The Mavs have four 17-points-lead-or-greater collapses now and there is a common thread in each of them. 'With great power comes great responsibility,' said Voltaire, and later, Spider-Man's uncle, who might've been looking forward to a time when Dallas survives on Dirk Nowitzki's late heroics ... and a time when Dallas dies without them.
It's so sacrilegious to suggest that the Dallas Mavericks' four 17-points-lead-or-greater collapses are the "fault'' of Dirk Nowitzki that I feel obliged to slap a "winky-face'' somewhere into the accusatory paragraph.
And in fact, as is the case in any team sport, these sorts of sporting catastrophes always feature an arena-full of blame to be spread about.
As I wrote in the 2 a.m. wake of Wednesday's 129-127 loss at LA:
Aren't the bigger issues J.J. Redick being allowed a career-high 33 points ... Dallas missing eight of 21 free throws, Monta Ellis making a horrible choice on shot selection at the 40-second mark, and ultimately, Jose Calderon's inability to hit a fifth 3-pointer on a good look on Dallas' final true possession?
Toss onto the bonfire the flagrant foul and the technical fouls and the errant passes and yeah, two dubious calls (though you know how unconcerned I generally allow myself to be about those) ... and you've got a blaze of blame.
But what was it coach Rick Carlisle said after the debacle in L.A. on the subject of fault-finding?
“We couldn’t get stops and that’s the reason we lost,” Carlisle said. “If you’re going to pin all your hopes on shot-making in this league, you’re not going to win nearly as many games as you can if you have the ability to get stops. We got the lead by getting stops and we lost it with mental mistakes and poor defense down the stretch.”
Get stops. Limit mental mistakes. And what was that other thing?
Oh yes. "Shot-making.''
The 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks ARE built on shot-making.
The 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks ARE built on Nowitzki's shot-making.
When he fails in that department, the Mavs fail. And in each of the four 17-points-lead-or-greater collapses, Dirk had faded badly down the stretch. That's not an opinion. That's not being "hard'' on Dirk. It's about what this club asks him to do and it's about whether he does it or not.
Check the data for yourself:
*On January 16, in this 129-127 loss at the Clippers: Dirk scored 27 points, while doing on inefficient 8-of-22 shooting. With the 17-point lead shrinking, Nowitzki is back on the floor at 3:59 of the fourth following his customary rest ...
And he shoots 0-of-4 down the stretch.
*On January 3 in what would become a Clippers' 119-112 win at the AAC, Dirk was 10-of-17 for 24 points. Again, a lead being lost, acustomary rest, and in Dirk's final three shots he made one of them.
*On December 20, in a 109-108 OT loss at Toronto, Dallas lost a 19-point lead. In this game, Carlisle did not provide Dirk his usual fourth-quarter breather. In total, Dirk shot 10-of-22 for 22 points. But ...
In the fourth quarter he made one of five shots.
And in the OT, he shot 0-of-3.
*And back on November 29 in Atlanta, where this awful trend began, the Mavs lost 88-87. Dirk shot 6-of-13 for 16 points, Dallas lost its massive lead, Dirk re-entered the game at 4:16 ...
And shot 0-of-3 to close.
I'm being careful how I phrase this (because I don't want MFFL's to Justin Bieber my house). And I don't think I need to cite the hundreds of examples over the future Hall-of-Famer's career when he shot brilliantly down the stretch to preserve a lead or forge a comeback or power a winner.
But if this team's No. 1 concern right now is to diagnose whether there is a consistent thread that runs through a disturbing quartet of implosive losses ... the fact that in these four games Dirk Nowitzki has closed the action by shooting a combined 2-of-18 is your thread.