DALLAS — Two games into the season, the Nets were missing two starters in Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson.
With Johnson ruled out two hours before tip-off because of a left calf contusion, the Nets didn’t have their best shooter against a potent offensive team in the Mavericks, but they collectively picked up the slack from long range Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Nets, so did Luka Doncic. He made four three-pointers in the final three minutes, including a one-handed, go-ahead toss that banked in with 26.6 seconds left, in the Mavericks’ 125-120 victory.
Doncic had 49 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, shooting 9-for-14 from three-point range and 16-for-25 overall. He had 29 points after halftime, and
his final basket put the Mavs (2-0) up 123-120 as they closed the game on a 12-2 run.
Cam Thomas had 30 points for the Nets but missed a potential tying three-pointer with 15.5 seconds left.
Thomas, who joined the starting lineup with Dorian Finney-Smith, followed his 36 points in the season opener with another excellent effort, but this game belonged to Doncic.
“When somebody makes a one-handed three off the glass, like, what can you do?” Thomas asked.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 23 points and eight assists and shot 6-for-12 from three-point range, had a pair of late assists. His second led to a three-pointer by Royce O’Neale with 2:36 left that put the Nets up 118-113. Then Doncic took over, making two threes to give the Mavs the lead.
After Thomas tied the score at 120 with 50.7 seconds left, Doncic was covered by Finney-Smith as the shot clock wound down. With Finney-Smith giving him little room, Doncic turned and threw up a shot that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“It’s just one of them shots where you just got to, you know, let it go quick and get ready for the next play,” said Mikal Bridges, who had 18 points and shot 6-for-17.
The Nets had seven players score in double figures. Lonnie Walker IV had 14 points in his Nets debut and Ben Simmons had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The Nets (0-2) shot 21-for-43 from three-point range after attempting only 27 threes in the season opener. They even contained Kyrie Irving in his first game against them since being traded by the Nets last season.
Irving had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, shooting 6-for-17 from the field. The Nets threw several defenders at him, including Thomas.
“We changed coverages throughout the course of the night to give different looks like we talked about before the game,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I thought guys were mentally in it to respond. It started with the physicality and so we contested a lot of shots.’’
Before the game, Thomas said of Irving: “Obviously, when I first came into the league, I wasn’t expecting us to be teammates. But these are the moments that I dream of, playing against guys like him. So I’ll definitely go at him whenever he’s on me . . . He’s still my brother, but he’s my opponent today.”
Irving was one of the players who encouraged Thomas when he fell out of the rotation.
“It was just brother vibes, playing the game together,” Thomas said. “We were just always like, just like a little big brother-little brother time thing. So to me it’s just more than basketball. But today, it’s about basketball right now. So it’s about ball. Got to handle that.”
Thomas doesn’t usually greet players before the game, but for Irving, he said he would make an exception.
“If he comes up [to me], I’m gonna do it, but I’m not just gonna go out of my way and do it,” he said before the game. “I’m going to get him after the game. And he knows how I am, so he’ll understand. So it’s good.”