That might change after the way that Harris answered the bell at the finish of Friday night’s 103-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavs took the lead for good when Harris ripped a defensive rebound away from Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, brought the ball up the left side of the floor and executed something Dirk Nowitzki called the “get the hell outta the way play” to perfection. With that side of the floor cleared out, Harris attacked Portland point guard Damian Lillard off the dribble, drew contact and banked in a 7-footer despite the foul with 24.2 seconds remaining.
“Harris’ three-point play was a huge play, as big a play as we’ve had all year,” Carlisle said.
The whole fourth quarter was huge for Harris, who had been in a 5-of-29 funk the previous five-plus games. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the final frame, including a 3-pointer that briefly gave the Mavs the lead with 7:15 remaining and two drives after he re-entered the game with Dallas down six.
Of course, Harris isn’t a typical backup. He’s a 10-year veteran with almost 500 starts under his belt, including playoffs.
“I’ve played this game a little bit, so obviously I’m comfortable in that situation,” Harris said. “Hopefully I can get some more time.”
Harris couldn’t have made a better case to close than he did in the late comeback against the Blazers.
DALLAS -- Other than some groans and a few fans shuffling for the exits, the sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center was almost silent with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in Friday’s game.
LaMarcus Aldridge had just ferociously finished an alley-oop to give the Portland Trail Blazers, who trailed by 30 points in the first half, a six-point lead. It felt like a foregone conclusion that the Dallas Mavericks’ free fall would continue in soul-crushing fashion with a fourth consecutive loss that matched the franchise record for the biggest blown lead.
As the crowd sat in stunned silence during the ensuing timeout, challenges were delivered in the Mavs’ huddle. Leave everything on the floor and let the chips fall where they may.
Believe it or not, the Blazers didn’t get another bucket to fall the rest of the game. Dallas closed the game by scoring the final 11 points to pull out a desperately needed 103-98 victory.
“I thought we showed some great fight there in the fourth quarter to come back,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who publicly challenged the Mavs to raise their competitive level after Wednesday’s disastrous loss to the lottery-bound Denver Nuggets. “Just fight for each other, fight with each other. You’re going to lose some, but I like our chances if we’re out there playing together and fighting together.”
Maybe this wasn’t an ideal victory, but the Mavs aren’t exactly in a position to be whining about beauty points when they win.
The Mavs would certainly prefer not to have to scratch and claw down the stretch after opening with their most dominant quarter of the season, seizing that 30-point lead. But it’s no secret that Dallas is a defensively flawed team that tends to have trouble protecting big leads.
Well, the Mavs might have to work a bit on that blown-lead deal.
Heck, the Mavs have lost five games this season in which they led by at least 17 points. It’s such a sensitive subject that it caused coach Rick Carlisle to curse during his postgame news conference -- and promptly tell his 9-year-old daughter, Abby, who was sitting off to the side with her mouth wide open in shock, that she didn’t hear that dirty word.
But at least the Mavs did the dirty work necessary to pull out a win they needed to maintain the slimmest of margins over the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
How’s this for grit? The Mavs got nine consecutive stops to end the game. Their four buckets during that span were all off of drives or in the paint, including an off-the-glass, and-1, go-ahead bucket with 24 seconds remaining by backup point Devin Harris, who got the call for crunch time because of his ability to drive and defend. Carter’s offensive rebound with 17.4 seconds to go essentially sealed the win.
“If you talk about doing it the hard way,” Carlisle said, “there’s no harder way to do it than what we did tonight.”
Not that the Mavs expect it to get much easier. An angry, East-leading Indiana Pacers team, fresh off being blown out by the Houston Rockets and wanting revenge for losing to the Mavs before the All-Star break, will be in town Sunday. The Mavs’ three games after that are on the road, including visits to two teams above them in the West standings. And so goes the Mavs’ schedule, one of the toughest in the league in terms of opponents’ winning percentage the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be a character test,” Carlisle said. “It’s going to test our team resolve the next 19 games, but that’s good. If we’re not up to it, we don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”
The Mavs’ playoff hopes might go down to the wire. With these Mavs, why should you expect anything other than a wild finish?
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 points, Devin Harris hit the go-ahead shot in the final minute and the Dallas Mavericks rallied in the fourth quarter after blowing a 30-point to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-98 Friday night.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 20 for Portland, including 18 in the third quarter when the Blazers went in front for the first time at 69-67 after trailing 44-14 early in the second quarter.
