DALLAS -- The NBA playoffs are no place for moral victories, and coach Rick Carlisle really wasn’t in much of a mood to discuss his Dallas Mavericks’ courageous comeback attempt Monday night.
Carlisle was too focused on how Dallas could dig a 20-point hole against San Antonio -- and he was furious about it.
“I was so disappointed with our no-show in the first half that it’s hard for me to mitigate it with fighting for 24 minutes out of 48 minutes in a game with this kind of meaning,” Carlisle said after the Spurs evened the series by holding on for a 93-89 win in Game 4. “I’m glad we showed that we were willing and able to fight in the second half, but the way we performed just competitively in the first half was inexcusable.”
The Mavs actually jumped out to a 12-2 lead, prompting San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to speculate that Carlisle had the better pregame speech. But the rest of the first half was horrendous for the home crowd to watch.
After the Mavs made half of their first 10 shots, they were a hideous 7-of-31 from the floor during the rest of the half. But that wasn’t why Carlisle was bitter.
“Our first-half performance from a competitive standpoint was just not up to snuff,” Carlisle said.
He was disgusted by the Mavs’ defensive effort after San Antonio missed 10 of its first 11 shots. With sixth man Manu Ginobili carving up the Mavs, San Antonio was 20-of-29 the rest of the half, leaving Carlisle to mutter about how it “looked like they were able to do whatever they wanted to do.”
The blame goes to him first, Carlisle said. Some of Dallas’ defensive issues -- and he pointed out that Game 3 was pretty poor on that end of the floor even in the win -- are scheme problems. More than anything, he was mad that he failed to get the Mavs ready to play in a game that had so much meaning.
“We’ve got to play a little harder in the first half,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I thought we set the tone pretty good in the first few minutes. Usually, when we come out of the gates pretty good, I like our chances for the rest of the game. It puts us automatically into the game and an aggressive mindset.
“But for some reason, they completely turned that around on us after the first couple of minutes. We were on our heels the rest of the half.”
The Spurs’ lead swelled to 20 early in the third quarter, but the Mavs managed to claw back and eventually pull even midway through the fourth.
Dallas wasn’t able to complete what would have been the biggest playoff comeback in franchise history -- one-upping the rally from 19 down on the road against the Spurs in Game 5 of the 2003 West finals -- leaving the Mavs to lament what the heck happened in the first half.
“I really don’t know,” Monta Ellis said. “They’re a great team. They did everything they could to get that lead. Hats off to them. They came out and played basketball.
“We didn’t play for 48 minutes, and it cost us the game.”