LOS ANGELES -- Elton Brand leaned against the wall next to his locker, shook his head and smiled.
He wouldn't go as far as to say it's as bad now as it was 13 years ago, when the futile Chicago Bulls finished 17-65 his rookie season. But right now, it's bad for the Dallas Mavericks, who dropped yet another game -- this one by a 99-93 score to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Mavericks blew a 10-point lead. Down by two possessions, they failed to grab a much-needed rebound twice in the final minute, all but sealing their fate. It was their 13th loss in the last 15 games.
"Words can't even express it right now," said Shawn Marion, standing nearby. "This is painful. To be losing like this, when we were so close, we just find a way to bite ourselves. When we get right there, we do something to mess it up."
The Mavericks had a chance late, getting two stops on perimeter shots, but former Mav Caron Butler pulled down both loose balls. Vince Carter missed a jumper that would have trimmed the deficit to two with less than seven seconds remaining.
Losing a double-digit lead against the team with the best record in the NBA, in a sold-out arena, was not an excuse, even for a reeling squad that continues to search for answers.
"Our motivation is to get wins, plain and simple," Carter said. "If you can't motivate yourself off of that, you shouldn't be playing."
Four Mavericks starters scored in double figures, led by point guard Darren Collison's game-high 22. O.J. Mayo had 10 points in the second half but needed 10 shots to get there. Dirk Nowitzki had nine in the second half and finished with 15.
"We're right there," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We just have to keep working to get over the hump."
In the locker room, Brand leaned against the wall and smiled.
"Once we break through," Brand said, "we'll be fine."