It was bad enough that the Mavericks struggled with simple tasks like getting the ball across half-court and stopping dribble penetration, but the Clippers made sure to add insult to injury in their 112-90 thrashing of the Mavs.
“Yeah, it’s embarrassing to lose like that, especially at the end of the game. They’re playing around throwing lobs back and forth during the last two, three minutes of the game,” said forward Shawn Marion. “That’s embarrassing. You’re not supposed to lose like that. It sucks.”
Chris Paul, despite only having 14 points, set the tone for the night with his 13 assists and five steals. He dissected the Mavericks’ defense like an in-class science experiment, creating high-percentage opportunities for his teammates and occasionally finishing plays himself.
Defensively, though, is where he may have made an even bigger mark against the Mavs.
In a 15-second stretch in the middle of the second quarter, Paul stole the ball from O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison on consecutive possessions, with both turnovers resulting in Clipper baskets.
Paul’s bulldoggish perimeter defense coupled with Jamal Crawford’s sweet shooting – he converted on a four-point play with 3:15 remaining in the second quarter – proved too much for Dallas, as the Clippers used a 29-15 second quarter run to take the lead from 31-27 with 8:14 remaining to 60-42 at the half.
The Clippers never looked back. They clamped down defensively on the Mavericks, controlled the boards (49-41) and forced a horde of tough Dallas shots and careless turnovers.
Mayo and Collison, two of the Mavericks’ top offensive options this year, simply couldn’t score. Mayo finished with 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting and had four turnovers, while Collison had eight points on 2-for-5 shooting to go along with his five turnovers.
The silver lining for Mayo is that dished out seven assists, tied for his season-high, which proves that even when his shot’s not falling or an opposing defense is keying in on him (as they have of late), he’s still capable of impacting the game offensively.
To pick up the offensive slack of their normally deft backcourt tandem, the Mavericks spread the wealth among the rest of the roster. Vince Carter was impressive off the bench, leading the Mavs in scoring with 16 points and showing some Vinsanity-level flashes of athleticism.
Shawn Marion and Chris Kaman attacked the Clippers early and often, using their diverse skillsets to complement each other and score 14 points apiece. Kaman ended up going 6-for-13 from the floor, but he had a lot of good looks and missed some chippies.
Virtually every other Maverick was a non-factor offensively, which is in part why the Mavs shot 40.5 percent from the field compared to the Clippers’ 50 percent.
Well, all except for one unexpected contributor.
Derek Fisher, he of 1-for-8 shooting in his putrid debut against Detroit, scored 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
“Fisher was a plus-2 during the game, which is a positive stat,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “It’s obvious he’s getting his legs. He kept himself in good shape before he was brought in. That’s a building block, but we have to have everyone doing good things and we just weren’t there tonight.”
Despite Fisher’s impressive shooting display, he and Collison couldn’t stay in front of Paul, who got into the paint at will, finding perimeter shooters left and right, and creating for Griffin and Jordan inside.
“Defensively, we just have to help each other and continue to stay on a string,” Carter said. “We get a little lackadaisical as a team and we just have to stick with it.”
Carlisle warned before the game that the Mavericks needed to get out in transition, protect the ball and prevent Clipper “paint points.” Instead, they rarely ran, had a bunch of turnovers and were dominated in points in the paint, 62-30.
“I didn’t like the turnovers. I felt that the turnovers keyed most of the problems,” Carlisle said after the game. “Tonight, we fragmented at the wrong times and turned it over, which led to an avalanche of problems.”
The Mavericks turned the ball over 22 times, an unacceptable number under any circumstance, but especially on the road. Those 22 turnovers turned into 26 Clipper points, most of which were highlight-filled lobs, including several flushes by Griffin, Jordan and Bledsoe.
Disregarding a short Maverick run in the third quarter that brought the lead back down to 12 points with 6:00 left, Dallas was never really in this game. They trailed from start to finish, a disheartening sign no matter how talented or athletic the opponent is.
The Mavericks have now lost five of their last seven games and are two games under .500 (8-10) for the first time this season. It’s been a roller coaster of a season, and the news that Nowitzki will now be out longer than expected doesn’t exactly help them solve their glaring issues.
With five of their next six games on the road, where they already have five double-digit losses, the Mavericks have to get their act together before the season’s lost and Nowitzki’s return becomes irrelevant.