DALLAS -- The Mavericks nearly pulled out a win against a bad team by shooting 36.0 percent and with Brendan Haywood (season-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 4-of-5 at the free throw line) as their most efficient scorer. The key word is "almost."
The Mavs didn't win and that combo will rarely earn a 'W' as Dallas dropped a 93-92 decision to the New Jersey Nets in their disappointing return from the All-Star break.
"We were off, couldn’t make a shot; it was ugly, they really jumped on us and had a big lead," said Dirk Nowitzki, who was 7-of-19 from the floor and deferred to Jason Kidd three times in the final 48.9 seconds. "That’s obviously not what you want coming out of the break at home. We were sloppy -- ballhandling, shooting, everything was sloppy. And down the stretch, that’s our strength, executing, getting the ball where it needs to go, just a rough night."
Harsh, but true.
Starting a stretch of nine games in 12 nights in which the frequency of games seemed to be more challenging than the majority of teams on the schedule, this was a tough way to kick things off. New Jersey won for just the 11th time in 36 games.
Dallas shot 40 percent or worse for the eighth time in 35 games and fell to 1-7 in those games. With 1:23 left in the third quarter, Rodrigue Beaubois' pretty tear drop gave Dallas a 74-71 lead as the Mavs wiped out a 13-point deficit in the quarter. Remarkably, it would be Dallas' last basket until Haywood's hook with 3:25 left in the game to pull the Mavs to within 89-83.
Fourteen consecutive shots over nearly 11 minutes clanked away. After a mini hot streak, including Kidd's lone 3-pointer for the lead, 92-91, with 48.9 to go, he missed his last two attempts -- finishing 1-of-7 from downtown -- on possessions that turned into unhinged scrambles.
"Look, we didn't shoot well," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in an understatement. "The focus is at the end of the game, but I thought our beginning of the game was poor. We weren't engaged defensively; we allowed them to shoot 52 percent and get a five-point lead...It's the full 48 minutes. We did a great job coming back at the end, but it's hard to get into a situation where there's zero margin for error."
The other day Kidd said it's going to be hard for the Mavs to be a team that shoots a high percentage consistently because of the energy exerted at the other end to become a top-five defensive team. Tuesday proved that even when the defense is not engaged as Carlisle said -- Brook Lopez scored 38 points on 28 shots for goodness sake -- Dallas isn't a good shooting team.
This is a trend that has not made many appearances in Dallas over the last decade and change. Yet, after 35 games, this is more than a trend. No matter who has been in or out of the lineup, the Mavs have been about a 43-percent shooting team. After Tuesday's 32-of-89 performance, they sit at 43.6 percent and 32.5 percent from 3-point range.
"We might be a little better, but playing 66 games in 67 days, I don’t think the shooting percentage is going to be great," Nowitzki said. "Look around the league, it’s the worst 3-point percentage since the last lockout and I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it."
Shooting percentages are down, but the Mavs rank 18th in the league in overall shooting and 19th from 3. So, plenty of teams are doing it better.
"You got to keep fighting and keep stepping into it," Nowitzki said, "and try to win it over defense and rebounding and ultimately down the stretch knock down some big shots."
That didn't happen and so on a night when Dallas' defense picked up in the second half, limiting Deron Williams to two points and the Nets as a whole to 14 points in the fourth quarter and 37 in the final two quarters, the Mavs still lost.
Three more points to ponder heading into tonight's game at the Memphis Grizzlies
1. Tables turned in Memphis: Once upon a time the Mavs dominated the Griz, winning 18 of 19. No more. Memphis has won six of the last 10 meetings and four of six at Fedex Forum. And they'll have the advantage tonight playing their first game coming off the All-Star break.
2. Jet moves up all-time list: Jason Terry passed fomer Mav Dale Ellis and is now No. 6 on the NBA's all-time 3-point list. He has 1,720. However, he would have liked to drop more than two of his six attempts in the loss.
3. Another 1,000 milestone for Dirk: Nowitzki's 14th season is turning out to be the season of the 1,000 milestone. This season he's already hit 1,000 career games, 1,000 3-point baskets and 1,000 blocks. Next up tonight is 1,000 career starts. Nowitzki has started 999 of his 1,024 games.