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Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: May 1, 4:26 AM ET
Crunch-time struggles doom Mavs

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- At some point we must accept the truth about the 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks.

Now is as good a time as any since the Mavs' season is officially on life support after a 102-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

Only devotees of motivational guru Tony Robbins believe the Mavs are going to win four of the next five games against a younger, stronger, faster and better team.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points for the Mavericks in Game 2 but had two critical misses in the game's final two minutes.

Sorry, but that's a pipe dream. The only suspense is how long it will take Oklahoma City to end this series.

The Mavs' biggest edge in this series was supposed to be their basketball IQ and end-of-game execution, but Oklahoma City has been better in both areas.

Frankly, you shouldn't be surprised if you've been following the Mavs all season.

The mojo is gone. Frankly, it never arrived this season. How could it? Mark Cuban essentially gutted the team to create cap space in hopes of signing Deron Williams this summer.

This isn't about intensity. Or effort. Or desire.

This is about results. Winning and losing.

The Mavs, the Western Conference's seventh seed, are simply playing to their pedigree.

No more, no less.

The Mavs were 13-20 on the road and 10-13 in games decided by five points or less during the regular season. In the playoffs, they're 0-2 on the road and 0-2 in games decided by five points or less.

See, they've been finding creative ways to lose all season.

The Mavs led 97-96 with 2:16 left, but couldn't close the game out. No surprise there.

Dallas is 0-4 in Oklahoma City this season. The losses have been by a combined 10 points.

The Mavs have only themselves to blame for their Game 2 loss.

In the final 120 seconds, Jason Kidd committed a turnover, Dirk Nowitzki missed a wide-open 3 from the left wing and a one-legged fallaway.

Jason Terry committed a foul with 2.5 seconds left on the shot clock, sending Oklahoma City to the free throw line, and missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds.

"We just haven't made enough plays," Rick Carlisle said. "It's tough, no question about it. We've had opportunities, but we haven't cashed in. They've made one more play than we have, and that's how playoff basketball is. We come away from these two games disappointed, but not dismayed."

It doesn't help that Dirk and Jet, two of the game's best fourth-quarter performers, haven't excelled at winning time.

In Game 1, Dirk had two turnovers in the final 90 seconds, while Jet went scoreless after scoring 20 points in the first three quarters.

Their performance at winning time in Game 2 wasn't any better.

Nowitzki missed a 3-pointer with no defender within five feet of him with 1:13 left and the Mavs leading 97-96.

"That 3-ball I had in the corner -- that's game time if we go up four," he said. "I had a good look."

On the next possession, Terry fouled Kevin Durant as he tried to catch an inbounds pass along the sideline near the corner. Durant's two free throws gave the Thunder a 98-97 led.

"I looked at the film," Carlisle said. "It would be up for debate, I guess. [Jet] is trying to make a play on the ball and Durant did a good job of selling it. It's a tough play. That's all I can say."

Then Nowitzki missed his patented one-legged fadeaway from about 12 feet along the left baseline. It bounced off the rim three times before falling off.

"The fadeaway, I've made it 100 times," Nowitzki said. "It hit every part of the rim and bounced off. That's kind of the way our season has been going. They get that bounce the last game and we don't. It's frustrating."

This is the first time the Mavs have trailed 2-0 in a series since 2009, when Denver eliminated Dallas in five games. Only 14 times in NBA history has a team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

"We're really just a couple of bounces away from being up 2-0," Nowitzki said. "It's frustrating, but were not going to lay down. If they beat us, were going to make them earn it. We're not going to give it to them. They have to take it.

"We gotta close the games better. The next game is the one we gotta get. We just have to execute a little better down the stretch."

It sounds good, but there's no reason to believe the Mavs can improve their fourth-quarter execution.

It's been shoddy all season. Oh well, they can work on it in training camp.