I'm beginning to detect a pattern. The Mavericks have lost five games. In four of those games Dallas was leading at the half. In those second halves Dallas scored 33, 35, 40 (in OT), 43, and finally 34 tonight against a (formerly) struggling Pacers team.
Dallas started the game ugly, with two turnovers in a row. A seven to nothing run from the Pacers caused a Carlisle timeout. The Mavs settled down a bit and tied the game 9-9 in a hurry. Much of the remainder of the quarter resulted in each team trading buckets, with the score at the end of the quarter 24-24. Dallas gave up zero offensive rebounds, Chris Kaman started the game firing away (6 points, 4 boards to that point), and Vince Carter scored an efficient 7 points in limited time.
The second quarter kept the pace with O.J. Mayo scoring 7 of his eventual 19 points in the first three minutes of the quarter. Bernard James made his presence felt early, drawing two fouls and scoring three points on free throws. Dallas got the Pacers into the bonus with seven minutes remaining in the quarter, but failed to punish the Pacers at the free throw line, essentially trading buckets for the rest of the quarter. A tip-in at the buzzer from Roy Hibbert pulled the Pacers within one, but Dallas led at the half 49-48. At this point, Dallas led the rebounding margin 22-15, but this was mainly due to Indy shooting 6-14 at the free throw line. Pacers shot a torrid 54% from the floor where Dallas' shooting trended down near 44%. Despite most of the Mavs starters had played poorly, Dallas was winning.
The start to the third quarter was maddening, with long jumper after long jumper, finally capped by a goal tended shot to get the Mavs on the scoreboard. Elton Brand and Chris Kaman looked old, slow, and frankly, bad. Paul George picked up his fourth foul and it looked like there might be an opening for Dallas to move in on. Carlisle opted to go zone and the Pacers responded with crisp ball movement and solid shooting, blowing their slim lead wide open; they went up 15 in a matter of minutes. The offensive response from Dallas has become familiar: long two's that would not fall. A surge from Sarge and Roddy in the final two minutes of the quarter bring Dallas back within single digits as the quarter ended, but Dallas managed to score 18 points in the period, with Brand and Kaman to this point shooting a combined 7 for 20 with one free throw attempted between them.
I'm going to be honest, for the fourth quarter I don't have much written down. I watched, of course -- how can one avert their eyes from a disaster in the making like that one? I certainly couldn't. Carlisle seemed to be at his wit's end, putting Roddy B. and Collison on the floor at the same time. The pace increased for Dallas but the results were the same as before. I finally stopped writing notes when Gerald Green hit a Kobe-like shot from the foul line that ended up being an and-1. The lead got pushed to twenty, and stayed there until the game ended.
I am frustrated. When the fellas lose a close game one can point to a variety of small plays here and there that might have pushed the team to victory... but losing by 20? That's the second time that's happened in ten games. The Mavs margin of defeat in losses is 12.2 points. When they lose, they lose ugly. Something has to be done about the 2nd half offense.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't feel like a new thing. I need someone smarter than me (hey! MMB Staff, that means all of you) to take a look at what's been going on in the second half of games because this happened a ton last year. Translation: Dirk might not be able to fix this. You'll pardon my frustration of course, but if Dallas wants to sniff the post-season they simply have to win these games against struggling Eastern Conference teams.
Some notes before I go stress-eat a bag of chips and salsa:
-I think we've all been clamoring for more Brandan Wright. Well, in 2 minutes in the first half he picked up two fouls. Why? He does not have the strength to match up against a lot of forwards in the league. For all he adds while he's on the floor, he takes a ton off of it too.
-Elton Brand, please stop making me sad when you play offense.
-Oh! There was a bright spot, a fantastic bright spot. SARGE!!! 9 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks in 16 minutes. He sets a nasty screen too. More of that, please.
-Darren Collison played like he had something to prove. He also played like crap. 10 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds while shooting 3-10 from the floor. Okay, he didn't play terribly, but George Hill became the latest in a string of point guards to outplay Mr. Collison. This is concerning, particularly with Kyrie Irving in town tomorrow.
-Shawn Marion came back tonight! That's exciting. His box score is nothing to write home about, but hey, any Shawn Marion is better than no Shawn Marion.
-Since returning from his ankle sprain, Roddy is 4-22 from the floor. Might want to get some extra shots in.
-The Pacers are no where near as bad as their record. It just seems to be a trend that struggling teams need to play Dallas in order to get on the right path. I see you, Charlotte Bobcats.
-O.J. Mayo had 19-3-3. For that sort of stat line I wish I felt like he impacted the game more. He doesn't play defense very well and he decided to take a series of long, contested two point shots tonight. I really don't understand his game...he wasn't terrible, but he wasn't good either. We need him to be good to stay afloat.
-Then again, maybe I'm just being a nattering nabob of negativism. Check back in tomorrow night to see if I've written a 2,000 word missive on Dallas' inability to stop Cleveland's guard penetration.