Here's how about 50 percent of Mavs games have gone this season:
Dallas plays well for three quarters, then crumbles in the fourth. Loses. Yes, it can be summed up in one sentence. It happened again tonight. The Mavericks played decent, with energy and matched Utah's physical style.
Then the fourth quarter happened. That same fourth quarter always seems to happen. Mavs lose, 100-94.
It started seemingly so well. Chris Kaman found himself free for several good looks because of Dirk Nowitzki, making four of his first six shots. Dallas led by seven at the end of the quarter, with Dirk and Kaman scoring the Mavs first 15 points.
The second quarter was a little up and down. Dallas couldn't hold a seven point lead thanks to Gordon Hayward's 15 second-quarter points, but Darren Collison scored nine of his own.
The third quarter was great after an awful start. Behind Dirk and Elton Brand, Dallas tried to take control and get back into it with a 21-12 run.
That was before it fell apart. In the fourth quarter, Dallas was up 86-80, then down 93-86. That was the ballgame, a 13-0 run filled by every single flaw this team has: fouling too much, failure to rebound, awful pick and roll defense and a complete meltdown on offense.
Dallas is now tied for the third-worst record in the Western Conference. The Sacramento Kings have a higher winning percentage. This is awful. Bullets.
- Elton Brand scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots. He also only played 20 minutes. It's becoming a sick joke. Brand and Dirk are clearly the best front court the Mavericks can offer, yet Rick Carlisle continually brings in Chris Kaman or goes small. Brand has only played 30 minutes in a game twice this season and one was the opener when Kaman wasn't active. That's absurd. I seriously don't understand what's going on. Lineup data, on/off court data, eye test, butt test, sound check, whatever -- it all shows that the Mavericks play great basketball when Dirk and Brand are on the court together. With 3:20 left in the third quarter, the Mavs were down 69-68. Dirk and Brand checked in. Dallas was up 80-74 at the end of the quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks extended their lead to eight with Brand and Dirk in the lineup. Brand then committed a fifth foul (that was a close call) and had a costly technical. An awful decision by Brand...but one that shouldn't have let him sit for the final four minutes. I have no idea what Brand has to do to play 30 minutes in a game or close out a fourth quarter with Dirk. None. I'm out of ideas. There are clear ways in which the Mavericks can improve their team, but instead of changing the diaper, the Mavs would rather walk around with runny diarrhea in their shorts for a little bit longer.
- O.J. Mayo had one turnover, so of course it was a mindless throwaway toward the middle of the floor that helped fuel Utah's late 13-0 run. Of course it was. Mayo had a decent night, made some plays, but was awful in the fourth quarter, which is fueling the "Mayo is not clutch" argument floating around lately.
- The Mavericks were awful defending the three-point line tonight. Whether it was lazy closeouts, missed assignments or simply clock-unawareness, the Mavs did it all. The Jazz barely shot 40 percent from the field, but hit 10 of 19 from three.
- Show of hands who thought Alec Burks' desperation three in the second half was going down as soon as it left his hands? *raises both hands and one foot*
- Darren Collison died. That's the only way I can explain Rodrigue Beaubois closing this game out as the point guard. Collison wasn't awful tonight, despite his 3 of 8 shooting night. He was very aggressive and I believe had two fouls and a goaltend not get called when he got to the rim. Then again, the Mavericks offense looks like a chicken with its head cut off down the stretch when Collison runs the point, so I don't blame Carlisle for going with Beaubois to mix things up.
- Beaubois, to his credit, didn't shit the bed. Which is really the nicest thing I think anyone has said about him in about two years.
- Interesting note: in the first half, Jae Crowder got some nice run and the Mavericks ran a lot of pick and rolls through him as the ball-handler. Props to Crowder, who made some plays and had two assists and no turnovers.
- Dirk is Dirk. Nothing to see here, moving on.
- Shawn Marion shot 3 of 8, which isn't helping his recent stinko scoring stretch in the last seven games. He rebounded well. But Carlisle yanked him from the closing lineup and I think the Mavs desperately missed his defense and rebounding down the stretch, especially since Hayward took over late.
- Only two Mavs (Dirk + Mayo) played more than 30 minutes tonight. Rick's just resting his guys for the playoffs.