DALLAS — One of the rare times he got a shot to fall on Tuesday night, Bradley Beal made a short pull-up to put the Washington Wizards ahead by six points late in the first quarter. But in one of the more bizarre defensive sequences, possibly ever, the distracted Wizards made sure that by the time they got the ball back on offense, the Dallas Mavericks had the lead.
The Wizards allowed the Mavericks to score seven points in 19 seconds — giving up two layups, two offensive rebounds, and a three-pointer — in a deflating defensive possession that encapsulated a bumbling performance filled with breakdowns and bad breaks in a 105-95 loss at American Airlines Center.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” said veteran Al Harrington, who has seen a lot in his 16 NBA seasons. “First time for everything I guess.”
The Wizards knew that they would likely be in for a shootout against one of the NBA’s highest-scoring teams, but it was difficult to keep up with the Mavericks when they have few reliable offensive options already — and one of them had a rough night shooting. The second leg of a three-game road trip ended with the Wizards (2-5) surrendering 100 points for the seventh straight game to start the season and Coach Randy Wittman re-thinking what he has done to his point.
“We are not playing any defense,” Wittman said. “We are [29th] in the league in points [allowed], [29th] in the league in [opponents’] field goal percentage. We have to get that commitment of doing that and we don’t have that. I have to figure out why and I have to figure out guys that are going to do it.”
Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 27 points but, similar to the season opener against Detroit, Washington didn’t have many other places to go for offense.
After scoring a career-high 34 points against the Thunder, Beal said the rim looked like the “ocean” in Oklahoma City. In Dallas, the rim must’ve looked like a tin can for most of the night, as he shot just 2 of 10 from the field and finished with a season-low nine points. Beal also had a tough time keeping up with Monta Ellis in the fourth quarter, when Ellis scored 10 of his 19 points to bury the Wizards.
“This game is behind me now, I just have to move on and be ready for” Wednesday in San Antonio, Beal said. The Wizards haven’t won on the road against the Spurs since 1999 — when Beal was 6 years old and the game was played at the Alamodome.
Nene scored 14 points, but continued to struggle from the foul line, missing six free throws for the second game in a row. John Wall was more focused on being a facilitator than a scorer and finished with 10 assists and 14 points.
“They hit us in the mouth first, and that kind of hurt us,” Wall said. “We weren’t making enough shots, but that’s when you’ve got to have your defense. What we pride ourselves on is our defense and worry about our offense second. But we didn’t do nothing defensively and they got whatever they wanted.”
The Wizards trailed 71-56 in the third quarter, when Wall and Ariza helped orchestrate an 18-7 run over the next five minutes. Wall found Ariza for a driving layup and three three-pointers during the spurt. Ariza’s fifth three-pointer of the game brought the Wizards within 78-74, but the Mavericks once again had a response.
Dirk Nowitzki made back-to-back three-pointers and moved up in the record books — passing Hall of Famer Jerry West for 16th on the all-time scoring list — after giving the Mavericks an 86-74 lead. Fans at American Airlines Center gave Nowitzki a standing ovation for the greatest NBA player to ever come directly from Europe. Nowitzki finished with 19 points. Dallas had too much depth, with five players scoring in double figures.
“It was real tough. As a team, we weren’t together, collectively, on either end of the floor,” Beal said. “We have to be more prepared and mentally focused next game. We played so aggressively and so hard against OKC, like it was Game 7 of the Finals, and then tonight, we come out lackadaisical, like, it’s okay, we’ll beat them, or whatever mentality that we have.”
That laid-back approach was evident in the first quarter when Kevin Seraphin fouled Dallas backup guard Jae Crowder on a driving layup and sent him to the free throw line. Crowder missed the free throw, and Dallas backup center DeJuan Blair grabbed the rebound. Seraphin fouled Blair as he made a layup, sending him to the line. Blair missed the free throw, but Vince Carter swooped in for the rebound. Five seconds later, Carter took a pass from Gal Mekel and made a three-pointer to put the Mavericks up 30-29.
The Wizards took the lead back on a Harrington three-pointer, but the momentum had swung to the home team.
“That was crazy,” Nene said. “We need to focus better. We need to play better. We need to finish better. And we need to help each other better. We can’t allow them to score seven points straight like that. That cost us. We don’t focus right, we pay. And we pay.”