Dallas Mavericks: NBA
"Dirk played great. He really led our team tonight," Carlisle told reporters. "Our guys played with some real emotion. They knew the importance of the game.
"Dirk was great from start to finish. Look, 12-for-14 is ridiculous, and 4-for-4 from 3. It's hard to do much better than that."
It's quite a difference from a day earlier. Nowitzki said he was "passive" in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. He finished the game with only 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He had only four shots in the first half Tuesday. He was 4-of-5 from the field after the first quarter of Wednesday's win.
"I just wanted to set the tone early," Nowitzki told reporters. "I just wanted to be as aggressive as I could and make things happen."
The Dallas Mavericks put an end to a three-game road losing streak with a much-needed 108-101 win over the Utah Jazz.
How it happened: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle loves to say there are circle-the-wagons games. After suffering a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors, the game against the Utah Jazz represented another one of those games. The first three quarters the two teams tied the game 14 times and exchanged leads 16 lead changes.
For the longest time, it appeared that the Mavs weren't going to be able to shake the Jazz. A strong surge with less than nine minutes left allowed the Mavericks to gain enough traction to secure the victory.
On the night he passed John Havlicek for 12th place on the all-time scoring list, Dirk Nowitzki got going early. After not playing with authority in the game against Golden State, Nowitzki came out aggressive against Utah as he scored 10 of Dallas' first 14 points. It was the same story as the game continued. The Jazz simply didn't have an answer for Nowitzki. He ended the night with 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting.
Monta Ellis struggled from the field early as he missed seven of his first eight shots, but he found a groove late in the third quarter as he hit three straight. With his shooting woes behind him, Ellis hit five of his final seven shots. Ellis played the role of facilitator early, finishing with 16 points and a team-high 11 assists.
After exiting after only seven minutes against Golden State because of a sore right Achilles, Devin Harris played with the tenacity that the team saw in his previous two games before the setback. Closing minutes were necessary for Harris, but he provided a huge spark off the bench with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
What it means: Dallas has three days off before its next road game in a broken-up trip. It will be the final road game for quite a while as the Mavs will began a season-high eight-game homestand against the Boston Celtics on March 17. It won't be easy in the final game of the trip as they will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, which has won seven straight and nine of the past 10 regular-season meetings with Dallas. The Mavericks' most recent win over the Thunder in the regular season came at Dallas on Jan. 2, 2012. The Mavericks have dropped five straight road meetings with the Thunder.
Play of the game: An 11-2 burst in the fourth quarter was capped off by Devin Harris. Off a Gordon Hayward missed 3-point shot, Nowitzki grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Harris, who leaked out. Harris drove to the rim and finished while taking contact from Diante Garrett. He got the layup and foul call, resulting in a six-point swing to give the Mavericks a 91-85 lead.
Stat of the night: The Mavericks are now 5-0 on the second night of back-to-back road games this season. The wins came against Milwaukee and Orlando back in November and Indiana and Detroit in February.
The Dallas Mavericks' star pulled even with Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek for 12th place on the league's all-time scoring list during Tuesday night's loss to the Golden State Warriors. The milestone came on an off night for Nowitzki, who finished with only 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Nowitzki now has 26,395 points in his 16-year career. He has moved past Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Kevin Garnett and Alex English on the all-time scoring list this season.
Nowitzki, who is averaging 21.5 points per game this season, is on pace become one of the top 10 scorers in NBA history by the end of the season. Dominique Wilkins (26,668 points) and Oscar Robertson (26,710) are next on the list for Nowitzki.
Dalembert, the Dallas Mavericks' starting center, didn't get off the bench in the second half of Wednesday's 115-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets. His contributions during his 9 minutes, 33 seconds of playing time: one rebound, one assist and three missed shots. The Mavs were outscored by 18 points with Dalembert on the floor.
"'Sarge' is an energetic guy and we needed energy," Carlisle said, explaining his decision.
In other words, Dalembert provided no energy whatsoever while the Nuggets torched the Mavs in the first half.
"We're a team," Dalembert said when asked his reaction to being benched. "Whatever decisions they made, we go with it. We support each other."
Asked if he thought the benching was justified, the usually affable Dalembert mumbled, "You should ask [Carlisle]. You should ask him. You should ask him." With that, Dalembert walked out of the locker room.
While Dalembert had a strong February, this development can't be considered a surprise. He's playing for his fifth team in five seasons in large part because his inconsistent effort wears on coaches.
