Improved Mavericks host depleted Nets

DALLAS — A recent uptick from the Dallas Mavericks has led to a few wins and some encouraging performances, even in losses.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, however, wants to make one thing clear about the team with the worst record in the Western Conference.

“It’s good to do a few good things, but no one around here is into moral victories,” he said.

Dallas (5-16) faces the Brooklyn Nets (7-13) on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. Both squads suffered road losses Monday in Texas.

The Mavericks, having won three of their last five, were beaten 115-108 at San Antonio. The setback wasn’t without its moments, as Dallas held a lead at halftime and pulled within one point late in the fourth quarter before the Spurs locked it up with a 10-0 run.

Carlisle wasn’t pleased with his team’s play down the stretch.

“There were usually mistakes that led to runs for them,” he said. “We had some untimely turnovers. We didn’t have a big turnover total, but we had some untimely turnovers that started runs.

“There were times we got hurt with their length and not recognizing that there’s big, tall trees in the lane. We’ve got to do a better job with that kind of stuff. And then we just had a few mistakes with coverages. On the road in a game where you need precision, we just can’t have those things happen.”

Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. had 19 points and dished out five assists. Dallas had seven players score in double figures and shot 48.2 percent.

The loss snapped a two-game win streak.

“This was a chance for us to really make a statement,” Smith said. “We had just won two in a row and coming on the road against the Spurs, a really good team. This was a chance for us to make a statement, so we came in believing we could win the game. It didn’t turn out as planned, so everybody’s disappointed.”

The only losses for Dallas since Nov. 18 are to Boston and San Antonio.

The depleted Nets are coming off a 117-103 loss at Houston, a game that featured an NBA-record 89 3-point attempts. Brooklyn was without D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson experimented with using a zone defense, which appeared to slow down the Rockets after a 43-point first period.

“Maybe in a game like this, you discover something,” Atkinson said. “Maybe it’s a strategy we can use going forward, but for not having practiced it much, it was interesting.”

Brooklyn has dropped four of five, but did open its current three-game road trip that ends in Dallas with a win at Memphis.

Isaiah Whitehead gave the Nets a boost Monday against Houston by matching his career high with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Whitehead, called up from the G-League that morning, had only scored 18 points in his first five game this season.

“I was just staying ready to take opportunities and doing well with them,” he said. “I’ll stay ready throughout the year, and hopefully, I’ll get more chances.”

Brooklyn has lost four straight to Dallas, five of the last six, and 25 of the last 33.

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