Coach Rick Carlisle said before Wednesday's home meeting over the lousy Suns, 'Anybody around here who's taking any games for granted this year is a ---ing idiot.' So, what does that say about this Mavs team that lost 102-91, and lost another crack at .500, and, deep into the night with the Lakers' win at Portland, officially lost all playoff hope?
The date the last time the Mavs were .500 was December 12, 2012. And the record on that date was 11-11. That moment may mark respectability lost for this year's Dallas Mavericks, especially with the ignominity that is this defeat to a Phoenix Suns team that came into the AAC ranking as the worst team in the Western Conference.
"We're just not good enough from start to finish,'' Carlisle said after the loss, which drops Dallas back to two games below .500 and delayed once again the players' plan to shave their beards once they'd drawn even in the win-loss columns. "It was a decisive win for them and we played poorly. Give them their due.''
First, give the Lakers their due. By winning in Portland late Wednesday (113-106 with Kobe's season-best 47 points), Dallas is a non-playoff team for the first time since 2000.
Now, in fairness to Phoenix, people like Goran Dragic (22 points and 13 assists), P.J. Tucker (17 points and 10 rebounds), Wesley Johnson and Jared Dudley (17 points each) and Luis Scola (11 points and 15 rebounds were better than the guys they lined up against, with the possible exception of Shawn Marion, who scored 20 points for the third straight game, ending with 22 points and nine rebounds.
But hearing smart Mavs folks talk about how the Suns "had nothing to lose'' or how the Suns "have some underrated talent'' or how the Mavs "faced a challenge with a first home game off a long road trip'' is just ...
Coming home is tough? I thought being on the road is tough. Talent? The Mavs have Dirk Nowitzki (21 points and eight boards) and enough talent to avoid being drubbed at home by the dregs of the NBA. Having nothing to lose? Isn't that where the Mavs have been, in a sense, since way back on December 12?
Being outplayed by the likes of the Suns, Carlisle said, is something his team should be able to "absorb.'' But, he added, "You've got to have your mindset right and be tied together. And we didn't do that.''
The Suns ended a pair of two 10-game losing streaks, having lost that many in a row this season and having lost that many in recent trips to Dallas. They did so here by racing to a 28-14 lead in the first period and then by surging again with an 18-4 run in the third quarter.
"When you’re not able to go out there and give it your all and give 110 percent, then something’s wrong and maybe you need to sit down,'' Marion said. "There is no reason we should have lost this game tonight.”
The 38-40 Mavs left their locker room late Wednesday knowing that it is likely the franchise will miss the playoffs and be a lotto team. With four games remaining, they needed to win all of those and have both the ninth-place Lakers (playing at Portland) and the eight-place Jazz lose all the rest of their games.
The Lakers crushed that slim Dallas hope.
Failing to win this game that would get them to .500 -- the third such opportunity since March 28 -- is, to borrow from Carlisle's own phrasing, idiocy of a sort.
"The mountain of getting to .500,'' said Carlisle, meaning to downplay big-picture goals to instead emphasis saying in the moment, "that's not what anybody's about around here.''