That was the case early in the season, when Dalembert was twice late for practices because he overslept, resulting in his losing the starting job. But he's the only experienced prototypical big man on the Mavs' roster, and Dallas desperately needs Dalembert to be an interior defensive presence.
That's especially true against the Portland Trail Blazers, who lead the league in scoring and visit Dallas on Friday night.
With that matchup looming, it'll be interesting to see if this was a one-night visit to the doghouse for Dalembert.
DENVER -- Sound the alarm. Press the panic button.
There’s no such thing as overreacting to a loss as dreadful as the Dallas Mavericks’ 115-110 setback Wednesday night in Colorado.
OK, so it’s not a season ender. But maybe some shouting and screaming will wake up a team that sure doesn’t appear to realize it is fighting for its playoff life.
The Mavs desperately needed a win after losing their last two games. They were facing a Denver Nuggets squad that had lost 11 of its previous 12 games.
“I’ve been saying all along, if we don’t play hard, we can get torched by anybody,” said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 27 points were wasted. “We’ve got to compete on defense.”
This was supposed to be the easy game in one of the Mavs’ most difficult stretches of the season. If the Nuggets gash them like this, how the heck can the Mavs stop the bleeding against the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors over the next week?
The only good news for Dallas on Wednesday night is that the Memphis Grizzlies lost. So the Mavs maintain a 1 1/2-game cushion for the West’s final playoff spot. However, a humiliating outing like this could be the turning point for a season headed south.
“You’re always worried when you lose three games in a row with 20 left and the playoff standings the way that they are,” Nowitzki said. “So, yeah, are we worried? Sure. Are we going to do anything about it? We’ll see this weekend.”
That’s about as directly as the face of the franchise can challenge his teammates.
A loss under any circumstances to the Nuggets could be considered a catastrophe. But Wednesday night’s showing was especially disturbing because Dallas’ starters showed an inexcusable lack of basketball character.
“Embarrassing,” is the word Nowitzki used to describe Dallas’ effort in the first quarter.
“We didn’t come out to play,” guard Monta Ellis said. “No energy.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle agreed.
“We were too casual to start the game,” he said. “We got knocked back on our heels and our butts.”
A failure to compete is never acceptable. It’s absolutely inexplicable for a veteran-heavy team well aware that its fight for a potential playoff berth will probably come down to the wire.
Yet the Mavs let a Nuggets team with nothing to play for punk them to start the game. Denver grabbed 12 of the game’s first 13 rebounds and repeatedly beat the loafing Mavs down the floor for easy buckets.
“I know what didn’t happen,” Nowitzki said. “We just didn’t run back. We didn’t get any stops. They got open shots. They got offensive rebounds. They got really whatever they wanted. It’s as easy as that.”
Starting center Samuel Dalembert, whose effort is about as consistent as the stock market, was so lackadaisical that he didn’t play a second in the second half. Based on defensive merit, Ellis and backcourt partner Jose Calderon should have been riding pine, too.
In fact, Carlisle’s biggest regret after the humbling loss in front of an ESPN audience -- and a crowd that featured entire sections that were empty -- was that he didn’t sit his starters after seeing them mail it in for the first few minutes of the game.
“I take full responsibility for this loss because at the beginning of the game we weren’t into it and it was my mistake,” Carlisle said, his voice rising with anger. “I should have subbed all the guys out of the game that were in there that gave up 12 points in three and a half minutes or whatever it was. Not doing that was a major mistake.
“I’ve been allowing guys to play through things. I believe that these guys would snap out of it, and we didn’t.”
Can the Mavs snap out of it this season? Stay tuned.
DENVER -- The Dallas Mavericks’ season reached a Rocky Mountain low with a 115-110 loss to the reeling Denver Nuggets.
How it happened: The Mavs never recovered from an atrocious defensive performance in the first quarter, when the Nuggets scored 41 points, including 17 by point guard Ty Lawson. The Mavs have allowed more points in a quarter only once this season.
But the Dallas defense might have been even worse in the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets scored 36 points and missed only two field goal attempts.
It took the Nuggets, who had lost 11 of their previous 12 games, going ice-cold in the third quarter for the Mavs to get back into the game. Dirk Nowitzki had 11 points in that frame, matching the total of the Nuggets, who were 4-of-26 from the floor in the third.
