No excuse for Mavs' miserable effort

DALLAS -- There are a lot of reasons why the Mavs have hit a massive rough patch.

They've had a bunch of medical misery over the last month. It started with Dirk Nowitzki's sprained right knee, an injury that forced him to sit nine games. It continued with Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury. And it kept going with an illness that sidelined Tyson Chandler the last couple of games.

But there are no excuses for the Mavs' mail-in efforts recently.

"It wasn’t just only last game," Nowitzki said, referring to a ridiculously sluggish display in Detroit. "You could already see it in some of these Spurs games. We didn’t really compete anymore.

"So it was slowly creeping in. We’ve got to get out of that happening."

It's a sad state of affairs when a bunch of highly-paid professionals have to stress trying hard.

However, that's the painful reality for the Mavs right now. Their 24-5 start is a distant memory, although it almost guarantees a playoff berth. This is a team searching for its heart and guts after losing its last six games.

"You’ve got to have a strong collective will," coach Rick Carlisle said. "You’ve got to rebuild your spirit."

It's amazing how quickly all the Mavs' good mojo has disappeared. This has morphed into a team whose mental toughness has come into question.

The Mavs lately have looked like a team that feels sorry for itself.

"I wouldn’t say feeling sorry for ourselves," Chandler said. "I just think guys have just been down. What happens is guys go out, bad things start happening, guys start looking around and trying to figure out why and you start giving yourself a reason: 'Well, this and this and that.' We can’t look at that."

The Mavs have to spend all their energy searching for solutions. It starts with the simplest concept in sports: Try hard.