MEMPHIS -- If you’ve got the stomach for it, go ahead and pick the ghastly stat that best sums up the Dallas Mavericks’ Memphis meltdown.
Here are a few options after the Mavs turned a massive lead into a 90-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies:
• The 25-point blown lead was the fourth largest in franchise history.
• The Grizzlies went on a 36-4 run that bridged the second and third quarters, with the Mavs committing nine turnovers in a span of a little more than 12 minutes. Memphis scored 24 consecutive points during that stretch.
• The Mavs had more turnovers (seven) than points (five) in the third quarter. The five points were the fewest ever scored in a quarter by a Memphis opponent and matched the fewest scored in a quarter by an NBA team this season.
Man, it doesn’t get much worse than this, huh?
Well, that’s debatable in this debacle of a season for Dallas.
“Oh, god, there are so many low points,” Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said, fidgeting with a bushy beard that he won’t shave any time soon. “I don’t even know if this is the lowest.”
Oh, you could argue the case for any of the many times the Mavs were on the wrong end of a blowout. Or maybe you’d pick out one of the several times the Mavs managed to find a way to give away a game in the final moments.
But let’s focus on the mess that’s fresh after the Mavs fell apart Wednesday night at FedExForum.
Desperate for a win after a couple of soul-crushing close home losses over the previous few days, the Mavs couldn’t have played much better than they did in the first half. Dallas simply dominated the West’s best defensive team, lighting up the Grizzlies for 38 points while making 15-of-20 shots from the floor, building a 19-point lead.
That lead swelled to 25 midway through the second quarter, as the Mavs seemed to be cruising to a stunning road rout over a playoff-bound Memphis squad that had won its previous seven games. Then, suddenly, the Grizzlies cranked up the defense and the Mavs’ morphed into a D-League offense.
“I think they wanted it a little more than us,” said Mavs sixth man Vince Carter, offering an inexcusable explanation considering the West standings. “We got comfortable in the last five minutes of the first half.”
Disaster struck after Memphis big man Marc Gasol’s and-1 layup with 2:13 remaining in the first half. The Mavs committed turnovers on five of the next six possessions, allowing the Grizzlies to cut the deficit to a manageable 13 points at the break.
Then the horror show started:
By that point, the Grizzlies had ripped away the lead for good.
Warning: The following stats from the third quarter are rated PG. The Mavs were 2-of-17 from the floor, 0-of-4 from 3-point range and 1-of-4 from the free throw line. They had seven turnovers. They were outrebounded by a 19-8 margin.
They were humiliated.
“They turned it up a notch and we didn’t,” forward Shawn Marion said. “They came out aggressive and punked our asses.”
Added coach Rick Carlisle: “It’s another tough lesson in a season full of tough lessons.”
The Mavs gutted up and fought back in the fourth quarter, trimming the lead to two at one point, but they never got back over the hump. Teams that give up 36-4 runs don’t win very often.
When the buzzer sounded, the Mavs had lost their third straight game. They fell to 25-32, light years from the playoffs and seven games under the .500 mark they need to reach before they’ll allow themselves to shave again.
“Yeah,” Nowitzki said after being held to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting, “it feels like more than that, to be honest with you.”
As bad as blowing a 25-point lead was, it felt worse. And it might not even be the low point in this miserable season for the Mavs.