But it didn’t take long for the Nuggets to turn it into a blowout again. After the deficit was trimmed to six points, the Nuggets opened the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run, fueled by six points on a few easy buckets around the rim by J.J. Hickson.
Some garbage-time 3-pointers made the final score appear much more competitive than the Mavs actually were.
Hickson had 12 of his 16 points -- and a few highlight dunks -- in the fourth quarter. He was one of six Nuggets to score in double figures, led by Wilson Chandler’s 21 points.
The Mavs wasted a 27-point performance by Nowitzki, who was 13-of-20 from the floor. Reserve big man Brandan Wright, who got more minutes than usual because Samuel Dalembert was benched for the second half, added 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
The Dallas defense was so awful -- except for the third quarter -- that the Mavs’ offense was pretty much irrelevant. Denver slammed the door by running a layup line with little resistance for most of the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs have their first three-game losing streak of the season, dropping to 36-26. Dallas is now two games behind the Golden State Warriors for sixth place in the Western Conference and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs opened now. The Nuggets improved to 26-34 with their first home win in a month.
Play of the game: A playground trick by Kenneth Faried exposed just how awful the Mavs’ defense and rebounding was in the first quarter. After Faried picked up his dribble in the middle of the lane, he tossed the ball off the backboard and caught it to set up an uncontested layup.
Stat of the night: The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers are the only teams in the league without a three-game losing streak this season after the Mavs dropped out of that club.
Those kinds of games will likely be few and far between for the rest of the regular season with the Mavs facing one of the league’s most difficult schedules for the next month and a half.
For Dallas, the fourth quarter was about as ugly as the bushy beards the .500 edition of the Mavs sported at this time last season. The Mavs scored only 15 points in the final 12 minutes, when they shot an unsightly 25 percent from the floor as the Bulls finished them off.
“We got nothing but good looks,” said Monta Ellis, who led the Mavs with 20 points but was only 7-of-19 from the floor, including 2-of-6 in the fourth quarter. “We missed a lot of layups, a lot of shots at the nail, at the free throw line. We missed a lot of wide-open ones. They just weren’t going down for us.”
Actually, more than anything, the Mavs missed a lot of 3-pointers. They were 2-of-12 from long distance in the fourth quarter, when a Joakim Noah-led Chicago defense made it difficult to get anything done in the paint.
And one of those 3-pointers was by Ellis with 24.9 seconds remaining, when the Mavs needed a miracle to make a comeback.
“They’re a good defensive team,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who was held to 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “That’s how they win. They’re smart, they’re long at every position and we weren’t particularly shooting the ball very well tonight.”
Shooting isn’t a problem for the Mavs most nights, as they ranked fourth in the league in offensive rating (108.5 points per 100 possessions), fifth in field goal percentage (47.3) and seventh in 3-point percentage (37.7).
But the Bulls are a much different kind of defensive beast than the Mavs had faced for most of their run of 10 wins in 12 games entering Friday night. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s tough-nosed team has the league’s second-best defensive rating (97.7).
That sort of smothering defense, however, is the new norm for the Mavs during this tough stretch of schedule. Four of their next seven opponents -- the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder -- feature top-five defenses. Three of those games will be on the road.
“Some nights team miss shots and you have to hang in with grit, guts, defense and rebounding,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
That’s how the Bulls, who didn’t lead until late in the third quarter, hung in with the Mavs on Friday night. Then the Bulls turned up the defensive intensity to an even higher level down the stretch -- or the Mavs simply couldn’t get a good look to fall, depending on whom you ask.
The Mavs’ last lead came after Ellis’ steal and breakaway dunk with 5:07 remaining. Dallas followed that with a scoreless drought that lasted longer than four minutes.
“I just figured from there, we’re going to find a way to win,” Nowitzki said, referring to Ellis’ go-ahead bucket. “But we didn’t. You’ve got to give them credit. They kept getting stops.”
The Bulls made it tough on the Mavs. It won’t get much easier Sunday evening in San Antonio.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks’ four-game winning streak was snapped in a 100-91 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
How it happened: The Mavs faded in the fourth quarter as the Bulls tightened the defensive screws.
Chicago held the Mavs to 15 points on 6-of-25 shooting in the final frame. Bulls center Joakim Noah keyed Chicago’s dominant defense, spending most of the quarter in Dirk Nowitzki’s face and coming up with steals on two consecutive possessions at one point.
Nowitzki finished what had been a phenomenal February with an off night, scoring 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 20 points, but he was only 7-of-19 from the floor.
