The Dallas Morning News

Defense sags in downer of a loss

Former Prestonwoo­d Christian star Randle scores 44 for Knicks

- BRAD TOWNSEND btownsend@dallasnews.com

Perhaps after the electric finish in Memphis two nights earlier, a lowervolta­ge start on Friday night was to be expected of the Mavericks, despite coach Rick Carlisle’s warning of the potential repercussi­on.

Instead of building off that victory, the Mavericks came out flat defensivel­y and suffered a 117-109 loss to Prestonwoo­d Christian product Julius Randle and the Knicks in American Airlines Center.

Reigning All-star Randle scored 44 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, and New York shot 50% from the field while handing the Mavericks (30-25) their third loss in four games and fourth in six games. Dallas fell two games behind Portland for sixth place in the Western Conference.

Kristaps Porzingis led Dallas with 23 points, and Luka Doncic had 18 assists, but two nights after his heroics in Memphis he was limited to 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.

Randle’s outburst was one point shy of his career high and eclipsed his previous NBA best game in his hometown, a 30-point night when he was with New Orleans.

Coming off Wednesday’s thriller against the Grizzlies,

which they pulled out with a miraculous buzzer-beating Doncic 3-pointer, the Mavericks on Friday found themselves in a 12-point hole early in the second period.

“My hope,” Carlisle said before the game of the potential for a letdown, “is that at this point we’ve gone on this journey of a challengin­g season enough and dealt with the highs and lows that we can do a good job of managing it tonight.”

They didn’t. After rallying from that first-half deficit to take as much as a 67-63 thirdquart­er lead, they allowed the Knicks to score 20 of the period’s final 32 points, with Randle’s 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left giving him 35 points and the Knicks an 83-79 lead.

Friday night’s game began a pivotal five-game home stand for the Mavericks. How pivotal? Dallas began the night one game behind Portland for the all-important sixth spot in the Western Conference.

And by halftime Friday, the Mavericks knew that the Blazers had pulled out a one-point win in San Antonio, making a win over the Knicks all the more imperative.

Entering Friday with 11 of their last 18 games at home, the Mavericks seemingly have an advantageo­us path, but given Dallas’ records of 13-12 at home and 17-12 on the road, there are no givens about the seasonclos­ing route.

The largely improved Mavericks defense of recent weeks was missing to start Friday’s game, with New York taking a 34-25 lead while shooting 70% from the field.

“We’ve just got to keep our eye on the ball,” Carlisle said. “There can’t be any letup. This is a season where there’s always a reason to let go of the rope, whether it’s for COVID or a bazillion games or whatever, there’s just a lot going on.”

When these teams met exactly two weeks earlier in Madison Square Garden, Dallas native Randle shot 5-of-20 for New York and ex-knick Porzingis shot 6-of-17.

The subpar shooting continued a trend for Porzingis, giving him 43% shooting in three career games against his former team.

Randle, conversely, always seems to have big games at American Airlines Center — and Friday was no different, as he scored the Knicks’ opening 10 points and 15 of their first 23.

There was no such early bounce-back by Porzingis, who on Friday missed seven of his first eight field goal attempts while committing two turnovers.

More than Porzingis’ struggles, though, it was torrid Knicks shooting that sparked them to a 41-29 lead. Fortunatel­y for the Mavericks, another ex-knick who came to Dallas in the 2019 Porzingis trade, Tim Hardaway Jr., came off the bench blazing.

Hardaway made his first six field goal attempts and scored 12 of Dallas’ first 15 secondquar­ter points. Porzingis, meanwhile, seemed to get himself going with a block of a Reggie Bullock layup with 4 minutes left, then scored seven quick points to close the half, pulling Dallas within 56-52.

Porzingis continued his strong play to start the third quarter, scoring six early points and pulling down three rebounds to help propel Dallas to a four-point lead, but Randle and the Knicks battled back to regain the lead entering the fourth.

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 ?? Juan Figueroa/staff Photograph­er ?? New York Knicks center Taj Gibson jumps to block Mavericks guard Luka Doncic’s shot in the first half at American Airlines Center.
Juan Figueroa/staff Photograph­er New York Knicks center Taj Gibson jumps to block Mavericks guard Luka Doncic’s shot in the first half at American Airlines Center.

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