Carlisle's review of the 112-90 rout: 'San Antonio makes you pay,' he said. 'The third quarter was a demolition. We got out-competed.' All those things are true of the night. All those things are now commonplace in this so-called rivalry. And, let's face it: All those things are part of what makes up an 8-seed.
I see and share Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle's disgruntlement. And I see and share your disgruntlement on DB.com Boards. I see the reflection on Dirk Nowitzki's "we're-not-a-playoff-team'' remark and the idea that he needn't bother to clarify ... because however he meant it, the evaluation seems pretty accurate right now.
What Dirk meant at the time, after last Friday's collapse in a home loss to the Clippers: "When we look bad, which is too often, we don't look good.''
That's not debatable. The part Dirk got wrong is this: When a team looks good some nights (winning three straight on the road earlier this month) ... then looks bad other nights (losing four straight recent home games) ... and then even looks Godawful on a Wednesday night in San Antonio in a "scheduled loss.'' ...
That's what the eighth seed looks like.
So you ARE a playoff team. You're just the butt-end entrant, the just-better-than-the-lotto representative, the first-round fodder for the No. 1 team in the conference.
Which would happen to be the Spurs, the in-state foe that has now defeated you in seven consecutive meetings, with margins including 38, 25, 17 and and here, 22 points -- and an average margin of victory of 17 points.
If the Spurs keep doing what they are doing -- a "machine,'' as Vince Carter labeled them, even when somebody like Manu Ginobili (hamstring) sits out as he did here -- they will be the 1 seed. If the Mavs keep doing exactly what they are doing even as they muddle about as a win-one-night/lose-the-next night squad, they will be the 8 seed.
Is this sinking in? The Mavs are the 8 seed. If the season ended today, they'd be the 8 seed. If the season proceeds exactly as it has, they'd be the 8 seed.
And folks, this is what the 8 seed in the West looks like.
You have a winning record. And maybe a largely entertaining way of getting there. You have a star who when he experiences an off-night (Dirk was 3-of-14 for eight points) leaves his team lost. When you are missing another standout (Shawn Marion, home nursing a shoulder) you ask other guys to step up and Jae Crowder gives you one rebound in 28 minutes and Wayne Ellington gives you nothing but five empty points.
(By the way: Let's take ourselves back to training camp. Rolling into San Antonio on Jan. 8 with a starting lineup featuring Ellington and DeJuan Blair wasn't exactly the plan, was it?)
While the Spurs are accomplishing terrific things (this was their seventh win of 20-plus points this year; the Bucks have seven wins total), the Mavs still have a chance to inch up and even have a chance to fulfill owner Mark Cuban's hopeful prediction of "playoff noise.'' They will put behind them the "demolition'' third quarter when they allowed a 45-38 halftime deficit to become a 37-24 period. They will try to "coach-up'' a group that hopefully is needled by Rick's "we got out-competed" evaluation, the harshest dig a leader can take against a team.
They are 20-16 and can inch up. But maybe not too far from 8. Which is where they are. Which is what they are.
Which is why the Mavs look the way they do.