Power forward Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 20 points and 15 rebounds off the bench.
The Mavs didn’t trail until the Bulls took a 73-72 lead late in the third quarter. Dallas lit it up for most of the first half, going into halftime shooting 48.7 percent from the floor. Vince Carter had 14 points and was 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half, but he only scored one point after halftime.
What it means: The Mavs slipped to seventh place in the Western Conference with their loss and the Golden State Warriors’ win over the New York Knicks. Dallas dropped to 36-24, finishing the month of February with a 9-3 record. The Bulls won for the eighth time in nine games, improving to 32-26 and tying the Toronto Raptors for the third best record in the East.
Play of the game: After catching a pick-and-roll pass near the free throw line, Noah delivered a pretty pass to a slashing Gibson, who dunked over Samuel Dalembert and a couple of other Mavs. The bucket stretched the Bulls’ lead to four with a little less than four minutes remaining.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 4-3 when Nowitzki is held to 15 or fewer points this season.
How it happened: The Mavs followed up one of their worst defensive performances of the season with their best.
A night after allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to score 114 points, the Mavs held the Pacers to 73 points on 32.1 percent shooting. Dallas didn’t exactly light it up offensively, either, shooting only 35.7 percent from the floor, but the Mavs can be especially proud of this win because it wasn’t pretty.
The Mavs, a team full of finesse players, went elbow for elbow with the NBA’s most physical team and walked out of their gym with the win.
The Pacers, particularly power forward David West, tried unsuccessfully to intimidate the Mavs. West got a technical foul in the final minute of the first half after getting in Dirk Nowitzki’s face. That’s a bitter individual rivalry that dates to West’s days with the New Orleans Hornets, best remembered by West mockingly caressing Nowitzki’s face during the Hornets’ first-round series win over the Mavs in 2008.
Nowitzki’s response this time? He shoved back at West and nailed a high-degree-of-difficulty, one-legged, step-back jumper on the possession after the timeout called to calm things down.
Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. Nowitzki added 18 points.
The Mavs took the lead for good with an 8-0 run that started with a jumper by Brandan Wright with 5:19 remaining. Wright had two buckets during that spurt. He scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in the fourth quarter after playing only 44 seconds in the first three frames.
But Dallas’ defense was the story in this game. With Shawn Marion on him most of the game, Pacers superstar Paul George scored only 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. The Mavs held the Pacers to 11 points in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs head into the All-Star break on a high note. They have won six of seven games and bounced back from Tuesday night’s blowout loss in Charlotte by handing the Pacers only their third home loss of the season. The Pacers dropped to 40-12, matching the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fewest losses in the league. The Mavs improved to 32-22, which could have them sitting alone in sixth place in the West standings if the Golden State Warriors lose their late game to the Miami Heat.
Play of the game: Vince Carter beat Danny Granger on a backdoor cut to get an inbounds pass, drew a couple of defenders and dished to Wright for the uncontested dunk. That gave the Mavs a 65-62 lead with less than nine minutes to play.
Stat of the night: The Pacers’ 73 points were the fewest allowed by the Mavs since a Feb. 20, 2012, win over the Boston Celtics.
The Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 110-96 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in what might be Dallas’ most impressive and important win of the season.
How it happened: The Mavs dictated the tempo in the fourth quarter and ran away with the game in the Grizzlies’ gym.
The Mavs outscored the Grizzlies by a 32-24 margin in the final frame, when Dirk Nowitzki scored nine of his game-high 26 points.
Nowitzki stayed hot, hitting 10 of 14 shots from the floor, but the Dallas bench was the difference in this game. The Mavs had a 43-21 edge in bench points, keyed by Brandan Wright’s 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and Vince Carter’s 13-point, 5-of-8, seven-assist outing.
The Grizzlies had allowed an average of only 88.7 points in the 11 games since center Marc Gasol returned from a knee injury. The Mavs, who shot 53.8 percent from the floor, scored 89 points in the last three quarters.
Memphis also had a good shooting night, making 53.6 percent of its field goal attempts. Power forward Zach Randolph had 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and shooting guard Courtney Lee added 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
But the Grizzlies, who led the entire first half, went flat in the second half. Memphis scored only 17 points in the third quarter, losing the lead for good late in the frame.
