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It feels like rock bottom for the Mavericks

1/6/2013

DALLAS – If this isn’t rock bottom, then the Dallas Mavericks are heading to hell.

They’ve lost eight of their last nine games, with the Mavs’ lone win during that miserable stretch a comeback against the Washington Wizards, who own the worst record in the NBA. They were blown out in half of those losses, but it seemed like they sunk to a new low Saturday night.

The New Orleans Hornets, those Western Conference cellar dwellers, erased a double-digit deficit en route to handing the Mavs a 99-96 overtime loss at home.

It’s one thing to be overmatched by contenders such as the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder. Heck, even the Denver Nuggets are a playoff-caliber team.

But, for heaven’s sake, these were the Hornets who celebrated a win on the American Airlines Center floor despite No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis playing only a dozen minutes.

It doesn’t get worse than this for the Mavs. Right?

“It feels like it. Yeah, it feels like it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But I still believe in the team and like the guys. It’s just, you know, this is just a tough time. It’s important everybody sticks together. We’ve got to fight through it.”

The Mavs’ struggles to close out games – a polar opposite of the strengths of Dallas’ disbanded 2010-11 title team – are epitomized by their inability to win in overtime. They’re 0-7 in OT this season and tied an NBA record with their 10th consecutive overtime loss.

This game, however, should have never gotten past 48 minutes.

Sure, there’s some frustration that the Mavs missed several wide-open looks in overtime, including Vince Carter’s corner 3 at the buzzer. But the Mavs earned this loss by blowing an 11-point lead in the second half and letting Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (25 points, nine assists) dominate the fourth quarter, when he lit the Mavs up for 15 points and four assists to fuel New Orleans’ comeback.

The Hornets snapped a 19-game losing streak in games they trailed after three quarters.

“Very disappointing,” Carlisle said. “No way to say anything else or express it any other way.”

Oh, Shawn Marion came up with another way: “It feels like [expletive]. This [expletive] sucks. There ain’t no way to explain it other than that. It’s like coach said, we always do something to [another expletive] it up.”

That pretty much sums up the season so far for the 13-21 Mavs, who are in serious jeopardy of falling so far out of playoff contention that a 100 percent Dirk Nowitzki won’t be able to be their savior.

In his first start this season, Nowitzki continued to make rapid progress following his slow return from a preseason scope on his right knee. Nowitzki posted season highs of 20 points and 34 minutes, but he blamed himself for missing a free throw when he had an opportunity for the Mavs to take a lead with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.

“This is a game we had to have,” said Nowitzki, who didn’t score in overtime, when New Orleans’ Eric Gordon had eight of his 14 points. “So, yeah, it’s frustrating, disappointing, all that stuff. Gotta keep fighting.”