John Wall dishes an assist during the first half. The Wizards point guard scored 22 points, but it wasn’t enough as Washington lost to Dallas. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

John Wall emerged from the training room at Verizon Center exquisitely dressed in a wine-colored tuxedo with black lapels and a pair of shiny black dress shoes covered in spikes. But the look was somewhat diminished by the tape and glue holding together the flesh above his right eye, which was busted open during a game that was gruesome for more reasons than the blood that spilled.

“It was one of those nasty games,” Wall said after the Washington Wizards lost to the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth straight time, 87-78.

With an endless stream of errant passes, air balls and overall sloppy play that smacked of a New Year's Day hangover, neither the Wizards nor the Mavericks will probably do anything special with the game tape from Wednesday's meeting. The Wizards, though, are more likely to burn the footage.

In an ugly game that extended Wall’s inability to get above .500 in his career, the Wizards squandered another opportunity to claim a winning record. Washington has not been over .500 since October 2009.

“We tried not to focus too much on it, but it’s kind of hard because it’s going to be the first time in a long time for us,” Bradley Beal said. “It’s a great opportunity in front of us. We continue to get there, and we just lay an egg the next game. We need to continue to do better, and when we get back to .500, even, give ourselves that push to get over that hump.”

Wall scored a team-high 22 points, reaching at least 20 for the eighth straight game, and Trevor Booker grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds, the most by a Wizard in more than three years, but Washington went quiet offensively at the worst possible time.

Marcin Gortat's short jumper gave the Wizards a 74-70 lead with 4 minutes 59 seconds to play, but Dallas's Vince Carter hit a three-pointer as his team scored the next nine points and never looked back.

The Wizards failed to capitalize on a solid defensive effort in which they held the Mavericks to a total that tied their season low in points and just 38.5 percent shooting and limited Dirk Nowitzki to just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting.

Mavericks guard Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 23 points as Dallas won its fifth consecutive game at Verizon Center. The Wizards shot just 37.5 percent from the field and were even worse from the three-point line, where they missed 19 of 24 attempts.

The Wizards (14-15) were 9-9 in early December, then lost four straight. They didn't want to lose track of what helped them rally back to respectability. They still contested shots, shared the ball and claimed the rebounding edge 46-44 but simply couldn't get shots to fall. They had just 17 assists as a team.

“I can’t fault their effort,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “They fought. They played hard. We got after it for 48 minutes from a defensive standpoint and offensively. It wasn’t like we weren’t moving the ball.”

The Wizards are just 1-8 against teams that currently have winning records, with two losses against the Mavericks (19-13). Washington lost in Dallas, 105-95, on Nov. 12, when the Wizards were still struggling to find an identity on both ends of the floor and were in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They came into this rematch having won five of six.

Both teams shot below 39 percent and combined for 33 turnovers. With so many missed shots, there were a lot of caroms going around, and Booker capitalized. Booker also had 10 points, giving him his third double-double of the season.

“One of those nights we couldn’t make many shots, so they were coming off. I’m an offensive rebounder, so I’m trying to get every one of them. They rolled my way,” said Booker, who didn’t have any rebounds in the fourth quarter. He said the Mavericks focused on boxing him out “and I was pretty tired.”

Beal also had 10 points, and Gortat had 12 points and five rebounds. Trevor Ariza scored just eight points and was 3 for 14 from the field and 1 for 7 from long distance.

“Shots that we normally make, we missed. It’s just one of those games. You got to shake it off and come back Friday,” Ariza said, referring to when the Wizards will host the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors. “They didn’t hit shots. We didn’t hit shots, but they found a way to win, and we didn’t.”

Washington's bench, which contributed 35 points two nights before against the Detroit Pistons, had just 16 points. Nene had one of his worst outings of the season, scoring four points before fouling out in just 24 minutes.

Nowitzki tweaked his left ankle and hobbled to the locker room in the first minute of the game. He returned, but the only major contribution that he made to the Mavericks was knocking Wall in the head in a fight for a rebound and sending him to the locker room late in the first quarter with a cut above his eye.

Wall came back and gave his team a 42-39 lead at halftime when he made a beautiful stop and spin move to get around Jose Calderon. But he wouldn’t score again until he made a three-pointer that put the Wizards ahead 61-59 late in the third quarter. And he had little left when the team needed to make its final push after playing the entire second half.

“We just couldn’t make a shot all day,” said Wall, adding that the loss ruined his plans to have a nice meal after the game. At least he was still dressed for the occasion.