The score was tied 98-all when Aldridge missed a shot from the lane and Harris won the scramble for the rebound. He dribbled the length of the floor and hit a leaning shot on the baseline and was fouled by Damian Lillard.
The free throw put Dallas up by three and Aldridge's pass went over Lillard's head out of bounds.
After Vince Carter made two free throws, and Ellis had a steal to seal a wild win that snapped the Mavericks' season-high three-game losing streak.
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks emerged from a roller-coaster ride with a 103-98 win Friday night over the Portland Trail Blazers.
How it happened: The Mavs managed to pull out a victory over a Western Conference contender after blowing a 30-point lead.
The Mavs ended up having to make a comeback down the stretch, trailing by six points with 4 minutes, 26 seconds to play. But Dallas finished the game with an 11-0 run that featured five points by backup point guard Devin Harris, including the go-ahead and-1 bucket with 24.2 seconds remaining.
The Mavs held their last 30-point lead with 8:31 remaining in the second quarter. The Trail Blazers took their first lead of the game with 2:52 remaining in the third, on a putback by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
The lead went back and forth several times, but Dallas avoided tying a dubious franchise record for the biggest lead blown in a loss. The Mavs also blew a 30-point edge in a Dec. 6, 2002, defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Mavs held the Blazers to 10 points in the first quarter -- the fewest allowed by Dallas in any quarter this season -- and 38 points in the first half. Portland nearly matched that in the third quarter, doubling the Mavs’ total with 36 points in the frame.
Aldridge had 18 points and nine rebounds in just that third quarter, finishing with 30 and 17. But he came up empty several times down the stretch after his alley-oop finish gave the Blazers their final points.
Dallas got 22 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 19 from Jose Calderon, who outscored Portland by himself in the first quarter, but Harris was the crunch-time hero. Harris had 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavs pull out the kind of win that could salvage their season.
What it means: The Mavs halted their season-worst three-game losing streak with a heart-pounding win to remain a game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers fell into fifth place after dropping to 42-20.
Play of the game: With the score tied in the final minute, Harris fought for a defensive rebound in heavy traffic, brought the ball up the floor and drove to his left before being fouled by Damian Lillard and kissing the ball off the glass and in. The free throw gave the Mavs a 101-98 lead with 24.2 seconds remaining.
Stat of the night: According to ESPN Stats & Information, NBA teams that have trailed by at least 30 points are 0-84. In the past 15 seasons, teams that trailed by at least 30 in the first half are 0-142.
What's next: The Mavericks host the East-leading Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
That’s a pretty good clue that Dalembert’s latest demotion from the starting lineup was only for the second half of Wednesday’s indefensible and defenseless loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Of course, coach Rick Carlisle offered no confirmation on whether Dalembert would start Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“My lineup policy hasn’t changed in six years,” said Carlisle, who typically won’t reveal his starters until 16 minutes before tipoff, as required by NBA rules. “We’ll let you know tonight.”
Carlisle doesn’t need to tell us that the Mavs need an engaged version of Dalembert to have a decent chance of beating the Trail Blazers.
The Mavs need a big body to bang with Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center Robin Lopez. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Aldridge is an All-Star who averages 23.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The 7-foot, 265-pound Lopez, whom Carlisle calls “the most underrated acquisition on their team,” averages 11.0 points and 8.7 rebounds and is especially effective on the offensive glass (fourth in the NBA with 4.0 offensive rebounds per game).
In other news, Wayne Ellington is expected to be available Friday night after missing Wednesday’s loss due to personal reasons. Ellington was traveling from his hometown of Philadelphia on Friday morning.
UPDATE: Dalembert did indeed get the start Friday night, taking the opening tip against Portland's Robin Lopez.
DALLAS -- A simple question stumped Dirk Nowitzki: What’s the easiest thing to fix about the Mavericks’ defense?
“I’m speechless, bro,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 115-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets, who scored 41 points in the first quarter and 36 in the fourth.
After thinking for a moment, Nowitzki identified a long list of defensive issues Dallas needs to address.
“We’ve just got to keep people in front of us,” Nowitzki said. “They’re very good in transition. It felt like somebody shot and we just had four guys watching. Our guards have got to sprint back. There were just layups after layups. We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us. We’ve got to be better on pick-and-roll coverage. We’ve got to find the shooters.
