Mavs lose lead, poise in meltdown

SAN ANTONIO -- Poise shouldn’t be a problem for the NBA’s oldest team.

That makes the Mavs’ meltdown in the third quarter of their Game 4 loss inexcusable. It certainly isn’t inexplicable, though.

A team loaded with playoff-hardened veterans lost its composure. Plain, simple and embarrassing.

The Spurs ratcheted up the intensity after a sorry first half. The Mavs rolled over for a dozen minutes, turning an 11-point lead into a seven-point deficit, essentially dooming their season.

How terrible was it? Spurs guard George Hill scored as many points (11) as the Mavs in the quarter. The Mavs had twice as many turnovers (eight) as field goals (four).

“You’ve just got to keep your poise a little better,” Dirk Nowitzki said following the 92-89 loss that put the Mavs in a 3-1 hole. “They were physical. We didn’t respond the right way.”

This debacle rests largely on Nowitzki’s shoulders. Antonio McDyess pushed, pulled, shoved and grabbed Dirk while getting constant double-team help during the third quarter. Nowitzki let that rattle him , throwing away three passes in the quarter.

Not that it’s all on Nowitzki. His teammates didn’t make the Spurs pay for selling out to double Dirk. The Mavs’ shooting percentage in the quarter (.235) was lower than the blood-alcohol content of a lot of folks roaming the River Walk during this week’s Fiesta.

Jason Kidd, a nonfactor for the third consecutive game, said the Mavs got great looks in the quarter but just didn’t make them. That certainly didn’t appear to be the case from my vantage point on press row. The Mavs struggled simply to get enough room to initiate their halfcourt sets, much less get open shots.

And the decibel level in the AT&T Center got higher and higher with every botched Mavs possession.

“The Spurs’ defense picked up and we needed to respond better to it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s the best answer I can give you, without seeing the film. When it gets loud, we have to keep our composure and we could have done better at that.”

Actually, they couldn’t have done much worse.

Awful offense wasn’t the Mavs’ only issue during the disastrous dozen minutes. Their defense was almost as deplorable. The Spurs hit 10 of 16 shots from the floor in the quarter (4-of-5 by Hill) preventing the Mavs from pushing the tempo.

Even by Mavs’ standards, it was an epic playoff meltdown.

“What meltdown?” Shawn Marion said. “Wasn’t no meltdown. It became a heated game. It was very heated out there. Everybody became real physical. Everybody lost composure a little bit.”

OK, fine. But only one team lost a double-digit lead, sending the Mavs’ season swirling toward the drain.