LAS VEGAS -- Ultimately, the Dallas Mavericks (1-2) had their Las Vegas Summer League tournament fate in their hands and let the opportunity slip away with their 82-75 loss to the D-League Select team (3-0). A win could have catapulted the Mavs to as high as the sixth seed in the new summer league tournament, giving them a first-round bye. With the loss, Dallas enters the tournament as the 16th seed and will face the 17th-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. PT Wednesday night. The winner of that game will play the top seed, the Golden State Warriors, on Thursday night.
The Warriors were a perfect 3-0 in the preliminary round and have set the Summer League record for most consecutive wins in league history as they are on a 10-game winning streak.
How did the Mavs let a 13-point first-quarter lead slip away from them?
Rebounding: The D-League Select team held a 38-25 rebounding advantage over the Mavs. Dallas was without the services of Bernard James once again, as he flew home to Dallas due to personal reasons. The Mavs will miss his ability to control the paint and rebound the ball.
“That’s what Bernard does. He can rebound the ball offensively and defensively,” Dallas summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “We’re a little short-handed, but the other guys have to step up.”
The Mavs have yet to win a game without James, so he clearly is a valuable member to the team.
Free throws: Dallas had plenty of opportunities to seize control of the game in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t capitalize at the line. The Mavs went 19-of-30 from the line for the game and 10-of-17 in the final quarter.
“You work on them in practice and guys just have to step up and make free throws,” Mathis said. “It’s a free point. There’s no defense at the free throw line, last time I checked.
“Whether you’re a roster guy or not, you’ve got to step up and make your free throws.”
While Dallas went 10-of-17 from the line in the fourth, the Select team went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Energy: Led by Gal Mekel, the starting lineup for Dallas surged to take the lead in the first quarter. Mekel controlled the game by dishing out seven assists in the first quarter. The second unit let the starters down as it was unable to keep the pace. The Select team had 39 bench points to Dallas’ 25.
Josh Akognon led the team once again in scoring with 20 points, but he did not have much help alongside him in the scoring department.
"You can pinpoint so many things, but the end result is just energy,'' Akognon said. “We didn't have any energy.
"Everybody was talking, but nobody was really doing anything. So at this point at this level, you've got to be able to do something rather than talk.''
The lack of energy was apparent on offense, as the Mavs mainly played isolation basketball after the first quarter. As a team, Dallas had a total of five assists in the final 31 minutes of the game.
Mekel appears to be the head of the snake for the Mavs. If teams are able to take him out of the game, Dallas is in trouble.
Taking the foot off the gas on Tuesday night now has Dallas playing on the second night of a back-to-back, now a single-elimination tournament. There’s little time to dwell on a game that got away from the Mavs on Tuesday night.
“I think our guys can compete. We can play with any team out here,” Mathis said. “We’ve just got to cut down on those things we’re not doing well.”
With the stakes now being high, Akognon insisted that the team will use the loss as a learning experience.
“Nobody wants to go home. Our main goal was to win the championship,” Akognon said. “If we’re doing it like we did (Tuesday), we’ll be out of here quickly.”