The whistled tune of “A Hunting We Will Go” echoed through the guts of the American Airlines Center. A gunslinger, a master of the game, an honoree of “the code,” strolled through, his haunting song leading the way. Omar was there … in place of a shotgun, sheers and scissors … in place of the game … a game.
The song faded and neither Omar Little nor Omar the Barber would be needed. After a thorough dismantling by the Indiana Pacers in the third quarter, the
The Dallas Mavericks fell by a final of 103-78 … and the beards will stay for at least two more games as the Mavs fall back to two games below .500.
Where it went wrong …
The game was tied at halftime: 41-41.
Dirk’s number printed twice on the boxscore. The number of wins needed to finish a season perfectly at .500. Whatever the omens seemed to be, they wouldn’t end up being good.
Six minutes and 10 seconds … enough time to heat up some macaroni and cheese in the microwave and let it cool enough to eat … not enough time to run to pick up fast food down the street … just over one-eighth of a game … a mere blink in the span of season.
Six minutes and 10 seconds and a 20-5 Pacers scoring run that watched the Pacers hit 8-of-9 field goals … countered by the Mavs missing 8-of-10.
Six minutes and 10 seconds that saw Paul George singlehandedly outscore the Mavs 8-5.
Six minutes and 10 seconds that will seek to define a season.
There are positive Dirk Nowitzki things to discuss here. We'll do it in a moment. But first ... Dirk on what happened after halftime:
The Third Quarter …
A glimpse of the whole, here is the third quarter:
Pacers: 34 points, 14-of-20 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 turnovers (leading to one Dallas point).
Mavs: 17 points, 7-of-20 field goals, 0-of-1 3-pointers, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers (leading to six Pacers points).
The pace of the game crumbled beneath an avalanche of foul calls that put the Pacers in the penalty less than three minutes into the quarter, and the Mavs never found a way to ebb the flow that sealed their fate.
Being doubled up on the boards, as well as points, didn’t help either.
“It was 55-34 on the boards,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It was a wipeout inside as far as the rebounding and that’s been a challenge for us.''
That defense …
The Pacers came into the game leading in just about every significant measure of team defense. From points allowed (89.6), field-goal percentage allowed (41.4), 3-point percentage allowed (32.1) to defensive rating (95.4) … the Pacers have set the defensive standards this season.
Their dominance has been so thorough that the gap between their defensive rating (95.4) and that of the Memphis Grizzlies (the second-best team, 98.1) is the largest between any two consecutively ranked teams in the league.
How did the Mavs stack up against that defense: 78 points, 38.6 field-goal percent, 28.6 3-point percent, and 8 fastbreak points (their lowest total since Feb. 1).
The Pacers have now held opponents below 90 points in 37 of their 73 games, and below 80 in 15.
For the sake of comparison, the Mavs have held an opponent below 90 points four times, below 80 twice.
The Playoff Silver Lining …
Playing in Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers allowed a 13-point lead to slip away on their way to a 10-point loss. For a couple of hours, the Mavs and Lakers were tied in the loss column.
Utah did not play Thursday night.
With the loss, and the Lakers loss, the Mavs remain 1.5 games out of the eighth seed, and now sit a full game behind the Jazz as well.
Softening the blow or a missed opportunity, either way … for the moment, it stands as another moment of “what could have been” in a season littered with them.
The Mavs Silver Lining …
As has often been the case over the last decade-plus when looking for something positive to focus on with the Mavs, starting with Dirk Nowitzki is a safe bet.
Dirk finished with 21 points, though he did need 20 shots to get there, hitting 10 of them, to go with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and three turnovers.
Perhaps it wasn’t to the level of his performance against the Clippers in the previous game, but it was another strong showing … something that is becoming a trend for The Uberman … uber once more.
Over his last 22 games, Dirk is averaging: 19.3 points, 52.3 FG%, 47.5 3PT%, 93.5 FT%, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 turnovers in only 32.6 minutes per game.
If you spread those numbers over 36 minutes per game (just under his career average of 36.1), Dirk’s averages raise to: 21.3 points and 9.1 rebounds on 15.6 field-goal attempts … meaning, on a per-minute basis, he’s shooting well above, out-rebounding, and scoring two points below his career averages while taking one fewer shot per 36 minutes.
Simply put … this is Dirk. The Dirk.
