DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks missed out on a golden opportunity to move up the ladder in the heated Western Conference playoff race.
Before the Mavs' game on Thursday against the Indiana Pacers had reached the fourth quarter, the Milwaukee Bucks did Dallas a huge favor by knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers, 113-103. However, the Mavs failed to capitalize on their good fortune as they wound up losing to the Pacers, 103-78, at American Airlines Center.
Thus, the Mavs (35-37) remain a game-and-a-half behind the eighth-seeded Lakers (37-36) for the eighth and final playoff spot out West.
The Mavs are now 3-2 on this six-game home stand which winds down Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Chicago Bulls. After that, Dallas opens a four-game road trip with the first game Tuesday in LA against the Lakers.
The Pacers used a bruising attack and some physical play which kept the Mavs off-balanced all night. They also got some timely perimeter shooting from Paul George in tripping up a Mavs' squad that played one of the worst games in ages.
George led the Pacers with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Hibbert collected 16 points and 11 boards, and Tyler Hansbrough tallied 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 21 points. But the other four Mavs starters -- OJ Mayo, Mike James, Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright -- combined for just 19 points.
Also for Dallas, Vince Carter scored 14 points and Darren Collison finished with 10 as the Mavs had a total meltdown at the worst possible time while getting swept 2-0 in the season series with the Pacers.
The Mavs came prepared to shave their beards -- something that would have occurred had they reached the .500 plateau. But the Mavs shot a miserable 38.6 percent from the field, were outrebounded by an astounding 55-34 figure, and just never got untracked in the second half.
The first half ended tied at 41-41. But the Pacers used a 20-5 run to open the second half, and the Mavs never posed a serious threat after that.
-- Dwain Price
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