DALLAS -- If the axiom, you play like you practice, is true then maybe the Dallas Mavericks snap out of their third-quarter funks that have turned three consecutive halftime leads into disappointing losses.
That's the focus during this rare three-day break as the Mavs nurse a three-game skid.
"We’ve got to be better over a full 48 minutes, without question," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. [Monday] we simulated a situation where the first part of practice was a hard, defensive-oriented practice, and then we took about a five- or six-minute break to shoot free throws. Really, talking about that, that’s simulating halftime. And then coming out of that break we’ve got to be able to pick it right back up. And so, we’re making a conscious effort to do that and it's got to be an emphasis for us."
Breakdowns have occurred on both sides of the floor. Take Saturday's loss at Cleveland as a prime example of a total meltdown after halftime. Dallas had five players combine to go 6-of-19 from the floor and seven players committed a turnover. Carlisle harped on the inability to stop numerous dribble penetrations -- more than 25 in the game. In the final 7:42 of the third quarter, the Cavaliers scored four of seven baskets at the rim and two more from within seven feet to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 70-64 lead.
Attention has also focused to Dirk Nowitzki and whether he's getting the ball when and where he needs it. He's heated up in the last two games, scoring 30 and 24 points on a combined 21-of-32 scoring. But, with Jason Kidd sidelined five games and counting with a strained right calf, it seems the ball, as Jason Terry sternly pointed out after Friday's loss to Indiana, has too often eluded Nowitzki's hot hand.
Nowitzki said 17 and 15 shot attempts are not necessarily too few. After going 5-of-5 from the floor in the first half at Cleveland, he put up five shots in the third quarter and missed all of them.
In this two-game resurgence, others have dropped off. Shawn Marion has just 12 points in the last two games and Jason Terry is a combined 9-of-25. There's certainly an adjustment without Kidd's savvy play leading the show, but in or out, the Mavs have to find their flow offense that gets everyone involved.
Dallas ranks 10th in the log-jammed Western Conference in scoring at 93.8 points a game, and only team below them, the Los Angeles Lakers, are in the playoff mix.
"We’ve got to keep some of those guys involved," Nowitzki said. "Jet has been good. 'Trix was great for us the first third of the season with his slashing and posting some. He only took five shots the other night. With me playing better, we’ve still got to find the other guys, keep them involved and keep them playing at a high level. We’ve got to be a good team to beat some of those teams."