Monday, March 3, 2008

Comeback falls short in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – The Mavericks came out of losses at San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers knowing they competed. Avery Johnson reemphasized as much before squaring off with another Western Conference heavyweight Monday night.

“We’re competing at a high level,” Johnson said about 90 minutes before tip-off against Utah. “We’re not backing down from anybody. We’re physical. We’re making hard fouls. We’re rebounding the basketball, so I would say the positive is we’re trying to hit first.

“We are the aggressors in a lot of ways, but we still have some breakdowns defensively and offensively that we’ll try to work through.”

Many of those breakdowns surfaced as the Jazz jumped out to a 25-6 lead reminiscent of its 16-0 spurt to open the game the last time these teams met at EnergySolutions Arena. Much as they did during that cold December night, the Mavs didn’t wilt.

Johnson’s crew methodically fought back and made it a ballgame. But they dropped another heartbreaker. The Mavs battled back from as much as 21 down to take a fourth-quarter lead before falling 116-110 on the back end of a brutal road back-to-back.

The Mavs (39-22) took their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter and held a 92-89 edge with 6 ½ minutes left. The Jazz, on the verge of their first home loss since Dec. 29, responded with a thundering 16-0 run that appeared to salt away the win.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd had other ideas. Several big baskets from the duo got the Mavs within striking distance, but Utah milked the clock successfully and made its free throws to ice the victory.

“We kept playing and fighting,” Kidd said. “In the second half we played better basketball. Made things a little tougher on them and worked the deficit down where we took the lead. It was anybody’s ballgame.

“We had a couple turnovers coming down the stretch and we missed some shots, but it was anybody’s ballgame until the end.”

No comments: