The 'Win-Win' Mavs Lose At Atlanta, 100-95

The 'Win-Win' Mavs Lose At Atlanta, 100-95 ... And Have Some On-The-Road Learning To Do

It is clearly a catchphrase being used inside Dallas Mavericks headquarters.

President of Utopia Donnie Nelson used the phrase in his revealing one-on-one with Fish the other day in reference to having acquired Nerlens Noel for a protected first-round pick.

Before Wednesday's Mavs at Hawks game, owner Mark Cuban did the same.

"We're in a win-win situation right now,'' Cuban said. "If we lose, we get a better draft pick. If we win, we get into the playoffs."

The "Win-Win'' Mavs came up short in Atlanta, losing valiantly -- a win-win in itself. But if this group ever hopes to be a more legit threat than its 12th-in-the-West spot suggests?

It'll need to learn to win-win on the road.

Winning away has been a problem for the Mavs all season long. Entering Wednesday, in 29 road games, they had come away with just eight victories. The Mavs dropped their 22nd road game of the year here, in a 100-95 loss. 

“It was either teams’ game,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “A play here, a play there, a tough bounce there … Over the course of a 48-minute game a lot of stuff happens.”

Wednesday’s loss was one of the sloppier games we have seen the Mavs play in all season, with both teams combining for 45 turnovers, and 39 fouls. Both teams were also essentially even on the boards, and in the assist department.

Where the Hawks got the edge here was their lights-out shooting and down-the-stretch breaks.

In the first half, Atlanta shot over 70 percent from the floor, and by the end of the game, they were sitting at 56.2-percent shooting as a team, and 47.6 percent from three. They also had six guys in double-figures, with Paul Millsap (18), and Ersan Ilyasova (18) leading the way. Millsap was also just two rebounds away from a triple-double, as he contributed eight boards and 10 assists. 

Meanwhile, German National Dennis Schroder contributed 17 points and six assists, and Dwight Howard was right at his averages with 14 points and 12 boards. 

Ilyasova’s shooting killed the Mavs all night long, as he finished the game 6 of 7 from the floor, and 4 of 4 from downtown in 26 minutes.

The Mavericks were fine shooting the ball, going 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three as a team. Harrison Barnes (25 points and a monster dunk) and Seth Curry (21 points and now a Dallas record with seven straight games shooting 40-percent plus on at least five treys in an outing) were once again the Mavs go-to options, as the two continued to find success with each other on the floor. 

But for whatever reason, the rest of the team (which was without Wesley Matthews due to a hip injury), largely struggled to get the ball in the hoop. Noel came off the bench instead of starting as a hand-slap for being late to the plane departing DFW. He split backup center minutes with Salah Mejri and while both had their moments ...  the Big German and Yogi Ferrell finished the game as the only other Mavs in double-figures with 11 points each. (Dirk is now 48 points away from becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain in that club.) 

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half, the Mavs were able to make a push thanks to some opportunistic defense, eventually taking the lead in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the would be unable to close things out however, thanks to a game-sealing five-foot jumper from Millsap with 30 seconds to go in the game.

In the final seconds, Barnes missed what would've been a go-ahead shot, and when Ilyasova and Dallas' Dorian Finney-Smith both went for for the rebound, DFS was called for the foul. Atlanta made both free throws with 11 seconds left to fatten the lead. Even after that, Dallas botched an inbounds play when Curry slipped and the Hawks recorded a steal and a dunk.

But ...

”That’s not the critical play,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ”The critical play is the loose-ball foul call on Finney-Smith. When that referee sees it, he’s going to have a sleepless night. That’s all I can tell you.”

Image result for mavs hawks march 1 finney-smith

After the short one-game road stint, the Mavs (24-36) will return home for a important five-game home stand, which begins with a matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies (36-25). The Mavs lost their previous matchup with Memphis back in November, in an ugly 80-64 decision at the American Airlines Center.

But this is a different Mavs team, and one that plays well at home. ... And one that needs to learn to play better on the road.

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