“I mean, you can start wherever you want.”
The Mavs better get to work right away. They’ll try to stop the bleeding of their first three-game losing streak of the season Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, who are tied for the league lead in scoring at 107.7 points per game.
At 37 years old in his 16th NBA season, Carter ranks among the NBA’s most productive reserves, averaging 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists as the Mavericks’ sixth man. Carter’s contract expires this summer, but he fully intends to continue his career next season, although he expects to retire by his 40th birthday.
“I have a couple of years left,” Carter said Wednesday afternoon. “Maybe I can [play until 40].
“It’s just coming into the league and even early in the league, if you would have asked me back then at 25, ‘Yeah, you’re going to probably play until you’re 40, huh?’ I would have said there’s no way. There’s no way I would even make it to 37. If I can continue to just do the things that’s been keeping me on the court and keeping me going, who knows? But 40?!”
Carter laughed at the thought of celebrating his 40th birthday in an NBA uniform, a rarity for any player but especially a wing whose best asset for most of his career was his remarkable athleticism. Carter calls it “crazy” but doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, saying he’ll see how his body feels.
Carter is already in extremely rare air among wing players at his age. The only wings to average at least 12 points per game when they were 37 or older are Hall of Famers John Havlicek, Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller and Dominique Wilkins.
“I still love the game,” said Carter, whose 22,955 career points rank 27th in NBA history. “I still enjoy competing and being around the guys. Sometimes it’s just tough. When you go to practice, it’s like, ‘Man, I feel 37 today.’”
There’s a decent chance that Carter’s career will continue with the Mavs. Owner Mark Cuban has publicly stated several times that he’d like to re-sign Carter, who is intrigued by the possibility of finishing his career as a Maverick.
Why was the Mavs’ 35-year-old superstar still on the floor so late with the game out of hand?
“I thought we still had a chance,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had them coughing the ball up a couple of times, and then they had a couple of scores and I got him out. Listen, Dirk was into the game. He really was into it. He didn’t want to come out. He wanted to give it every possible chance. I pulled the plug when I thought it was the right time to pull the plug.”
Carlisle waved the white flag 33 seconds later, when Nowitzki went to the bench during a mass substitution. By that time, Nowitzki had played 34 minutes, a couple more than his norm.
With preventative maintenance and managing Nowitzki’s minutes such a priority, was it worth leaving him on the floor late in a game Dallas trailed by double digits? The Nuggets led by 20 points midway through the quarter and didn’t let the Mavs cut the lead under 13 until Nowitzki exited and garbage time officially began.
“I wanted to fight,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to go down swinging. I wanted to be out there. I felt good tonight. I was a little tired there in the third quarter when I subbed myself out, but that’s what we’ve got to do. Everybody’s who out there has got to play hard and play their minutes hard.”
The Mavs just have to hope the late minutes in a lopsided game don’t make it harder on Nowitzki in the games to come.
Dalembert, the Dallas Mavericks' starting center, didn't get off the bench in the second half of Wednesday's 115-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets. His contributions during his 9 minutes, 33 seconds of playing time: one rebound, one assist and three missed shots. The Mavs were outscored by 18 points with Dalembert on the floor.
"'Sarge' is an energetic guy and we needed energy," Carlisle said, explaining his decision.
In other words, Dalembert provided no energy whatsoever while the Nuggets torched the Mavs in the first half.
"We're a team," Dalembert said when asked his reaction to being benched. "Whatever decisions they made, we go with it. We support each other."
Asked if he thought the benching was justified, the usually affable Dalembert mumbled, "You should ask [Carlisle]. You should ask him. You should ask him." With that, Dalembert walked out of the locker room.
While Dalembert had a strong February, this development can't be considered a surprise. He's playing for his fifth team in five seasons in large part because his inconsistent effort wears on coaches.
That was the case early in the season, when Dalembert was twice late for practices because he overslept, resulting in his losing the starting job. But he's the only experienced prototypical big man on the Mavs' roster, and Dallas desperately needs Dalembert to be an interior defensive presence.
That's especially true against the Portland Trail Blazers, who lead the league in scoring and visit Dallas on Friday night.
With that matchup looming, it'll be interesting to see if this was a one-night visit to the doghouse for Dalembert.
DENVER -- Sound the alarm. Press the panic button.
