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The latest downturn for the Dallas Mavericks has followed an all-too-familiar script.
Losers of three in a row and six of the last seven, the Mavericks battled to the end before falling two points short Saturday at the Denver Nuggets.
“I liked a lot of what I saw in the game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of the 91-89 loss. “Our guys competed the whole way, got off to a tough start, hung in and kept battling. You know, the same thing we’ve been doing all year long.”
The Mavs (16-34) play their last home game at American Airlines Center for nearly two weeks with the Miami Heat (28-21) coming to town Monday night. Miami is looking for a season sweep after beating Dallas 113-101 at home on Dec. 22.
The Heat snapped a two-game skid with Saturday’s 95-91 comeback win over the Charlotte Hornets. Miami rallied from 15 points down in the second half by holding the Hornets to 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the type of team we have to be,” Wayne Ellington said. “We have to be able to lock in on the defensive end of the floor.”
Ellington sealed the win, and his 17-point night, with a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left. Josh Richardson led the way for Miami with 19 points. Kelly Olynyk added 16 points.
Miami had coughed up a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter at home against Sacramento in its previous game. That loss was top of mind going against Charlotte.
“The great thing about this league if you have opportunities to learn,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We say you have opportunities either to win or to learn. The other night it was a tough lesson, but we really wanted to make amends for how we finish games defensively.
“This was a little different because we didn’t have a lead. We had to dig to get it back, but at the end of the day you could really feel our defensive intensity take a step up.”
The Mavs were in position to steal one at Denver by taking a 74-66 lead into the fourth. Dallas had a couple of chances in the final seconds but came up short.
Dirk Nowitzki praised his team’s competitiveness in defeat.
“Down the stretch, it could have been either team’s ballgame, and we’ve just got to be a little better,” he said. “We’ve got to be a little smarter, we’ve got to secure the ball when we have it, we’ve got to get that one rebound when it’s right there, and we’ve got to have a little better shot selection down the stretch.
“To steal a game on the road, you’ve almost got to be perfect down the stretch. We made a couple too many mistakes, but I love the fight. It just wasn’t enough down the stretch.”
A win by the Heat would lock up the 14th time season sweep over Dallas in franchise history. Their 13 current sweeps are the second most against any team, with the only team Miami has swept more times being the Sacramento Kings with 15.
Miami announced Sunday that Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. have rejoined the Sioux Falls Skyforce as part of their two-way contracts.
Dallas was without J.J. Barea (oblique) and Devin Harris (personal reasons) against Denver. Both are listed as questionable for Miami.