'When we try to get cute or fancy, we start hitting the 'No-Smoking” signs with the ball and turning it over and teams are dunking on us,' Rick Carlisle said before Monday's Hawks-at-Mavs game. 'We got to stay away from that.' Ah, but in the clutch, what happened Monday? The Mavs hit the 'No-Smoking' sign.
DONUT 1: Passes bouncing off 'No-Smoking' signs ...
Part of Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle's preview of Monday's Hawks-at-Dallas game was the need for the home team to take care of the ball.
"When we try to get cute or fancy, we start hitting the 'No-Smoking” signs with the ball and turning it over and teams are dunking on us,'' Carlisle said at noontime. 'We got to stay away from that.''
Off 'No-Smoking' signs?! These are the sort of turnovers that Carlisle labels "catastrophic.'' Against an especially athletic team, they are turnovers on your end that become layups on the other end, or turnovers on your end -- in the clutch -- that become losses that finish the game.
DONUT 2: Hawks 105, Mavs 101 ...
Both scenarios played themselves out Monday. Include Josh Smith's Trade Deadline Showcase - he demonstrated range and explosiveness with 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists -- and Atlanta beat Dallas 105-101.
And while O.J. Mayo had some answers for all that with his 19 points, he committed a pair of turnovers that qualify as "catastrophic.''
With 24 seconds left, Mayo was about to finish a fastbreak that would've put Dallas up by one. But old friend Devin Harris stole the ball from behind. On the next possession, Dallas was down three when Mayo misread Atlanta's defense and, while attempting to pass to Vince Carter, instead threw the ball into defender Jeff Teague's back.
A "No-Smoking'' sign pass.
“I’ve just gotta take care of the ball,” said Mayo, who, as a guy who frequently has the ball for Dallas in crunch time this year, has had to utter sentences like that all too often.
DONUT 3: The 0-10 start ...
Elton Brand noted the team's confidence going into the game.
"The mood before tonight was OK,'' Brand said. "We felt good about ourselves. We might have been feeling a little too good at the onset of the game. This one’s disappointing.”
Brand is referring to Atlanta getting off to a 10-0 start, a situation that so infuriated Carlisle that the coach used up two timeouts before his team had scored a point.
“The game was lost in the first three minutes when we were down 10-0,'' he said. "We weren’t ready to play. If you want it simple, that’s simple. It’s on me. I didn’t have our guys ready to play. I’m taking all the responsibility for this. You’ve got a team of guys that just goes out and is just walking around at the beginning of the game; that’s on the coach.”
DONUT 4: So ... buy or sell? ...
To me, the loss solidifies Dallas' position as a non-contender for a playoff spot ... which logically means the Mavs should look not at buying, but selling. As Dirk said, there are no "game-changers'' on the way to Dallas before Feb. 21. Owner Mark Cuban sounded pessimistic about the team making any sort of trade -- while at the same time tossing his familiar "opportunistic'' word onto the pile.
“It would have to be something really, really, really good,” Cuban said of accepting a deal that came with a great deal of salary ballast. “It’s got to be a future-type player that we can build around and really adds a lot. I’d analogize it to Steve Nash. Lots of players we’ve picked up over time weren’t All-Stars, but turned into cornerstones. We’d take those. They don’t have to be proven, but it’d have to be someone we think it’s just a question of time.”
If you're thinking of the Kings' Demarcus Cousins as fitting that sort of profile ... yeah, so am I. If you are thinking Eric Bledsoe fits that profile ... yeah, DB.com is working on that for Premium Mavs Fans.
DONUT 5: Echoing Rick ...
What Cuban said, Carlisle said even stronger on the morning of the game.
"If you're asking me if we're going to trade anybody,'' Rick said as Dallas finished up its prep for Monday's game, "I don't think we're going to. I don't think we're going to trade Marion and I don't think we're going to trade Carter. That's my opinion.''
(Here's the full audio of Rick's five-minute meeting with the media, which includes his Mavs-Hawks preview:)
Our full look at the Mavs' assets -- you know, just in case -- is here.
DONUT 6: In the clutch ...
Remember the days of Dirk/Kidd/Jet/Carlisle(Avery) combining to keep games close and then sealing the deal? Is there a number that frames just how dead that trend is?
This year's Mavs have participated in 21 games in which the margin was within three points in the final minutes of regulation.
The Mavs are 8-13 in those games.
DONUT 7: Should Collison handle the final minute? ...
Many times this season, Dallas' starting point guard -- Darren Collison -- hasn't been Dallas' finishing point guard. That's changed; DC is now on the floor in the clutch. But Mayo and Vince seem to be the go-to guys, including Mayo as a primary ballhandler.
Our man Coop gently suggests that it might be time to take the training wheels of DC as the primary ballhandler in the clutch as over the last 25 games, Collison (who had 10 assists and just two turnovers Monday) has a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last 25 games.
DONUT 8: Want more Mavs? ...
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DONUT 9: They need 'em all ...
Dirk finished with his second-highest points total of the year, with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting. DC had the 10 assists. B-Wright scored 11 points. But Carlisle's post-game mood didn't allow for much praise (or take much time, our friend Ballin' with Bryan timing the media session out at 98 total seconds.
“(Wright) scored some points and did some good things, but this is not about one guy doing a few good things,'' Rick said. "We’ve got to be really tough, we’ve got to be really together, and we weren’t and that was disappointing.”
DONUT 10: Thanks to our sponsors! ...
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DONUT 11: Quoteboard …
"It's the story of our season,'' said Dirk Nowitzki. "Down the stretch, we had our chances and for some reason we can never pull those close games out."
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
The Mavs are 22-29. The homestand resumes Wednesday as Dallas plays its final game before the All-Star Break against the visiting Kings.
We’ve just got to learn from these things and get better – and we have gotten better,'' Carlisle said. "But we haven’t broken the threshold that’s going to make us a team that can really become a dangerous team. I think we’re a dangerous team. I think we can beat anybody on any given night, but we the consistency has got to be better.”
One more game, and then will come a period of reflection ... when the Mavs determine just how "catastrophic'' those 29 losses are vs. just how "dangerous'' this team might be.