There’s no such thing as overreacting to a loss as dreadful as the Dallas Mavericks’ 115-110 setback Wednesday night in Colorado.
OK, so it’s not a season ender. But maybe some shouting and screaming will wake up a team that sure doesn’t appear to realize it is fighting for its playoff life.
The Mavs desperately needed a win after losing their last two games. They were facing a Denver Nuggets squad that had lost 11 of its previous 12 games.
“I’ve been saying all along, if we don’t play hard, we can get torched by anybody,” said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 27 points were wasted. “We’ve got to compete on defense.”
This was supposed to be the easy game in one of the Mavs’ most difficult stretches of the season. If the Nuggets gash them like this, how the heck can the Mavs stop the bleeding against the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors over the next week?
The only good news for Dallas on Wednesday night is that the Memphis Grizzlies lost. So the Mavs maintain a 1 1/2-game cushion for the West’s final playoff spot. However, a humiliating outing like this could be the turning point for a season headed south.
“You’re always worried when you lose three games in a row with 20 left and the playoff standings the way that they are,” Nowitzki said. “So, yeah, are we worried? Sure. Are we going to do anything about it? We’ll see this weekend.”
That’s about as directly as the face of the franchise can challenge his teammates.
A loss under any circumstances to the Nuggets could be considered a catastrophe. But Wednesday night’s showing was especially disturbing because Dallas’ starters showed an inexcusable lack of basketball character.
“Embarrassing,” is the word Nowitzki used to describe Dallas’ effort in the first quarter.
“We didn’t come out to play,” guard Monta Ellis said. “No energy.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle agreed.
“We were too casual to start the game,” he said. “We got knocked back on our heels and our butts.”
A failure to compete is never acceptable. It’s absolutely inexplicable for a veteran-heavy team well aware that its fight for a potential playoff berth will probably come down to the wire.
Yet the Mavs let a Nuggets team with nothing to play for punk them to start the game. Denver grabbed 12 of the game’s first 13 rebounds and repeatedly beat the loafing Mavs down the floor for easy buckets.
“I know what didn’t happen,” Nowitzki said. “We just didn’t run back. We didn’t get any stops. They got open shots. They got offensive rebounds. They got really whatever they wanted. It’s as easy as that.”
Starting center Samuel Dalembert, whose effort is about as consistent as the stock market, was so lackadaisical that he didn’t play a second in the second half. Based on defensive merit, Ellis and backcourt partner Jose Calderon should have been riding pine, too.
In fact, Carlisle’s biggest regret after the humbling loss in front of an ESPN audience -- and a crowd that featured entire sections that were empty -- was that he didn’t sit his starters after seeing them mail it in for the first few minutes of the game.
“I take full responsibility for this loss because at the beginning of the game we weren’t into it and it was my mistake,” Carlisle said, his voice rising with anger. “I should have subbed all the guys out of the game that were in there that gave up 12 points in three and a half minutes or whatever it was. Not doing that was a major mistake.
“I’ve been allowing guys to play through things. I believe that these guys would snap out of it, and we didn’t.”
Can the Mavs snap out of it this season? Stay tuned.
Kenneth Faried, Randy Foye and J.J. Hickson added 16 points apiece for the Nuggets, who have won all three meetings this season against Dallas. Hickson scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter to help hold off the Mavericks, who play the Nuggets a final time this season in two weeks in Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki had 27 points to lead the Mavericks, who lost their third in a row. It's their first three-game losing streak of the season.
DENVER -- The Dallas Mavericks’ season reached a Rocky Mountain low with a 115-110 loss to the reeling Denver Nuggets.
How it happened: The Mavs never recovered from an atrocious defensive performance in the first quarter, when the Nuggets scored 41 points, including 17 by point guard Ty Lawson. The Mavs have allowed more points in a quarter only once this season.
But the Dallas defense might have been even worse in the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets scored 36 points and missed only two field goal attempts.
It took the Nuggets, who had lost 11 of their previous 12 games, going ice-cold in the third quarter for the Mavs to get back into the game. Dirk Nowitzki had 11 points in that frame, matching the total of the Nuggets, who were 4-of-26 from the floor in the third.
But it didn’t take long for the Nuggets to turn it into a blowout again. After the deficit was trimmed to six points, the Nuggets opened the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run, fueled by six points on a few easy buckets around the rim by J.J. Hickson.
