Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Last night's heartbreaker in Portland just affirmed what Josh Bowe should have known all season: The Mavericks aren't winners, anymore.
I'm just going to let this little nugget sit here, from SheridanHoops.com:
"This was the Mavericks' eighth loss this season when leading in final 90 seconds of regulation or overtime, the most in NBA."
Let that sink in, I'll wait.
OK, ready? The Mavericks, for lack of a better word, are losers.
"Wait a minute! No you don't! They're showing signs," you will yell. Heck, I've been yelling that too all season. But at some point, you stop wanting to look for positives in crushing defeats, glimmers of hope in piles of garbage.
The Mavericks can't win close games. They have one overtime win in about 345,643 tries (OK, maybe it's like, nine.) They lead the NBA in losses when leading with 90 seconds left. They have putrid rebounding numbers and their second-best scorer can only shoot well he throws the ball away five or six times a game.
The Mavericks aren't good. Their record (19-26) is probably a little low without a healthy Dirk Nowitzki. But that still doesn't change the fact that the Mavericks can't beat good teams anymore.
Even in this recent run (winning six of nine), the three losses? Spurs, Thunder, Trail Blazers. All teams the Mavericks are snuffing tailpipe exhaust from. Sure, there was a glorious double-digit victory over Memphis in there, but Dallas caught Memphis during their toughest stretch of the season and on the second night of a back to back.
Dallas allowed the Blazers to score 64 points in the second half of last night's soul-crushing loss. They turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes. Mayo had two of them. They let the Blazers best player grab a clean catch and hit a pretty automatic shot for the win without even the sniff of help defense coming Brandan Wright's way.
Also, Wright? That's who is guarding Portland's number one option in a close game? Wright, the same player who couldn't get off the bench for Dallas lately because he can't rebound OR PLAY DEFENSE? Oh, OK then. Sure.
We could turn to the glimmers of hope, if you want. I'll indulge to keep my sanity. Darren Collison looked great, again. Dirk's jumper finally showed some life and much needed lift. Bernard James scored 10 points in a close NBA game! It really happened! I swear!
But what's the point? The Mavericks horrible rebounding continued. Portland grabbed 15 offensive rebounds off of 47 missed shots. Dallas got to the free throw line 15 times. They couldn't guard the three-point line.
Here's more evidence of Dirk's healthiness: He's averaging 3.4 free throws per game, which would be his lowest average since his rookie year. Even as Dirk progresses to more catching-and-shooting in his latter years, he still finds a way to get to the line five to seven times a night. He hasn't done that this season. He's been basically a catch and shooter. A really damn good one, but not much else. He can't rebound to save his life right now, either.
This was as close to a "God damn, I love Dirk" performance as we've seen this season. Even that Miami game, where he made that crazy game-tying shot, he looked kinda shitty for most of it. Dallas needs a crazy Dirk game so badly. A 33 point massacre against some poor team. Just do it soon, please? My sanity can't take much more.
But the Mavericks are losers. Until they prove me otherwise, they are just losers. Remember when they were winners? When the Mavericks were the master of the close game, controlling late-game possessions and finishing off teams. They did that even before Jason Kidd. So don't go screaming about that.
This season, it's like clock work. Mavericks are battling in the fourth quarter, then Mayo turnover. Then Mayo turnover. Then offensive rebound. Then wide-open three for the other team. Then Vince Carter missed 23-footer. Then Dirk touching the ball, passing out and MIKE JAMES farting and falling down. It's so predictable, these Mavericks. At least mix it up a bit, ya know?
Look at what Dirk had to say last night (via The Dallas Morning News):
"This is about as tough as it gets in this league, for sure," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had a season-best 26 points, including a 3-pointer that put the Mavericks up 104-101 with 11.9 seconds to play. "We played well enough to win. We sometimes find ways to lose instead of finding ways to win. That's the sad thing.
"Sometimes, the difference between a good team and a bad team is just a couple possessions down the stretch. For some reason, we haven't found a way to win those games consistently. More times than not, we've been losing those games. That's extra tough. Turnovers always come back to hurt you down the stretch."
If you connect the dots in that quote, the Mavericks are a bad team. Last night, for about 28 minutes of basketball, we thought they looked like a really good team. Maybe we should stop kidding ourselves.