In arduous detail, we put in print the obstacles to be overcome, the landmines to be sidestepped, the mountains to be scaled. Nuggets 95, Mavs 94 was unfortunately 48 minutes of non-overcoming, non-sidestepping and non-scaling. Here in Donuts, The Top 10 Things The Mavs Did Wrong In Denver.
PRE-DONUT: Nuggets 95, Mavs 94 ...
Coming into Thursday, ESPN's John Trollinger (not to be confused with Grizzlies executive John Hollinger, and no, I do not understand how the two jobs are allowed to co-exist in the same body pod) listed the Mavericks chances of making the playoffs at an incredibly slim 1.6 percent.
Nuggets 95, Mavs 94 sucks the life out of any remaining percentage calculations.
Here, The Top 10 Things The Mavs Did Wrong In Denver, based on guidelines created in this smart playoff-predictor piece by DB.com's Chuck Perry:
DONUT 1: Shoot 50 percent ...
Coming in: Overall this season, the Mavericks are shooting 46 percent from the floor, the ninth-best mark in the league. However, in wins, Dallas averages 50-percent shooting, while in losses, the Mavericks are only hitting 43 percent of their shots.
So did Dallas shoot 50 percent in Denver? It did not. The Mavs were 41-of-88, for 46.6 percent. And in the last two minutes of the game? They were 0-fer. The Mavs failed to score a "crunch-time'' basket at all.
"That's on me,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, who wasn't totally convincing.
DONUT 2: Take and make smart 3's ...
Coming in: Dallas was 16-6 this year when it made at least 10 three-pointers a game (meaning, the Mavs were 20-32 when they fail to hit 10 three’s).
And now? Dallas was 0-of-5 from the arc at the half, didn't make a 3 until Dirk did so midway through the third quarter, heard hoots from the Denver crowd when Nowitzki airballed a late 3, and finished 4-of-18 from the arc.
Those 18 include the game-ender, when with two seconds left in the contest Anthony Morrow -- hailed by the Mavs as an expert marksman -- had his 3-pointer at blocked by ex-Mav Corey Brewer.
What result was Carlisle looking for there?
"Not that,'' the coach said.
DONUT 3: Limit the turnovers ...
This year, coming into Thursday, Dallas was 28-15 in the games they committed 13 or fewer turnovers. Conversely, the Mavs were 8-23 in those games in which they committed greater than 13 turnovers.
And the reflection this morning? The Mavs only coughed it up 10 times -- though the second-to-the-last possession was among those, as Dirk set up at the top of the key with his back to the basket but was victimized by a double-team and a backside steal by (him again) Brewer.
DONUT 4: Hold their own on the glass ...
The nunbers entering Thursday: In Dallas’ 36 wins this season, they average 0.64 more rebounds per game than their opponent. In losses, Dallas averages almost eight rebounds per game (-7.61) fewer than opponents. For the year, the Mavericks average a rebounding deficit of 3.6 per game.
Where Dallas sits now: The Nuggets outrebounded the Mavs 50-41, but one rebound in particular jumps off the page: With 10 second left, Kenneth Faried was at the line with two shots that would've given Denver the lead. He choked them both -- and somehow Brewer (him again!) grabbed the carom of the second clank.
"Whatever it takes to win," said Brewer, who brought that same smiley-faced approach to his late-season bit role in Dallas' 2011 title run. "Make a play, get a steal or get a rebound."
After a timeout, Andre Iguodala drove around Vince Carter for the lefty layup and the lead.
Denver showed its capable of being an interior team. Dallas showed its failings in that department.
DONUT 5: Purposeful movement of the ball ...
As Chuck wrote yesterday: When Dallas’ offense is functioning as Rick Carlisle envisions, it is a heads-up symphony of ball movement. The ball finds the man with the best position to score, and often he does. It's 25 times this seasonthat have the Mavericks recorded 25 or more assists. They are 21-4 in those games.