What it means: As far as early February wins go, this one was massive for the Mavs. The Grizzlies had a chance to pull even for eighth place in the Western Conference standings, but the Mavs now have a two-game cushion after improving to 29-21. Dallas is only a half-game behind the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. The Grizzlies (26-22) had won 11 of 14 games entering the night. This victory clinches the season series for the Mavs, who have defeated the Grizzlies in all three meetings between the teams.
Play of the game: A foiled Grizzlies fast break turned into an uncontested dunk by Samuel Dalembert in transition. Nowitzki came up with a steal, took a couple of dribbles and threw a long pass to Shawn Marion ahead of the Memphis defense. Marion dished to a sprinting Dalembert in the middle of the lane, and the big man finished with a hard one-hand slam that essentially served as the dagger, stretching the Mavs’ lead to 16 with 4:10 remaining.
Stat of the night: The Mavs had a 35-32 rebounding advantage, which is especially notable considering the Grizzlies are the NBA’s third-ranked team in rebounding margin and the Mavs are ranked third to last. Dalmebert delivered a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“Other than saying ‘beyond embarrassing,’ I don’t know what to say.”
Carlisle’s sentiments came after the Portland Trail Blazers ran a 36-minute layup line Saturday night en route to a 127-111 rout of the Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.
The Blazers deserve some credit. After all, led by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard, Portland is the NBA’s highest-scoring team.
But it’s absolutely ridiculous to allow anybody to make it look as easy as the Blazers did in the first three quarters, when Portland scored more than half of its 104 points in the paint. The Dallas defense was terrible in transition and horrific in the half court. The Mavs could have laid out rose petals to show the Blazers the way to the rim, if that didn't require a little effort.
“It’s on all of us as a team,” Dallas center Samuel Dalembert said. “It’s embarrassing. As you can see, things didn’t go the way we anticipated.”
Anyone else who was surprised either hasn’t been paying attention or is in denial.
Breaking news: The Mavs are a bad defensive team.
They allow the sixth most points in the NBA this season. That tends to happen when your starting lineup features two guards with terrible defensive reputations (Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis), a 35-year-old power forward who has always been severely limited athletically (Dirk Nowitzki) and a maddeningly inconsistent big man who is asked to clean up a lot of the messes (Dalembert).
The problem is the Mavs, with all their new pieces, aren’t showing progress defensively. They’re regressing, actually, at least against quality competition.
This was the eighth game the Mavs played in the past month against a team that is in position to make the Western Conference playoffs. They’re 2-6 in those games and have allowed an average of 117.1 points on 50.2 percent shooting from the floor.
The Mavs have twice this week alone had halves during which they allowed 70 or more points. Even with their personnel flaws, that’s a shameful failure to execute and compete.
“Everybody’s just got to work a little harder, make the catches a little harder and compete like the guys did in the fourth quarter today,” Nowitzki said. “That’s the only way to play. Like I said, I don’t think we’re talented enough to coast through games or coast through quarters. We’re just not good enough.”
Most fans missed the one bright spot for the Mavs in this blowout. Can you blame folks for fleeing for the exits with the home team trailing by 34 points entering the fourth quarter?
But the Mavs’ bench made up enough ground, going on a 17-0 run at one point, to make Portland coach Terry Stotts put his starters back on the floor with 4:19 remaining. As humiliated as he was, Carlisle made sure to recognize the effort of DeJuan Blair, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin in the final frame, using it as a threat to the Mavs’ regulars.
“I’m going to find guys that are going to fight and get them in the game,” Carlisle said. “Simple as that.”
The Mavs’ defensive flaws really aren’t that complicated. They’re just hard to fix without some major roster remodeling.
Either the Dallas Mavericks (23-17) are going to figure out a way to close games with their defense, or they’re going to continue suffering excruciating losses after holding double-digit leads and, possibly, miss out on the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
“I was thinking we might be the only team trying to find a way to lose this one,” Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs 129-127 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. “We were up, I don’t know, 15 or 16. We have to find a way to win it. We have to get a couple stops here and there. I have to make one or two shots, and there’s no way we should lose this game.”
With 4:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, reserve big man Brandan Wright -- being fronted on a mismatch by Jamal Crawford -- caught a lob pass from Vince Carter, finished the layup and was struck in the face by Crawford.
As blood oozed from his lip, Wright stepped to the free throw line and completed the and-1. The three-point play stretched Dallas’ lead to a game-high 17 points, 123-106, which seemed improbable after the Mavs trailed by nearly double digits for a majority of the first three frames.