The return to form of the Mavs' best player has helped the attempt to pry the team’s playoff hopes from the grips of the lottery, but even if Dallas remains lottery bound his personal resurgence has carried with it another possible benefit.
Particularly with Tuesday’s nationally televised game against the Clippers, the only NBA game being played at the time ... Dirk is denying the premature exaggeration used by many to describe the erosion of his talents.
If any possible free agent targets are watching, they’re being reminded that a healthy Dirk can still be the Dirk.
*Chris Kaman entered the game for the first time with 11:01 on the clock in the third quarter, by the time the clock reached 9:59 Kaman had collected one technical and two personal fouls … and missed a shot.
At 7:04 remaining in the quarter he went to the bench and did not return. He finished with those two fouls and one rebound in 3:57 of playing time.
*For the first time since becoming a starter 13 games ago, Mike James went scoreless, and had his worst overall game as a starter. James finished with 0 points, 0-of-4 field goals, four assists, one steal and one turnover.
*You have to go back to Nov. 24, 2012 against the Lakers to find the last time the Mavs were out-rebounded so severly. The Pacers are the best rebounding team in the league, grabbing an average of 5.1 more rebounds than their opponents. Thursday night, the difference was 21 … a 55-to-34 advantage on the glass for Indiana.
*OJ Mayo played 34:36 and was almost a complete non-factor: seven points, 3-of-10 field goals, three rebounds, one assist and two turnovers.
He was outscored and generally out-produced by ex-Mavs player Ian Mahinmi (20 minutes), who scored nine points to go with seven rebounds, one assists one steal, one block and no turnovers.
We love Mahinmi (and his red slacks worn proudly into the postgame Mavs locker room), but it’s probably not the best sign when the opposing backup center outscores and outperforms the Mavs second leading scorer on the season.
*David West returned after missing the last six games with back issues. He finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
*The Mavs are now 12-3 at home against teams on the second night of a back-to-back.
*Brandan Wright got the start and finished with four points, three rebounds and two blocks in just under 22 minutes. Dallas had been 14-7 when Brandan Wright played at least 20 minutes … make that 14-8. Maybe this is the "bruiser'' team Rick suggests B-Wright does not fare well against.
*Vince Carter finished with 14 points, hitting 5-of-13 shots. In the last five games, Carter is averaging 18.9 points … but has done so very inefficiently, shooting 35.7 percent from the floor and 25 percent behind the arc.
The weight …
Each loss carries the added weight of every loss that has preceded it. Every mistake is stacked upon a pile that knows nothing of erosion. The sands piling up on the wrong side of the hourglass can’t be pushed back up. The tally of failures cannot be rewound, plucked, or revised.
Time is slipping away. Chances are withering beneath the stains of what cannot be undone.
Yet, hope is not dead. For all the times we’ve counted to 10 with the Mavs cheek on the mat, the official count continues to hold at nine.
With the Lakers loss, the Mavs remain only 1.5 games out of the eighth seed. An opportunity may have been wasted, but no ground was lost.
If they are to go down, there’s only one way to go … swinging.
The Pacers made some noises about wanting to put Dallas in its place for its "Omar The Barber'' plans and the Pacers have that right.
“We heard something about them wanting to shave,” said Indy center Roy Hibbert, like all the Pacers aware of the Mavs' relationship with local barber Omar Ghali. “We were shutting that s--- down to begin with.”
But we would suggest that it wasn't about Omar showing up but rather about the Mavs failing to do so.
I don't care if they didn't want us to shave or not,'' Dirk said. "They're a better team."
Stopping Paul George ...
“I think he’s, right now, approaching being a top 12 or 15 player in this league,'' Carlisle said of Paul George. "Which means he’s a top 12 or 15 player in the world. I think he’s that good.
Indy muscled up with Hibbert (16 points and 11 rebounds) and Tyler Hansbrough 13 points and nine rebounds). But the great challenge was the floor game of Paul George (24 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and the inside muscle of
In retrospect, Shawn Marion wishes he'd gotten more of a crack at him.
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The Final Word ...
We'll give it to Elton Brand:
"Terrible time to have a loss,'' Brand said. "It’s very disheartening and it was just one of those games. We win and see the Lakers lose and we feel good about ourselves. Having a loss on our home floor is definitely disheartening.''