Commentary

Numbers paint bleak picture for Mavs

Recent stretch littered with troubling signs, and injury woes haven't ended

Updated: April 4, 2012, 1:41 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- With or without Jason Kidd, is the writing on the wall for the defending champs?

If the past seven games are the wall, concern is warranted.

"With the urgency that's in front of us, with everything really, the homestand, the way things are in the standings, we've got to do things at a very high level," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday's practice and film session. "We didn't get there last night."

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDirk Nowitzki has just seven total rebounds over the past two games, and the Mavs have been getting hammered on the boards lately.

Nowhere close. The Los Angeles Clippers came to town and drilled the Mavs by 19. They led by 10 after 10 minutes and by 16 after 17 minutes. But the Mavs' troubles extend well beyond Monday night and the strained groin that will keep Kidd on the sideline at least through this week.

Since a nifty four-game win streak in the middle of March that offered hope following the 2-7 stretch in 12 days, the Mavs are 3-4 and were fortunate to escape Houston and Orlando with wins.

It's a record littered with troubling signs:

*The four losses have come by an average margin of 18.3 points compared to three wins by an average of 4.3 points, with two by two points and one decided in OT.

*In the past seven games, the Mavs are averaging 90.1 points and giving up 98.9.

*In six of the past seven games, they have trailed by at least 15 points and were outrebounded by double digits.

*In five of seven games, they've been outrebounded by at least five on the offensive glass.

*They have been outscored 76-45 in second-chance points in the seven games.

Do those numbers resemble a team embracing the urgency of the moment?

"We have to bounce back and respond," Carlisle said. "I don't see any other option."

It starts Wednesday night against Memphis, the fifth-best offensive rebounding team in the league and ninth-best team in differential. Dallas has dropped to 24th in differential.

The Mavs' hopes of climbing the Western Conference standings in these final dozen games would seem to hinge on their collective will to get dirty, rebound, dig out loose balls and dig down defensively.

Is this team tough enough physically and mentally to turn these trends around?

"We might be even a little bit tougher," guard Jason Terry said, comparing this team to the one that raised the trophy last year.

So why is this team consistently being beaten so badly on the boards?

"Don't ask me," Jet said "I'm a shooter. I shoot."

Carlisle suggested maybe he has to play center Brendan Haywood more minutes to keep his biggest body in the game. But Haywood has just seven boards in 42 minutes over two games since returning from a sprained right knee.

Dirk Nowitzki hasn't grabbed more than seven boards in the past six games and had just seven total in the past two games. Ian Mahinmi has 11 rebounds in the past five games. In the past three games, Dallas has been outrebounded by 36.

"Yeah, we've got to get better, work harder, all five guys be in there," Nowitzki said. "But [in Monday's game], if one team shoots 30 percent and the other team shoots almost 50, I think there's a lot more rebounds to go around on the other end, so I think that's not rocket science."

It might not be. But it's also not rocket science to understand that securing defensive rebounds will shrink the differential, while consistently surrendering double-digit offensive rebounds -- and the Clippers got 13 -- will lead to lopsided second-chance opportunities and points.

The Grizzlies' burly front line of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol must be salivating.

"Rebounding is a big priority. It's got to be a priority," Carlisle said. "We've had slippage and we addressed that [Tuesday] and we've been talking about it, and again, it's a situation where we simply have to do better."

The Mavs' board work will be a telltale sign of the Mavs' energy and determination against Memphis, a team that figures to be facing fatigue issues coming into its third game in as many nights. The schedule says the Mavs have the advantage.

It will be up to them to take advantage.

"Every time we step on the court, it's an opportunity, and those things are factors that are upon us and upon them because of the schedule," Carlisle said. "And yes, it's an opportunity to take advantage of that, but we're going to have to step out there with a much stronger disposition than we did [Monday] night."

If they don't, the writing will be on the wall.

ALSO SEE