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Fading Mavericks get another chance vs. Hornets

Mar 24, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (2) controls the ball as Charlotte Hornets guard Dennis Smith Jr. (8) defends during the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks need to get their situation fixed in a hurry, and the second opportunity in three days against the Charlotte Hornets comes Sunday afternoon at Charlotte, N.C.

The Mavericks (36-38) are coming off back-to-back home losses, including a major missed opportunity Friday against the lowly Hornets.

“Just understanding the talk before the game on what we’re playing for, the interest level wasn’t high,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “It was awful. We can’t come out like that, especially this time of the year.”

Charlotte (24-51) won 117-109 on Friday night at Dallas despite playing without guards Terry Rozier (foot) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (shoulder strain).

Yet for the Hornets, it wasn’t a surprising result.

“These guys are good,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said of NBA players in general. “So even when it doesn’t appear like you have a great chance, guys play well.”

The Mavericks’ lack of a sense of urgency was evident in a 69-55 deficit to the Hornets at halftime. Dallas was 3 of 16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range in the opening half.

The Mavericks are now outside of the play-in tournament field in 11th place in the Western Conference at the start of NBA play Saturday.

“We’ve got eight games left,” Kidd said. “We’re still in control of this. But our effort has to be a little bit better from the start.”

Home fans booed the Mavericks on Friday and Kidd didn’t object to the displeasure.

“They have a right,” Kidd said. “They pay to see a better showing. It wasn’t there.”

Dallas guard Kyrie Irving, who missed a game earlier in the week with a sore foot, scored 18 points Friday. Irving had 28 and 33 points in games earlier this season against Charlotte when he was playing for the Brooklyn Nets, before a trade to the Mavericks.

The Hornets received a combined 53 points from P.J. Washington and Gordon Hayward on Friday. They helped set the tone while the team used a makeshift roster.

“Those two guys are professional. They want to win,” Clifford said. “The fact that they were so ready that’s more a tribute to them.”

Hornets guard Dennis Smith Jr. provided key contributions against his former team with 13 points and nine assists.

“We made (lots) of 3s early, which allowed us to play from ahead,” Clifford said of his team, which went 6 of 10 from deep in the first quarter.

While the margin tightened to 97-96 with 8:30 remaining, the Hornets ended up pulling away thanks to a 10-0 run that was capped by a Smith 3-pointer with 5:56 remaining.

“We made a lot of plays at both ends of the floor when they made their run in the fourth quarter,” Clifford said. “So it’s definitely a good win and something we can grow from, hopefully.”

It was just another opportunity for the Hornets to assess their player development, with yet another Sunday.

“I think they all are,” Clifford said. “These last six, seven games, we’ve played, except for one game, it has been really meaningful for the opponent. So it has been good and it’s a good chance for guys to grow.”

The Hornets realize, though, they have the Mavericks’ attention now.

“I’d like to play Sunday, but I’d rather have a different opponent,” Clifford said.

–Field Level Media

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