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Mavericks still seeking first win of 2016-17

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 28, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

On a night when the Chicago Cubs took center stage in the sports world by winning Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in 10 innings, ending decades of frustration with their first title since 1908, the Dallas Mavericks also played in Utah against the surging Jazz.

And unfortunately for Mavs, who are now 0-4 on the young season, there were no heroics that would lead to their first win of the campaign, as Utah defeated them 97-81 on Wednesday evening.

The big positive to come out of this loss was that franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki, who had missed the previous two games with a stomach issue, returned to the floor.

But the former regular-season and NBA Finals MVP was far from his usual self, scoring just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting and showing just what a toll that illness had taken on his conditioning.

Of course, the good thing is that the Mavericks don’t have long to stew over their 0-4 start, their first since 2006-07 when they went 67-15 and earned the top seed in the West, only to be shockingly eliminated in the first round by the Warriors in Nowitzki’s MVP season.

That’s because Portland (2-3) visits American Airlines Center Friday as the Mavericks look to notch their first home victory in their second game in their barn this season.

The Blazers are 1-1 on the road, but the team coached by former Mavs assistant Terry Stotts — a Rick Carlisle disciple who was on Carlisle’s staff when Dallas won the 2011 NBA title — and standout guard Damian Lillard has always seemed to give the Mavericks fits both with their speed and athleticism.

One positive to take away from the loss to the Jazz was that Harrison Barnes, who had 14 points, continues to shoot the ball well, going 6-of-13 from the field. The other plus was the Mavs bench, a unit missing veteran point guard Devin Harris as he recuperates from a foot issue, outscored Utah’s second unit 32-17.

And there was the 15-2 run the Mavs put together at the end of the third quarter to make this game something of a question mark heading into the last 12 minutes of play. Dallas got as close as three in the final frame at 66-63 with 10:59 remaining, but the Jazz outscored the Mavericks 31-18 the rest of the way to prevail by 16.

But the Mavs are a veteran-laden team who have been here before. But even seasoned point guard Deron Williams admits being 0-4 to start the year is an entirely new experience for him.

Either way, Dallas should have an added sense of urgency when they hit the floor on Friday against the Blazers, when they’ll look to get that first W and do so in front of their fans. Should the Mavs get the better of Portland, then who knows? Maybe they’ll put together a two-game winning streak with Milwaukee visiting AAC on Sunday.

Of course, first things first. They have to beat Portland and end this losing streak at four, which will clearly not be easy.

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