Maybe it’s the building.
The Dallas Mavericks, who blew a memorable 30-point lead over the Lakers here last season, warmed up for Friday’s meeting by blowing a 22-point lead against the Clippers, when Glen Rice made a 19-foot shot that fell as time expired for a 100-99 victory in front of 15,236 in Staples Center on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks, of course, have never beaten the Lakers in nine meetings in this building, to say nothing of their last 17 in the Forum, so good luck.
Rice’s shot capped a wild fourth quarter in which he missed a wide-open three-point shot that would have given the Clippers the lead ... after which Dallas’ Steve Nash, a 91% free-throw shooter, missed two free throws.
The Clippers, inbounding the ball with 12 seconds left, got it to Elton Brand, who missed a turnaround 15-footer ... after which the ball was batted out in front to Rice, who was wide open again ... and made this one.
“I saw Elton fading away,” said Coach Mike Dunleavy, “I’m thinking, he doesn’t have his legs back, I don’t know how confident I feel on this one....
“Then I saw the ball go into Glen’s hand and I just said basically, ‘I’ve got to count this one. Time to pay the rent.’ ”
The Clippers thus ended a three-game losing streak, winning one at the end in much the same manner as they had been losing them, including Tuesday’s loss at Sacramento, where they fell 21 points behind and rallied to within two before losing.
Now, Dunleavy says, they’re going to work on not getting 20 points behind.
The Mavericks came in having averaged 109 points against the Clippers in their last four meetings, and looking as if they were going to get it by halftime this time.
With Michael Finley going 11 for 13 from the field, the Mavericks made 10 shots in a row and 74% of all they took in the first quarter, racing to a 39-19 lead.
It grew to 41-19 early in the second quarter before the Clippers noticed that if they didn’t turn the ball over, the Mavericks wouldn’t stop them from doing anything they wanted with it.
With Corey Maggette scoring 20 points -- by halftime -- the Clippers cut the deficit to 60-56.
Of course, by then, Finley had 29 points.
The Mavericks started the third quarter with a 6-0 run, jumping back into a double-figure lead, after which the Clippers began the long process of trying to overhaul them in a rally led by Maggette, who finished with 30 points and second-year forward Chris Wilcox, who scored 21 points off the bench.
“One trait we’ve had as a group, we haven’t given up,” said Dunleavy. " ... Obviously, we got a big, big break. Steve Nash is a great, great free-throw shooter and for him to miss two free throws like that, that was unusual, to say the least. I’m speechless about that.”
The Mavericks are 2-7 on the road, heading into Friday’s game against the Lakers.