Luka Doncic scored 24 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 23 and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Brooklyn Nets 113-109 on Thursday night to finish a season sweep.
Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 45 points for the Nets. They lost a season-high fourth straight game and dropped two games behind Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia.
Dorian Finney-Smith scored 17 points as the Mavericks reached 10 games over .500 for the first time this season and held on to the fifth seed in the West.
Dallas (38-28) is a game ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland (both 37-29) with six to go after LA’s 118-94 loss to the Clippers. The Mavericks hold the tiebreaker on the defending NBA champs but not the Trail Blazers. One of the three teams will be forced into the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed.
“This is all experience we need,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There's a lot of situations that are new. Last year at this time we were locked into the seventh position and we weren't going lower. This year is a whole different ballgame. There's so much in play. The thing I'm most proud of with this group is they're blocking out all the external noise.”
Kevin Durant had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Nets but was just 1 of 10 from the field in the second half with each team missing an injured star: James Harden for Brooklyn and Kristaps Porzingis for Dallas. In the Mavericks’ 115-98 win at Brooklyn in February, Harden played while Durant and Irving were out.
The Nets visited Dallas after back-to-back losses at Milwaukee. The current skid started with a home loss to Portland.
“I think pressure is good,” coach Steve Nash said. “You're going to face pressure in the playoffs and you have to be pressure-tested. This is a little bit of pressure for us, a little bit of a hole for us to dig out of. How can we solve this riddle? How can we get over the line in some of these games.”
Doncic had 10 rebounds, and one of his eight assists came on a layup by Dwight Powell that put Dallas ahead for good at 94-92 and started a 7-0 run. Doncic was just 2 of 11 from the field after halftime, but had seven rebounds and five assists.
“When Luka goes through periods where he's not scoring, he finds other ways to impact the game,” Carlisle said. “He was rebounding really well during that stretch. He moved it to some guys for some really good looks.”
The Nets were down six in the final minute when Irving was free for an easy layup and the ball slipped out of his hands. Irving finished 17 of 30 from the field after repeatedly getting to the rim in a 25-point first half.
“We need to be tested like that,” Irving said. “We’re not a perfect basketball club. We could be doing ourselves a great disservice if we weren’t honest. We’ve just got to have better continuity down the stretch.”
Jalen Brunson scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for Dallas, and Powell had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Nets: Brooklyn missed a chance to build a cushion when Dallas misfired on its first nine shots and first two free throws of the second half. The Nets missed six consecutive shots after Irving opened the second half with a 3, and an early third-quarter lead didn’t last long. … Blake Griffin had 10 points and 10 rebounds. … Irving’s previous season high was 43 in a 121-113 loss to Orlando on March 19.
Mavericks: Doncic, whose already made his share of wild shots that counted late in the games in his nearly three seasons, tossed up a halfcourt shot after a whistle away from the ball in the first quarter. It went in. … Carlisle said Porzingis, who has missed seven of the past eight games with right knee soreness, was doubtful Friday against Cleveland. Carlisle said he believes the 7-foot-3 Latvian will play again in the regular season.
Harden, who hasn’t played since April 5 and had a setback along the way with his strained right hamstring, worked out Thursday and said he plans to play again in the regular season. Nash said that would be ideal.
“If we can get a little bit of extra time, that'd be great,” Nash said. “But if we can't, we can't. It looks really good right now. He's worked extremely hard to put himself in position to return before the playoffs.”
Retired Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, teammates with Nash for the first six of his 21 seasons in Dallas, was in one of the few courtside seats with his wife, Jessica, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.
Nowitzki and the former president participated in a virtual pregame forum with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about Bush's book of portraits of immigrants. The 7-foot German is one of the subjects.
Nets: The fourth game on a five-game trip, the last road stint of the regular season, is at Denver on Sunday. The Nets have won four of the past five meetings.
Mavericks: Cleveland visits Friday for Dallas’ second-to-last back-to-back, with the rematch set for Sunday in Cleveland. The Mavericks have won the past four meetings by an average of 20 points.
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