While Porzingis said his wrist “feels good now,” the injury could be “something I’ll deal with at the end of the season, in the offseason, so for now, I’ll just try to go as much as I can and hopefully it holds up.”

He showed little sign of pain on Wednesday in tying Doncic for a team-high 23 points on 10 of 19 shooting and adding 12 rebounds, one assist and one block. Porzingis recorded a double-double by halftime.

The 25-year-old center, however, didn’t take a shot in seven fourth-quarter minutes.

“Good question,” Porzingis said after pausing for five seconds when asked about his offensive involvement in the final period. “It’s just the plays we were running. Happened before also.”

Porzingis’ presence at center created better spacing for Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr. (18 points) and Jalen Brunson (14) at guard.

But the Mavericks’ six other players who took the court combined for just 15 points. In 90 total minutes, starters Dorian Finney-Smith (nine points), Nicolo Melli (two) and Josh Richardson (one) shot a combined 15% (3 of 20) from the field.

The Mavericks went 10 of 39 (25.6%) from 3-point range and never led after the 4:53 mark in the second quarter.

“We had some pretty good shots in the first half that didn’t go down, and sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But when we needed to get traction and really put together a run, we were just unable to do it.”

Two nights after a season highlight win over the Jazz, who own the NBA’s best record, the Mavericks couldn’t muster a final push to beat the 14-37 Rockets, who rank second-to-last in the West.

After Doncic hit a layup to tie the score at 89 with less than three minutes remaining, Kelly Olynyk, the Rockets’ trade-deadline addition, secured an offensive rebound on Houston’s ensuing possession to allow John Wall a second-chance layup.

Then Wall, who returned from a four-game knee injury absence to score 31 points, hit a 3-pointer despite a foul from Doncic. He completed the four-point play. The Mavericks didn’t manage a clean shot on their next offensive look, as Michael Porter Jr. instead turned a block near the foul line into a transition dunk.

During a timeout moments later, Doncic threw a water bottle to the ground in frustration.

The Mavericks, though, will have little time to stew in disappointment on their flight home.

A matchup with the championship-contending Bucks looms Thursday night.

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

In This Story

Callie Caplan, Staff Writer. Callie Caplan covers the Dallas Mavericks, high school football and Olympic sports. She has also written for The Washington Post, USA Today and The Baltimore Sun and graduated from the University of Maryland in 2017.

callie.caplan@dallasnews.com @CallieCaplan
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