Some garbage-time 3-pointers made the final score appear much more competitive than the Mavs actually were.
Hickson had 12 of his 16 points -- and a few highlight dunks -- in the fourth quarter. He was one of six Nuggets to score in double figures, led by Wilson Chandler’s 21 points.
The Mavs wasted a 27-point performance by Nowitzki, who was 13-of-20 from the floor. Reserve big man Brandan Wright, who got more minutes than usual because Samuel Dalembert was benched for the second half, added 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
The Dallas defense was so awful -- except for the third quarter -- that the Mavs’ offense was pretty much irrelevant. Denver slammed the door by running a layup line with little resistance for most of the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs have their first three-game losing streak of the season, dropping to 36-26. Dallas is now two games behind the Golden State Warriors for sixth place in the Western Conference and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs opened now. The Nuggets improved to 26-34 with their first home win in a month.
Play of the game: A playground trick by Kenneth Faried exposed just how awful the Mavs’ defense and rebounding was in the first quarter. After Faried picked up his dribble in the middle of the lane, he tossed the ball off the backboard and caught it to set up an uncontested layup.
Stat of the night: The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers are the only teams in the league without a three-game losing streak this season after the Mavs dropped out of that club.
1. Who will be the odd team out among the four squads fighting for the West's final few playoff spots?
Taylor: It's going to be a tight race all the way until the final game or two, but I don't believe in Phoenix. They're fading, having lost seven of 13, and they don't have a true star that can carry a team late in the season. The Suns weren't supposed to be a playoff team this year, and they may be coming back to the pack after a fantastic start.
MacMahon: The schedule isn’t doing any favors for any of these teams, but at least the Mavs play the majority of their games at home the rest of the way. The Grizzlies (14 of 23) and Suns (14 of 22) will be road warriors the rest of the way. Given the Grizzlies’ significant advantage in experience, I’ll also pick the Suns to slide out of the playoff picture and into the lottery.
2. Is Mark Cuban correct that elite prospects would be better served by playing in the D-League instead of a one-and-done college career?
Gutierrez: Cuban is on the right track. If the goal is the NBA, a teenager's best interest isn't by being a part of an NCAA team. The NBA ecosystem, which includes the D-League, and allows players to get proper practice, further understanding of the game, access to state of the art training facilities and steady, consistent time for playing. Players get to compete against others who are pursuing the same goal. These players would be competing against professionals or semi-professionals, thus playing against better talent and giving them a better chance to improve. There are things that the D-League needs to improve on, but I think it's headed in the right direction. There would be complete transparency with Cuban's idea, something that is clearly lacking in the NCAA.
Taylor: That's a complicated question because the NCAA doesn't care about the kids and neither does the NBA. Each entity sees players only as currency that will make its product better. There's something to be said for going to school – even if it's for a year or a semester. Then again, there's something to be said for immersing yourself in your chosen field and seeing how good you can be. I wouldn't mind kids who have no interest in school going to a developmental league.
MacMahon: It’s a fascinating idea that would need a lot of follow-up work. If the NBA wants elite prospects to go straight to the D-League – and maybe the league office doesn’t – then it needs to take major steps to enhance the D-League. This can’t be a situation that some teams take seriously and some don’t. It has to be a league-wide effort. Cuban is on point about the NCAA being a bunch of hypocrites, but it’s hard to argue that D-League coaches are superior than the coaches at college basketball powerhouses.
3. What do you make of the D-League dominance by Jae Crowder and Bernard James?
D-League, but how much does that really mean?
Taylor: Nothing. They're still basically end-of-the-bench NBA guys. It would be like me getting impressed if a bench warmer or role player at Duke went to Division II and average 25 points a game. No different than guys who hammer Triple-A pitching but can't get it done in the big leagues.
MacMahon: If guys flunk the J.J. Barea test, they won’t ever amount to anything in the NBA. In other words, if you’ve got a chance to be a quality NBA role player, you better dominate in the D-League. It’d have been disappointing if Crowder (two triple-doubles) and James (38 points, 18 rebounds in his one game) didn’t tear it up for the Texas Legends. (It’s a red flag that Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo haven’t had bigger impacts in the D-League.) It’s evidence that Crowder and James have some potential, not proof that they should be in the Mavs’ rotation right now.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
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Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.