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Friday, March 9, 2012
3-pointer: Late execution, road woes linger

By Jeff Caplan



Forty-one games into this odd season and the numbers are startling. In fact, they're completely opposite of the numbers the Dallas Mavericks put up a year ago on their way to winning the championship.

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Jason Kidd had to pay the league $25,000 for complaining about officiating after the Mavericks loss to Oklahoma City. The next night the Knicks were complaining the Mavs got too many calls. What is going on here?

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The best team in the league in close games is now one of the worst. The best road team in the league a year ago can't buy one.

Dallas, now 23-18 after Thursday night's second-half collapse at Phoenix is not a good team at winning time -- and that comes as a major shock for this veteran group that, other than Tyson Chandler, fields the same five in crunch time as last season.

That is, when Jason Terry isn't getting benched, which has happened twice now in a week.

The Mavs played a solid first half, shooting 52 percent and leading 53-44, which, truth be told, could have been larger, maybe should have been larger heading to the locker room.

Then came another pathetic third-quarter. Phoenix scored 34 points and shot 73.7 percent. Dallas shot 38.9 percent. The Suns kept powering forward to start the fourth quarter. A Shannon Brown offensive rebound for a dunk while Terry stood flat-footed told the story. Before the Mavs realized what happened, they trailed 90-80.

“The last three minutes killed us because we lost the lead and they went into the fourth with momentum and a two- or three-point lead," Mavs coach Rick Carlsile said. "We just didn’t recover, simple as that. We tried; we got into a position at the end of the game to tie."

But again late-game execution fell short. With Terry on the bench and Dirk Nowitzki blanketed, Rodrigue Beaubois twice missed open shots, first a six-foot floater and then an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer. Both were good looks, both could have gone down.

"We wanted an open shot and if we had gotten an open 3 that would have been great for a chance to win the game, but Roddy got a good look at a 2," Carlisle said. "You’re not always going to get your star players a shot at the end because they attract so much attention and that’s the reason Roddy got so open."

So here are the facts:

* The Mavs are 1-14 when trailing after three quarters, and 0-8 on the road

* Fifteen games decided by five points or less is tied for the most in the league. The Mavs are 6-9 in those games, tied for the most losses.

* The best road team in the NBA last season has now lost four in a row and is 8-11. They haven't won on the road since Feb. 17 at Philadelphia.

With two games left on this stretch of nine games in 12 nights, the Mavs are assured of a losing record and if they don't turn things around tonight at Sacramento and Saturday night at Golden State, they're not assured of being in the playoff mix Sunday morning.

Here's three more areas to ponder:

1. Judging Lamar Odom: The forward's fast start was a good sign, but in the end how will Odom's 15-point, four-rebound, two-assist performance in 22 minutes be judged? Odom finished the game with the worst plus-minus rating on the team, minus-12, meaning when Odom was on the floor, the Suns outscored the Mavs by 12 points. As comparisons, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter were both plus-8. Dirk Nowitzki was minus-5. Plus-minus rating can be a tricky stat to make judgments. In Tuesday's win against New York, Odom was a minus-5, one of three Mavs to post a minus rating. On Monday at Oklahoma City, Odom was plus-six; Nowitzki was minus-7.

2. Vince Carter fading?: The 35-year-old reminded how dangerous he was earlier in the season as a post-up option and from beyond he arc. He was 6-of-11 for 13 points in the first half and made one of his two 3s. His second half was a reversal, 2-of-10 for five points. Since Carter made 5-of-10 field goals for 15 points on Feb. 15 against Denver, Carter has not shot at least 50 percent in any game, not even close. In the 11 games since, Carter is shooting 35.2 percent (36-of-102) and 27.5 percent from 3-point range (11-of-40).

3. Sean Williams rising?: The long and lanky center is probably headed back to the D-League when Brendan Haywood and Brandan Wright return from injuries, but while he's here it would be great if he can contribute. In 15 minutes of action Thursday, Williams had four points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. He logged 12 minutes in the first half, logging just 3:19 in the second half, all in the fourth quarter.