Yet instead of serving as the spark that would propel the Mavs to victory, Wright’s basket essentially functioned as the turning point for the Clippers. Over the final 4:35, Los Angeles outscored Dallas 23-4. Shawn Marion said it was “inexcusable” that the Mavs let the Clippers come back from 17 down.
“We have to get some stops,” Nowitzki said. “We can’t give up 3s, especially when they’re down that many. We knew the only way they could come back was with 3s, and they hit three or four in the last couple minutes.”
Even with their massive collapse rapidly unfolding, the Mavs had a handful of opportunities to seal the game down the stretch -- none more important than on the Clippers’ game-winning possession. Following a missed 16-foot step-back jumper by Nowitzki, the Clippers -- trailing 127-126 -- called a timeout and set up a game-winning shot with 20 seconds remaining.
Crawford, who had 16 points on just 4-of-13 shooting, isolated Marion at the top of the key, drove right and attacked the heart of Dallas’ defense. Marion, unquestionably the Mavs’ best one-on-one defender, stuck with Crawford, but bit on a pump fake and was called for a controversial foul. Dallas’ bench erupted in disagreement, and Marion, in particular, was visibly upset.
“I played great defense on him at the time,” Marion said. “[The refs] felt like they needed to make the call, and it is what it is.”
Nowitzki, meanwhile, was a bit more brash in his assessment of the play.
“I actually don’t think ’Trix fouled Crawford on that play,” Nowitzki said. “I think he lost the ball and flailed his arms, and the refs bailed him out. So that was a tough play, but it should never have come down to that.”
While some might cite the questionable call as a key reason the Mavs lost, Dallas actually has been on the receiving end of two beneficial calls recently that the NBA publicly retracted. The postgame locker-room theme was that maybe their luck had caught up to them.
Regardless, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle isn’t looking to make any excuses for his team's inability to win Wednesday's game.
“We couldn’t get stops and that was the reason we lost,” Carlisle said. “If you’re going to pin all your hopes on shot-making in this league, you’re not going to win nearly as many games as you can if you have the ability to get stops.”
At basically the midway point of the season, the Mavs have yet to establish themselves as an above-average defensive team.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Mavericks had been giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions since Christmas -- an encouraging number that was good for the 12th-best mark in the league over that span. Tonight’s outing, though, dropped the Mavs’ defensive efficiency to 105.4 (19th during that stretch), and 22nd overall for the season.
With the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets nipping at their heels for one of the West's final playoff spots, the Mavericks need to address their defensive struggles, and soon. Whether it’s by making tactical adjustments or switching up the rotation, the Mavs know they can’t build a sustainable winning formula with a below-average defense.
“We got the lead by getting stops,” Carlisle said, “and then we lost it with mental mistakes and poor defense down the stretch.
“We made some really bad mental mistakes and gave them a chance, and they took advantage of it.”
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers, led by guard J.J. Redick’s 33 points, defeated the Dallas Mavericks 129-127 on Wednesday night behind a dazzling late fourth-quarter rally.
How it happened: Both squads picked up from where they left off nearly two weeks ago, combining for 134 points and 16 3-pointers in a first half that saw precise offensive execution and little defensive success. (The teams combined for 137 points and 17 3s, respectively, on Jan. 3.) Despite shooting 50 percent, the Mavs trailed 72-62 at intermission, in large part because the Clippers shot a blistering 56.8 percent. Redick -- 23 points and 6-of-8 from deep -- was a difficult cover for Monta Ellis, especially.
In the third quarter, Dallas used a 16-7 run midway through the frame to get within a point at 86-85 before Los Angeles promptly stretched the lead to 100-91 with 2:47 remaining. The Mavs closed the quarter strong, though, scoring seven quick points to cut the deficit to two at 100-98.
The first 7:12 of the final frame featured nearly flawless basketball by Dallas, as the Mavs rode their momentum from the third quarter to a 25-6 run and 123-106 lead. From that point on, though, the Mavs collapsed, getting outscored 23-4 by the Clippers. Ultimately, Dallas -- ranked 19th in defensive efficiency heading into Wednesday’s contest -- couldn’t get the necessary stops with the game on the line and blew a double-digit lead with three minutes remaining.
Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, eight rebounds) led the Mavs with his usual All-Star-level production, while Samuel Dalembert (20 points, seven rebounds) was surprisingly effective. Jose Calderon (16 points), Shawn Marion (14) and Brandon Wright (13) also scored in double figures.
