It was a historic night across the NBA, but while it was unforgettable for many fans, Deron Williams and the Dallas Mavericks are looking forward.
In the final game of the regular season, the Mavs fell 96-91 to the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs—and now they have refocused and set their sights on a first-round playoff matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Now it’s over, the regular season is over, and now we’ve got to remember what got us to this point,” said Wesley Matthews, who tallied 11 points. “It was our defense, playing together, sharing the ball and just playing hard.”
Doing just that helped them build early momentum against the Spurs. D-Will finished with 13 points and a game-high seven assists, but was kept quiet at the start. No matter. Raymond Felton fired away for 16 of his team-high 22 points in the first half.
Dallas ended the first quarter on a 13-2 run, which Felton highlighted with eight points over the last two minutes, to take a 27-20 lead into the second stanza. Again, Felton finished the frame on a strong note, this time with back-to-back threes. D-Will assisted the first before Felton pulled up for the second, as the Mavs took a commanding 52-34 lead into the break.
But San Antonio quickly smothered Dallas’ momentum, opening the second half with an 18-4 run to pull within four.
“I think they turned up their pressure on us and we might have gotten a little bit laxed,” Matthews said. “We missed a couple easy shots, they made a run.”
While many of the Mavericks had gone cold, Deron was just warming up. No. 8 ended the drought with a 25-footer, 59-52, before knocking down three from the line, 62-58.
The Spurs knotted the game at 64, but the Mavs held a two-point, 67-65, lead at the completion of the period. San Antonio tied it later in the fourth, 75-all, before D-Will put Dallas back on top with a dish to Zaza Pachulia for a cutting layup.
Shooting guard Danny Green, the only regular San Antonio starter to play, gave his team the lead for good when he splashed down a deep three, 78-77. Deron helped Dallas pull within one twice thereafter with dishes to Dirk Nowitzki and Matthews, but that was the closest they came to flipping the game in their favor.
“We didn’t have enough pep in our step, some shots didn’t go,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 19 points. “But we still should’ve found a way to win, especially down the stretch.”
When all was said and done, the game didn’t have any bearing on the postseason for either the Mavs or the Spurs. The Spurs have long been locked into the No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers dispatched of the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night to seal up the No. 5 seed and lock the Mavs in at No. 6.
The sixth-seeded Mavericks (42-40) hope to turn the page with the playoffs beginning this weekend. They take on the third-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game, which will broadcast nationally on ESPN, is slated to start at 8:30 p.m. CT.
The Thunder have taken all four meetings this season, most recently beating the Mavericks 116-103 in February.
“Great team,” JJ Barea said. “They got Russell (Westbrook) and (Kevin) Durant playing at a high level. And they’re a big team, good rebounding team. It’s going to be a tough matchup.”
Durant leads the Thunder with 28.2 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Westbrook stars with 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 2.0 steals. Although the Thunder have dominated much of the season, they’ve recently hit a slump, falling in five of the last eight, most recently at the Spurs in overtime Tuesday, 102-98.
The Mavs on the other hand have enjoyed some recent success, taking seven of the last nine. Moreover, they did so with a broken lineup, as they’ve struggled with injuries. As head coach Rick Carlisle explained Wednesday night, they’ll take full advantage of the next two days off.
“We’re the masking-tape Mavs,” Carlisle said. “Our guys have done it on grit and guts. We’re banged up but we’ve got a couple days to kind of heal up – at least a couple days.”
- Spurs sit 4 starters, top Mavs; game ultimately meaningless (AP, Apr. 14, 2016)
- Game Book: Spurs at Mavericks (NBA, Apr. 13, 2016)
- Mavs waste momentum building opportunity vs. Spurs (Dallas Morning News, Apr. 13, 2016)
- Mavericks will face Oklahoma City after loss to Spurs (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Apr. 13, 2016)