Further, this is a trend that is headed in the right direction as 19 of those 25 games have come since the New Year.
Beautifully written! Wonderfully perceived!
And somehow ... wrong?
Typical of this game and this season, Dallas followed the trend properly ... and still lost. The Mavs tallied 26 assists. Four different guys recorded at least five. Purposeful movement of the ball. Unselfishness. And a loss nevertheless.
DONUT 6: Need Dirk? Feed Dirk ...
Skip over the LA game and Dirk's previous 14 games look like this: 20.9 points on 55.8 percent shooting, plus 47.7 percent from 3-point range.
Skip back in Mavs-Nuggets history and know that traditionally, The UberMan is a Nuggets killer. In his previous 26 games against Denver, he'd averaged 26 points per.
The tradition was broken Thursday.
Dirk followed up his 11-point game with a 13-point game here. He was 6-of-10, the 10 attempts arguably the result of Denver's deny-the-spot defense ... or maybe this group will never catch on to how to properly saddle up this horse.
Should the final shot have been Dirk's? Tougher to do when you are sideline-inbounding the ball with 2.8 seconds left and wishing to put Nowitzki in an entry-pass-receiving sweet spot. So I excuse the final play (even as Carlisle cryptically does not). Maybe more than two shots in the fourth would've helped. Surely more than zero points in the fourth would've.
DONUT 7: Keep Fouls to a Minimum ...
In wins, Dallas' pre-Thursday average was 19.6 fouls per contest (OT and regulation) while in losses, that figure jumps to 22.1. On nights that Dallas commits 19 or fewer personal fouls, the Mavs have a .645 winning percentage (20-11).
Well, lookee here: Denver committed 15 fouls, Dallas 24. I'm not saying this qualifies as a Thursday game-changer, just that the number has now become a predictable gauge of Mavs failure.
DONUT 8: Cherish the free throw ...
For a jump-shooting team that doesn’t generate many free throws, hitting each one becomes key. This year, coming into the Denver game, Dallas was 13-7 when they attempted at least 25 free throws and 12-4 when they made 21 or more.
In Denver, the Mavs shot 10 free throws. The Nuggets shot 30. Which team do you think won?
DONUT 9: Overcome altitude ...
The Nuggets came in with a league-best 33-3 home record. They exit with their 19th straight home win while sending Dallas packing with a truly crummy number: On the first night of back-to-backs this year, the Mavs are 2-13.
The Mavs caught breaks here. Danilo Gallinari went down with what looks like a serious knee injury, as you see here:
Additionally, Ty Lawson (heel) didn't play. Faried can't shoot free throws (he was 4-of-8.) Before Iggy's game-winning layup, he shot 2-of-12.
"We were right there, one rebound away," Carlisle said. "When Faried missed the second free throw we needed to come up with that. It didn't happen for us. The rebounding again was a big factor. We've got to be able to come up with a rebound."
One rebound. One make. One possession. One win. This team is habitually "one'' short.
Dallas is a team that works hard enough and is talented enough to get to the lip of the cup of victory ... and then cannot overcome to get the "one.''
DONUT 10: They didn't win ...
Entering the night, we said: Given that the Lakers own the tiebreaker, that essentially adds a game to their current 2.5 game advantage. Therefore, the Los Angeles likely needs to lose at least four games over their remaining seven for Dallas to have the chance to catch them.
Assuming the highly optimistic outcomes of not only Los Angeles closing out the season 3-4 in their final seven but also Utah finishing 3-3, both teams would finish with identical 42-40 records.
That would be their help. Dallas would need to help itself by going 7-1 down the stretch, thus leapfrogging both teams on its way to a triumphant 43-39 record and a 13th straight playoff berth.
Instead, Dallas dropped to 36-39 with this second consecutive loss. Now "7-1'' needs to essentially be "7-0.''
"We gave it away," Shawn Marion said. "We had our chances to win this game and close it out."
Yes, Nuggets 95, Mavs 94 means the 10th thing went wrong, too.