Trailing by three points with just more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Dallas appeared poised to complete a comeback after falling behind by 10 earlier in the frame. However, a shooting foul on Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia effectively dashed those hopes and sent Ryan Anderson to the free-throw line, where he stretched the Pelicans' lead to five.
Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon
Can't recall Dirk ever publicly ripping a ref until tonight. Heated about a critical phantom foul called on Zaza. https://t.co/TZveazoiBv2016-1-3 05:21:39
Nowitzki converted on a 14-foot jumper with 29 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to three once more, but the Mavericks' last gasp came up small.
The German sharpshooter's frustration is understandable when viewed through the prism of the Mavericks' recent shortcomings. Although Dallas ripped off four straight wins to close out 2015, it opened 2016 with a 106-82 loss on the road against the Miami Heat.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Mavericks proceeded to shoot 43.4 percent from the field against the Pelicans.
Despite picking up consecutive losses, Dallas is in the thick of a Western Conference playoff picture that is loaded with uncertainty.
And with two days off before the Mavericks host the Sacramento Kings, Nowitzki and Co. should have plenty of time to put Saturday's loss behind them and rebound against one of the West's shakier squads before a rematch with the Pelicans takes shape Jan. 6 in the Big Easy.