For the Clippers, Redick (33), Blake Griffin (23 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists), Matt Barnes (25 points), Jamal Crawford (16), Darren Collison (13) and Jared Dudley (10) were all in double figures.
What it means: The Mavs (23-17) have yet to find their defensive identity halfway through the season. There were stretches of defensive competence in the second half, but their effort was inconsistent overall. It cost them another winnable game against a top-tier opponent.
Play of the game: With 20 seconds left and the Clippers down 127-126, Crawford -- defended by Marion at the top of the key -- isolated the Mavs' best one-on-one defender and drove right. He jump-stopped, pump-faked and drew a controversial foul call on Marion with 11 seconds remaining. Crawford sank both free throws, giving the Clippers a 128-127 lead and the victory.
After being on the beneficial end of a few controversial calls recently, the Mavs’ luck caught up to them.
Stat of the night: Four. That's the number of times the Mavs have had a 17-plus point lead and lost the game this season.
As Dallas was struggling early in Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls, Carter stepped up and set the tone for the team as he scored 14 of his 18 in the first half. With 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting in a 105-83 victory against the Bulls, Carter had his fourth consecutive game scoring in double figures. More important, Carter is back in a groove.
More important than the schedule easing up, Brandan Wright has returned and his mere presence on the court has done wonders for Carter's game. Carter has scored in double figures in six of the seven games since Wright's return. With Wright back in the fold, it is apparent that the connection between the two former North Carolina Tar Heels is real.
During the 16 games in November, Carter averaged 10.0 points on 35.5 percent shooting from the field and 32.9 percent shooting from 3-point range. From a plus-minus perspective, Carter was a dreadful minus-19.
With Wright back, Carter has averaged 13.9 points on 52.6 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. In the seven-game stretch, Carter's plus-minus has gone up to plus-3.1.
So what did he tell himself to get going again?
"I have to keep playing and stay aggressive," Carter said. "I just made a commitment to myself that I was going to continue to play, keep being aggressive and do whatever I could for my team. I'm back in a groove."
Coming into the game against Chicago, Dallas had averaged 31.3 points from its reserves, ranking 15th in the league. Being in the middle of the pack in terms of bench scoring is something the Mavericks haven't been familiar with for quite some time. With Rick Carlisle coaching the team over the past five years, Dallas was in the top five of bench scoring each year coming into this season. With changes to the roster and injuries, this bench hasn't had the same impact as previous teams'.
The Dallas Mavericks bounced back from a tough loss to San Antonio with a convincing 105-83 win over the Chicago Bulls.
How it happened: After Chicago took a 17-15 lead with 3:33 left in the first quarter, Dallas battled back in a hurry. Dallas went on a dominating 46-17 run from that point of the game through the end of the first half to a commanding 61-34 lead into halftime.
Both Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis struggled in the first half as they combined to go 6-of-20 from the field, but put together respectable nights. Ellis had a team-high 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, and Nowitzki had 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting. As those two struggled in the first half, Vince Carter responded with another solid outing. He had 14 of his 18 points in the first half. Shawn Marion had his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Already without Derrick Rose, Chicago also had to go without forward Luol Deng. He sat because of a left Achilles injury. Joakim Noah led the Bulls in the losing effort with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Dallas led by as many as 32 points. Dallas has blown leads of 17, 18 and 19 this season, and Chicago tried to force a sweat with an 18-0 run during the fourth quarter, but it didn't have enough time and energy to get closer than 14 points on two different occasions: with 6:30 left in the fourth and then with 3:50 left.
The Mavericks shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. They had a strong defensive effort as they held Chicago to 43 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent shooting from 3-point range.
What it means: The Mavericks started their three-game trip on a great note. They'll play their final game of the calendar year against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. Minnesota has won the last two games against Dallas as well as six of the past nine.
Play of the game: Within a span of two minutes and 19 seconds, Dallas had two four-point plays. Nowitzki was fouled on a made 3-point shot from the top of the key with 10:49 left in the second quarter and hit the free throw. Jae Crowder was fouled at the 8:30 mark after hitting a 3-point shot on the left corner and made the free throw.
Stat of the night: According to Mavericks statistician Dave Keeney, the game against Chicago marked only the second time in franchise history that Dallas had two four-point plays in a single game. Mark Aguirre had both on Nov. 25, 1981, in a game against the Denver Nuggets.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.