DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle stared glumly at the final box score and pointed out the one massive number that made his eyes widen the most.
"They had 16 steals," Carlisle said, increduously, after the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Denver Nuggets, 103-92, Saturday night. "I don't know what the NBA record is, but it can't be much more than that."
It won't make Carlisle feel any better that Denver had a ways to go set a record. Seattle had 27 against Toronto on Jan. 15, 1997. Carlisle will argue it's the principle of the thing. The Nuggets came into the Mavs' home -- the one they keep talking about needing to protect and needing to make more uncomfortable for the visitors -- and made a mockery of his team on two fronts.
The Nuggets drained 13-of-21 from 3-point land, and the Mavs turned it over a whopping 21 times -- 16 times to Nuggets thievery.
"A losing formula," is how Carlisle described it. No doubt. Tied after three quarters, the Mavs dropped to 3-2 and 1-2 at home.
First Memphis, without Zach Randolph. Now the Nuggets without their top three frontcourt players. The Mavs coughed up the rock 10 times in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies. They managed eight turnovers against Denver in the final 12 minutes, five by Dirk Nowitzki, who unsuccessfully tried to fight out of double teams.
Nowitzki (23 points) and Jason Terry (26 points), the two players who carried the scoring load for three quarters, combined for one fourth-quarter point, a 1-of-2 trip from the free throw line for Terry. The Mavs scored 13 points in the quarter and were outscored by 11.
"It's careless and it's got to stop," Terry said. "It's just not taking care of the ball. We get opportunities and then we would have been able to get into our go-to stuff, but we didn't do that."
The Mavs felt they gave one away against Memphis and gained it back at Denver the other night.
"Now we gave it back," Terry said. "We've got to take care of business. We're at home. At home you really got to take care of the ball, be aggressive and do the things that made you successful and we didn't do that tonight."
The only Mavs player that played other than garbage minutes and didn't turn the ball over was J.J. Barea in 17 minutes. Nowitzki finished with a team-high seven. With Caron Butler's four turnovers (not to mention his 5-of-17 shooting), those two combined for one fewer turnover than the Nuggets, who could have really piled things on if they had converted more than the 13 points they did off the Mavs' turnovers.
There were some murmurs that the referees were letting things go, but the Mavs, to their credit, didn't come close to blaming the refs in the end.
"A lot of times the refs will call it to the aggressor. They looked like the aggressor tonight," center Tyson Chandler said. "They were reaching in, they were getting steals, but they were diving and lunging. We take that away, we beat them."
Easy to say, but the Mavs haven't done it. In three home games, they have 58 turnovers.
"We've got to solve it," Carlisle said. "It's been more a problem in the three games we've played at home, so I don't know. I don't know the reason. We had three [turnovers] in the first four minutes of the game and then three of the first four possessions to start the fourth. That puts us behind the eight-ball.
"We've been better than this and we have to be better and we will."
That starts Monday night when the defending Eastern Confernence champion Boston Celtics come to the AAC.