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Leads built, lost, but Mavs like 5-1

12/18/2010

DALLAS -- The longest homestand of the season is history. So what did the Dallas Mavericks learn other than they're the best team in Texas? Thank you, Sir Charles.

"I thought it was a great homestand, 5-1," Jason Kidd said. "We hadn't been playing well at home. We had a lot of leads, big leads and we've given some away, but the big thing is we're learning how to play with a lead, and sometimes we fall in the trap of just going through the motions. But I thought we had a great homestand."

In the final five games of the six-game homestand, the Mavs built leads of at least 17 points. In four of the games they led by at least 20. In each case with the exception of Friday's finale, a 106-91 win over the Steve Nash-less Phoenix Suns, the Mavs had to fend off furious rallies.

New Jersey trailed by 21 but cut it to five in the third quarter; Utah fell behind 29-5 only to tie at 89-89 before falling; Milwaukee came all the back from down 20 to hand the Mavs their lone loss of the two-week run; and Portland fought back from down 17 to tie it at 91-91 late in the fourth quarter.

"Six-game stand, I'll still take 5-1 even though the one we lost was a rough one, a disappointing one being up 20, but you just can't win all the games in this league; teams are good," Dirk Nowitzki said. "But it's been a trend, even today, we're up 20 again, had a chance right there to put a foot on them and we didn't do it. They came back and it was a 13-point game, so we have to figure something out there to kind of keep the pressure up, espeically defensively."

All in all, the Mavs played one team with a winning record on the homestand, the Utah Jazz. The Nets played all but a few minutes of the first quarter without starting point guard Devin Harris, who injured his back on a hard fall. Likewise, the Suns lost all-everything guard Nash early in the third quarter when he collided with Tyson Chandler.

So while the homestand was a success from a won-loss perspective, gauging much else is a bit hard to do. While the Mavs looked fantastic at times in building 20-plus-point leads, which included more inspired play from Caron Butler, Shawn Marion and others at different times, Dallas looked equally inept, or at least confusingly disinterested, in losing the bulk of those leads.

"We got to put teams away, that's our weakness right now," Jason Terry said. "It came back to bite us once. I think that's the only negative that comes out of this home stretch. But you learn from it. If we're still talking about this in March and April then we're not doing our jobs."

The Bucks became the first team to score 60 points in a half against Dallas this season, doing so in the decisive second half. Two nights later, Portland put up 59 in its near-comeback.

"We're still learning about ourselves, learning about what it takes to really play at a high level in this building," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think we showed some really positive signs, and there's still some things we have to get over the hump on."

The next two games might tell more than the last six. The Mavs finally leave the all-too-cozy confines for a Monday nighter against the streaking Miami Heat followed by a visit to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

The last time the Mavs saw Miami, they handed the Heat another demoralizing loss that dropped their record to 9-8 and instigated a team-only meeting.

"It must have worked," Kidd said. "They've won 11 in a row and so they're rolling right now."