Slowly, the flashes of potential Dallas showed earlier this season are beginning to be realized.…
Rock-Bottom: Hornets 99, Mavs 96 In OT
The Dallas Mavericks began the day with optimism as Saturday marked the season debut of Dirk Nowitzki in the starting lineup.
But the day ended with "rock-bottom'' frustration -- a term Brand and coach Rick Carlisle conceded was accurate -- after the Mavs tied an NBA record with a 10th straight overtime loss (seven this season) in the form of a 99-96 home loss to a poor New Orleans team.
Dallas is now 13-21 and hopes of maintaining the 12-year streak of qualifying for the playoffs are slipping.
"I think it's going to take us some time,'' said Nowitzki, who played 34 minutes and scored a team-high 20 points after having been a reserve in his first six games following missing the first 27 games due to arthroscopic knee surgery. "Unfortunately we don't really have (time) since we're so far behind the eight spot."
The Hornets came into the game with a 7-25 record, reason enough for Dallas to not fall behind this team. But execution failures down the stretch doomed the home team. And if you believe owner Mark Cuban, poor officiating did the same.
"I'm sorry, NBA fans,'' Cuban tweeted almost immediately after the game. "I've tried for 13 years to fix the officiating in this league and I have failed miserably. Any suggestions? I need help."
This week marked Cuban's anniversary of having purchased the franchise, and rarely has it needed as much help as it now seems.
Veteran Shawn Marion blames crummy defense (Greivis Vasquez had 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, just one example).
"We can't guard nobody,'' Marion said. "We've got to step up and contain guys and make them do something that they're not comfortable doing. And if we don't do that we're going to have problems."
Officiating? Dallas may have not liked the call when Eric Gordon completed a three-point play with 4.7 seconds left in overtime as refs called a foul on Darren Collison. The Mavs also disagreed on an odd circumstance to end regulation when O.J. Mayo was beyond the 3-point line and lining up a shot when an airborne Gordon made contact with Mayo and/or the ball, knocking the ball loose.
Instead of a foul, officials called it a kicked ball.
But how about just blaming the Mavs themselves? After the kicked-ball call, they had one more shot at a win in regulation and missed it, they failed repeatedly to make a clutch shot in the final minutes, and even suffered from Dirk missing a free throw with 18 seconds left in regulation that would have put the Mavericks ahead by a point.
"Well I feel a lot of things,'' Carlisle said of his rock-bottom-related emotions. "This sucks and there's no other way to explain it more than that. Every loss hurts. ... Things like this come in waves. There will be more of these.''
That is an almost intolerable fate. The misguided belief that officiating is to blame? The fear that bad habits are beyond fixing? "Every loss hurts,'' yes. But the losses in OT, at home, to lousy teams? Those are the sort of things that "come in waves'' in a way that threaten to make this team a second-half-of-the-season non-contender. That's what Nowitzki is hinting at when he notes the importance of this loss.
"This,'' he said, "is a game we had to have.''