The shorthanded Atlanta Hawks were able to run with the Dallas Mavericks for 36 minutes on Saturday night. The final 12 minutes were an entirely different story.
Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points and former Hawk Jason Terry added 18 points and dished 11 assists as the Mavericks cruised to a 102-91 win over the Hawks at the American Airlines Center.
Joe Johnson had a game-high 27 points and Josh Smith added 17 points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter for Atlanta, which has alternated wins and losses over its last six games.
"We came out starting the fourth quarter and the shot selection was not very good," Hawks coach Larry Drew told the team's television broadcast afterward. "We just never recovered."
Despite playing on the back end of a back-to-back and without the suspended Marvin Williams, the Hawks went blow-to-blow with the Mavericks through the first three quarters, even holding a 78-77 lead through the first three quarters of the basketball game.
But Atlanta's legs were shaky to start the fourth as the club went without a field goal for nearly six minutes as Dallas posted a 14-1 run to essentially seal the win. Atlanta fought back to cut the lead to within six on Johnson's fade away jumper with 4:52 left, but the relentless Mavericks would not give in.
After Nowitzki connected on a pair of free throws and Damien Wilkins split a pair to make it 95-88 with 3:10 remaining, Jason Kidd all but sealed Dallas' fourth straight win with a 3-pointer with 2:17 left to establish a double-digit lead.
The Hawks missed Williams, who was suspended by the league for a pair of games for throwing a punch in his fight with New York Knicks forward Shawne Williams on Friday.
Weary Atlanta could have used Marvin Williams to help establish the post and bring some energy down the stretch.
Instead, the Hawks fell into that familiar rut in the fourth where they turned the ball over or settled for long jumpers in lieu of establishing the inside game. Atlanta's post game suffered another setback after Smith fouled out with 5:41 remaining.
Unfortunately, the 3-point bombs were not falling. Atlanta connected on just four of 20 shots from the perimeter. Many of those baskets lead to easy transition buckets for the Mavericks, who connected on 36-of-73 shots (49-percent) from the field.
"This is the NBA we're used to it," Drew said of his team's possible fatigue. "We've played a lot of back-to-backs. We can't make any excuses. You have to suck it up. It's gut check time. I thought the guys had a great effort and we just fell short."
Jamal Crawford had 11 points off the bench for Atlanta, which was swept in the season set and lost for the 11th time in 13 games in Dallas.