FOREWARD: Do we rip the film from the reels, run a magnet over the hard drives, microwave them in a melting pile for 30 minutes and then take that smoldering mess and toss into a raging fire? Do we pluck the bruise from our minds, banish it like an infectious disease and pretend it never happened, with an agreement to never discuss it again?
It that how we treat the 101-97 loss; the first ever in 17 meetings for the Dallas Mavericks to the Charlotte Bobcats?
We’re sure Rick Carlisle won’t allow the players to be so lucky, but it certainly feels akin to a wound we’d be happy to never be introduced to again.
“This team has a lot to learn about winning,'' Rick said, picking at that wound. "That’s where we’re at. And this is a very painful lesson.”
HOW IT HAPPENED: We’ll begin, as our memories so often do, with where it all ended and work back from there.
With just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter an O.J. Mayo (22 points) dunk put the Mavs up eight, and the win seemed well in hand … then the Bobcats went on an 9-0 run to take a one-point lead with 2:12 remaining.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (25 points, 12 rebounds) responded to two Vince Carter (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) free throws with a pair of his own, leaving Charlotte again up by one.
After a Carter three and Mayo free throws, the Mavs once more appeared to have the victory comfortably in hand as they led by four with 26 seconds left in what should have been the final period … only the basketball gods had other things in mind.
With 22 seconds on the clock, Darren Collison committed a poor foul on Brendan Haywood, giving Big Wood the chance for an and-1 that could have closed the gap to one point.
If Wood makes the free throw, something no one associated with the Mavs should have expected, the game will come down to a free-throw contest and should lean towards a Mavs victory. If he misses, the outcome should still come down to free throws, only with a little more cushion … two Mavs makes from the stripe, a four-point lead, and a win.
It seems so simple … for a team capable of grabbing what should be the easiest rebound in a game, a rebound that preordains the defense be granted assigned advantageous block-out positioning … so simple.
Instead, Kemba Walker out-hustles, out-works and out-rebounds the entire Mavs team, collects Haywood’s miss, gets the ball to Ramon Sessions … who misses wildly … only Kidd-Gilchrist grabs another offensive rebound, one of nine the Bobcats would grab in the fourth quarter alone (the Mavs totaled eight for the game) and give Sessions another chance. This time, Sessions gets into the paint and converts, tying the game at 91 with 2.6 seconds left.
A Vince Carter miss later: overtime.
By all reasonable accounts, this was a game that should have been won by the Mavs, only they crumbled beneath an inability to defend the rim, grab a key defensive rebound, or make consistently wise decisions on the offensive end during the games key moments.
You shouldn’t deny Charlotte the fact that they showed a level of desire and hustle the Mavs proved unable to match, but this game felt more like a “who will do more to lose it” than “who will wrestle away the win” … and Dallas came out ahead, winning the race to lose.
REBOUNDING: It’s been stressed. It prompted Carlisle to refer to the talk of it as “beating a fart from a dead mule.” Yet, it continues to haunt the Mavs.
"We just handed them a win,'' Mayo said, "that we had pretty much in the bag."
Consecutive trips to the line by Haywood at the end of the fourth quarter and beginning of overtime ended with predictable misses. In both cases, the Bobcats collected the offensive rebounds and converted the extra opportunities into made field goals.
To terribly oversimplify the outcome, this is where the game was lost.
Obviously, that’s overstating the importance of one or two plays in a game that could be represented by a vast collage of errant opportunities and haunting mistakes, but it highlights an issue that has plagued this team since the opening tip of the season.
Dallas has fallen to 4-3 on the season, with a pair of those losses showing rebounding numbers that are alarming … to say the least.
Against Utah and Charlotte, Dallas was out-rebounded by 31 overall (114-83). More painfully, they were dominated to a tune of 41-16 on the offensive glass, leading to a combined advantage of 35-14 in second-chance points for the Jazz and Bobcats.
Two losses by a total of 23 points … a 21-point deficit in second-chance points.
Draw your own conclusions.
