Sunday afternoon was an opportunity squandered for the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks blew an opportunity to defeat the Denver Nuggets in regulation, and again in overtime before falling, 116-114, losing a chance to make up ground on the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for fifth place in the Western Conference.
In overtime Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki — who scored 30 points in the contest — sparked Dallas to a three-point lead with a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer in the first three minutes, helping Dallas a 111-108 lead. But it was as big a lead as Dallas was able to manage in overtime, as D.J. Augustin canned a pair of 3-pointers, sandwiched around Mavs guard Wesley Matthews' three free throws, to tie the game at 114 with 28.8 left.
"We've got to lead the league in being up three and giving up three balls," Dirk Nowitzki said.
The final sequence doomed the Mavs. Dallas guard Deron Williams — who scored the Mavs' final 13 points of regulation and scored 17 points in the game — tried a post-up turnaround that failed to go in. During the scrum to rebound the miss, the ball went out of bounds off Williams, though officials needed replay to correct the initial call.
The Nuggets put the ball in Augustin's hands the rest of the way. He drew a foul on a drive, but the Mavs had a foul to give. Augustin's second drive with 0.9 seconds left found Raymond Felton faked out of his sneakers as he fouled Augustin coming down from trying to block the shot fake. Augustin's two free throws gave the Nuggets a two-point lead, and Matthews' turnaround prayer was partially blocked at the buzzer.
But the game shouldn't have gone to regulation. Williams was exceptional in the final few minutes of regulation and his final basket, a layup off a inbounds pass and a bad Nuggets defensive play, gave Dallas a 106-102 lead with 21 seconds left.
The Nuggets cut the lead to a pair as Will Barton drew a blocking foul from Matthews on a drive to the basket. His two free throws cut Dallas' lead to 106-104 with 7.9 seconds left. After Dallas took its final timeout, disaster struck.
Chandler Parsons handled the inbounds pass for Dallas, but Denver's defense made it nearly impossible to throw the ball in. With the five-second call coming, Parsons tried to throw the ball off a Nuggets player and out of bounds. But instead the ball stayed inbounds and Denver's Emmanuel Mudiay grabbed the loose ball. Mudiay drove the ball into the lane and dished to Kenneth Faried, who dunked with 3.3 seconds left to tie the game. Felton's shot from halfcourt hit the iron, but didn't go in.
The loss — Dallas' second straight — came on a day in which Memphis lost to Phoenix, which gave the Mavs a potential opening to get a little closer to fifth place. Instead, Dallas heads back home for Monday's game with the Los Angeles Clippers trying to avoid a third straight defeat.
It was a double-double fiesta for both teams, as the Mavs' David Lee (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Parsons (11 points, 11 rebounds) both cleared the threshold. But Faried nearly matched their combined output, scoring 25 points and 20 rebounds.
Nikola Jokic also pitched in 13 points and 12 rebounds.
During the game Nowitzki became just the fifth player in NBA history to record at least 1,000 points in a season for the sixteenth time. The others? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan and John Havlicek. Great company for Dirk on a lousy afternoon in Denver.