DONUT 1: R.I.P. ...
A glimmer of silver straining up through the drowning deep, a faint spark suffocating in the darkness frantically clawing to live on … the The Dallas Mavericks' playoff hopes entering Sunday’s matchup with the currently eighth-seeded Houston Rockets.
After another third-quarter collapse that did everything in its power to cast the Memphis meltdown in a positive light, what hope there was, what miniscule spark of life any hopes retained, were extinguished … leaving only a void.
Mathematically, there’s still a chance. Realistically, this was a game the Mavs had to have, a two-game series with the Rockets that demanded a Dallas sweep.
"Eight good quarters'' is what we demanded on the Fox Sports Southwest pregame show. We got "two.''
With 5:56 to play in the second quarter, Dallas was up nine. Things were looking good. By the end of the third quarter, just under 18 minutes of basketball later, they were down 30.
''The third quarter was ugly,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ''I don't have a good explanation for it, other than they picked up their game and we didn't match it.''
The Mavs would go on to lose by a final of 136-103, but this loss carried with it the weight of something more than a single game. As much as it hurts to say/think, this had the feel of a season being laid to rest … only there are still 23 games left to play.
DONUT 2: The Final Meltdown - that mattered ...
So, it’s come to this. We’re loosely quoting the title of a song by the band Europe.
In our breakdown of the game against Memphis we focused on an unraveling that spanned 17 total minutes and saw the Mavs outscored 40-9 and included only five points scored by Dallas in the third quarter.
For the sake of comparison, let’s stick to that exact window against the Rockets: from five minutes to play in the second to the end of the third period. A 17-minute echo … 1,020 seconds to bury a season
Houston outscored the Mavs 60-24, by 36 points in less than a quarter and a half … to put that in a greater perspective, on a per-minute basis getting outscored by 36 points in 17 minutes is the equivalent of losing a 48-minute game by 101.6 points.
In other words, it’s the very definition of a “meltdown.”
DONUT 3: The NBA highlight reel ...
You know. Such as it is:
And like that, the Rockets (33-28) have opened a six-game lead on the Mavericks (26-33).
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DONUT 5: A peek inside the mess ...
During that 60-24 stretch, including being outscored 44-17 in the third quarter, here’s a quick glimpse of what went wrong … beyond the more concise version of, “everything.”
Dallas committed 12 turnovers, leading directly to 25 points for Houston … while the Mavs forced two turnovers and turned those into two points.
The Rockets had advantages of 20-to-12 in points in the paint, 19-to-4 fastbreak points, 19-to-6 free-throw attempts, 15-to-4 free-throw makes, and 14-to-9 in total rebounds.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Mavs couldn’t hit a shot, though their 9-of-23 shooting (39.1 percent) certainly isn’t pretty. But it isn’t what gets you outscored by 36 in 17 minutes … it was the fact that Dallas couldn’t defend anyone, allowing Houston to hit 19-fo-28 field goals (67.9 percent) while sending them to the line 19 times and allowing them to hit 7-of-14 tries behind the arc.
DONUT 6: Give someone the bird and three fingers and a thumb are pointed back at you ...
Ultimately, pointing the finger at any one thing as the cause of this meltdown would be like selecting a single drop to define an ocean. When so much goes wrong, there are plenty of fingers, plenty of blame, to go around.
You can note the poor shooting, complete lack of defense, the failure to rebound, sloppiness at both ends of the court, foul trouble, the continued inability to feature your best player on offense, the powerlessness to protect the ball, to not gift an opponent free points at the line or in transition …
Where do you stop?
DONUT 7: The tin lining ...
For what it’s worth, OJ Mayo played fairly well … only he couldn’t stop fouling. Foul trouble, and a game that got away, limited Mayo’s minutes, but didn’t stop him from leading the Mavs with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-3 behind the arc, as well as four assists, one steal and zero turnovers.
This marked the first time this season the Mavs have lost a game in which Mayo did not turn the ball over. They had been 4-0 in such instances … make that 4-1.
Adding injury to insult (literally) Juice also injured his thumb, though it's not believed to be serious.
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DONUT 9: The defense had been better, until ...
The Mavs had been playing much better defense in the six contests after the All-Star break, prior to the Rockets game.
Dallas entered Sunday night with the sixth best opponent’s field-goal percentage (43.1) and allowing the fifth least amount of points per game (95.7) … It’s fair to say those numbers are now vastly changed.
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DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous ...
*The 44 points scored by the Rockets in the third quarter is the most the Mavs have given up in any quarter this season … besting the 42 they gave up to Houston in the second quarter of their Dec. 8th meeting.
Dallas' next outing? Back home. Houston again. Trying not to give up 44 in a quarter.
*Even if the Mavs finish the season 23-0 they will finish with 49 wins … meaning the 11 straight years of 50-or-more wins (excluding the shortened seasons) is officially over.
*Chandler Parsons had a career-high 32 points by hitting 12-fo-13 field goals, including 6-of-7 behind the arc.
He started the game guarding Dirk and ended the game "being'' Dirk.
*Elton Brand played 17 minutes and had his fourth scoreless game of the season, missing the only two shots he attempts. The Mavs are 1-3 in those games.
*Chris Kaman again got the start at center, but played only 12:45, scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting and grabbing two rebounds and committing two turnovers.
*The Mavs scored 33 points in the first quarter … Dirk Nowitzki attempted only one shot. More on this phenomenon coming later in a DB.com Premium Mavnalysis ...
DONUT 12: Roddy B lives ...
For the first time since the All-Star break, Roddy Beaubois played more than two minutes in a game, though it’s likely still accurate to say he still hasn’t played a “meaningful” minute since the break as the game was already well decided by the time he came in.
He finished with seven points, three rebounds, two steals and two turnovers in 14 minutes.
DONUT 13: The Final Word ...
We want to be optimist. There is no pleasure in being the first to throw in the towel, in being the first to scream, “F it. I give up.” There is no glory found in such a proclamation, whether you’re first, last or somewhere in between. It’s a hollow state of being, a world whose only reward is a lack of reward.
There is no “I told you so” with losing. There is only losing.
We want so badly to search out that wounded hope still fighting against the storm crashing down, and nurse it back to health.
We want to …
“It’s not pretty,” Dirk said. “But I think there is some pride left in this team. I’ve never quit in my career. And I’m not going to start now. So we’re going to work hard the next two days and let it rip on Wednesday.”