THE ENERGY OF YOUTH?: With a plethora of young legs, you’d think this Mavs team wouldn’t wilt beneath the physical demands of games on back-to-back nights, particularly as they’re playing 10 or 11 players deep into their rotation.
Yet, here the Mavs sit at 0-2 on these chances … with the second halves, when fatigue would most likely settle in, of those games looking particularly poor.
In the second half of the two games played on the backend of back-to-backs, here are the numbers:
Mavs: 33.5 points, 27.6 field-goal percentage
Mavs Opponents: 52.5 points, 41.3 field-goal percentage
Disparity: -19 points, -13.7 field-goal percentage
Have we already said “ouch”? We have …
YOU SHALL PROTECT THE PAINT, OR NOT: By demand of their composition, the Mavs are again somewhat of a jump-shooting team. Though this holds a decidedly negative connotation for many, it doesn’t have to be purely a negative.
When Dallas won the championship in 2011, they were also a jump-shooting team.
Over the two previous seasons, their opponents have outscored the Mavs by 25-or-more points in the paint five times. Their record was 1-4 in those games.
The point is, you can be a jump-shooting team, and still be a threat … but you can’t allow your opponent to completely dominate you in the paint. Prior to Saturday night, the biggest deficit the Mavs had posted in that paint this season was 14 (against Utah).
Though the Bobcats "bigs" (Haywood, BJ Mullens, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo, DeSagana Diop) only scored 19 points, Charlotte crushed the Mavs in the paint: 52-24. ... Including 22-8 in 4th and OT combined.
Admittedly, Chris Kaman may not have fully returned to health, limiting his ability to protect the rim, but getting outscored by 28 in the paint isn’t going to get it done.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Considering that he’s likely closer to being the 12th or 13th man on the bench forced into action while Dirk and Marion recover, we’ll refrain from going too deeply into how we feel about Troy Murphy’s early contributions. However, we will say, looking forward to getting you back, other guys … Darren Collison rebounded well after his self-professed dud against the Knicks. At least, he did until a small slew of mental errors late in the game that figured heavily into the outcome. Collison finished with 14 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, but also with a damning 5 turnovers … His final numbers may say he shot 3-of-7 for 10 points, but there were signs that Elton Brand’s mid-range shot may be returning to him, such as better lift, more arc, and a smoother release … Brandan Wright set a new season high with eight rebounds, but still found himself on the bench in favor of Murphy during most of the games biggest minutes … OJ Mayo finished with 22 points. He has scored 22 or more in five straight games. The last Mavs player to do this not named Dirk Nowitzki was Josh Howard from March 25 thru April 6, 2008. This is the second time in Mayo’s career he has scored at least 22 points in five consecutive games. The last coming between Nov. 22 and Nov. 29 2008, his rookie season with Memphis. He has never posted six consecutive games with 22+ points.
THE FINAL WORD: For the first time this young season, the Dallas Mavericks simply didn’t look like a very good team. Sure, they didn’t exactly impress during the second half of the Jazz contest, but at least they gave you the first half to smile upon.
Charlotte jumped out to a 17-4 lead, causing Rick Carlisle to remove all five starters. Dallas would rebound, trailing by only three by the end of the first quarter, and eventually have a lead as large as 15, thanks to a strong second period, but this felt like fool’s gold.
For some reason, it felt like watching the Bobcats get up by 15 on a team (sorry, they seemed like a good example). The lead never felt safe, more like a man an hour into his Ambien pill deciding to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon … precarious, at best.
In other words, it felt like watching a team playing without its two best players taking on another NBA team.
Yes, maybe this puts a bruise on the quick love affair many were having with this team, but don’t let it ruin it. The hope was always that this team would survive without Dirk, don’t let the rollercoaster of game-by-game driven expectations pervert that, or steal the joy you’ve found thus far.
The fact is, we don’t know what this team is … and we won’t until Dirk and Marion return and have time to mesh.
We don’t know, because there is no way to know, but there have still been positives if you choose to look.
That said, looking forward to those guys getting back … am I right?