DALLAS — After wrapping up a big home win over Orlando on Friday night, and then showering, dressing, answering reporters' questions, boarding a plane and flying across a couple of states, the Utah Jazz didn't settle into their hotel rooms deep in the heart of Texas until about 2:30 a.m.
Arriving very late turned out to be the theme of the day. But it almost set the stage for their craziest comeback yet.
After falling behind by 25 points in the first quarter, the Jazz rallied and rallied some more — of course they did, right? — and tied Dallas late in the fourth quarter.
Unlike in eight previous situations, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry edited Utah's usual come-from-behind script and led the Mavericks to a wild 103-97 victory at AmericanAirlines Center.
Deron Williams, who led all scorers with 34 points, tied the game at 89-all on a three-point play with 4:31 remaining to punctuate a steady-and-shocking Jazz comeback. But following that strong drive, Nowitzki scored six of his 31 points and Terry poured in eight points with a back-breaking 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds remaining to thwart Utah's rally.
"I'm definitely proud of how the team battled," said Williams, who grew up in Dallas. "We played hard. We played a lot harder in the second half. If we could've just had that same energy in the first half.
"Part of it's getting in late and being a back-to-back," he added, "but we've just got to have that energy in the first half."
Tell Jerry Sloan about it.
The Hall of Fame coach was much more disgusted with how sluggishly his 17-8 Jazz opened the game than he was impressed by the way they valiantly fought back against a 19-4 Dallas team that won its 12th in a row.
The Mavericks hit 11 of their first 12 shots, including a ridiculously hot 7-for-8 from beyond the arc, to jump out to a 29-4 lead just over seven minutes into the first quarter.
At that point, it appeared the Jazz might need one of their trademark comebacks just to make this one a double-digit loss against the white-hot Mavericks.
"It looked like we weren't interested. I hate to say it, but I have to be honest about it," Sloan grumbled after his team lost to Dallas for the second time in eight nights. "I think you have to be interested in wanting to win and not looking for excuses to be tired."
The Mavericks' blazing start was so overwhelming that the Jazz went on their own 10-0 streak in the opening period and still trailed by 15 points.
"We were trying to play like we were tired. We never competed at all," Sloan said. "They shot in our face to start the ballgame like we never guarded them. We just tried to guard them with our head, and that's not good enough."
Dallas finished the opening quarter with a 34-19 lead and shot 72.2 percent from the field, led by Nowitzki's 13 points.
"That first quarter was crazy," said Jazz small forward C.J. Miles, another Big D local. "We didn't do much to try to stop it, but they still made some tough ones. ... When it rains, it pours in Dallas, I guess."
Williams was the main catalyst behind the Jazz's initial comeback — and the only player who had anything going early on. The All-Star point guard scored 12 points in the first quarter and duplicated that offensive output in the third, racking up 31 points through three periods.
But it was again the Jazz bench that sparked the final surge at the beginning of the fourth. Reserves Ronnie Price, Earl Watson, Jeremy Evans, Francisco Elson and Miles helped turn an 11-point Dallas lead into a six-point edge by the time the starters began filing back in.
Price finished with 14 points, Miles added 10 and Elson had five points and played Nowitzki as well as any Jazz player.
Former Jazz player DeShawn Stevenson (17 points) and Caron Butler (16 points) also came out with hot hands for Dallas, as the two combined to hit 8 of 11 3-pointers for Dallas.
For a change, the Jazz's oh-so-predictable trend of falling behind early ended up costing them a game on the road, too.
Terry's 14 bench points proved quite pivotal, especially his late trey that Nowtizki set up. With under 10 seconds remaining and the Mavericks up two, Price left Terry open to double-team the big German along with Paul Millsap.
Though he'd missed 8 of 11 previous field goals, Terry swished the game-clincher.
"Dirk got hot and we had to help off him," Williams explained. "Jet (Terry) hadn't really made many shots all game and we took a chance and he hit the one that mattered the most."
And spoiled a happy ending for the better-late-than-never Jazz, who had won six consecutive comebacks on the road.