Winners of nine of the last 12 and presented with an opportunity to bring their record to .500 for the first time since December 12th, the Mavericks did as the Mavericks do: shit the bed.
Facing an Indiana Pacers team that's currently second in the East Division, the Mavericks took 41-41 tie into the halftime but allowed the Pacers to start the third quarter on a 20-5 run that Dallas could never recover from. The Mavs would get doubled up in the third, 34-17.
"They went on a run and we just were never able to respond the way we needed to," Rick Carlisle said. "We had some opportunities, some missed shots we normally make, they had some good fortune. They got us in the bonus the first three minutes of the quarter, which killed us. It's a tough loss."
Following his season-high 33 points and nine rebounds Tuesday night against the Clippers, the Mavericks went to Dirk Nowitzki early and often. He played well, scoring 21 (10-20 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT) with seven rebounds, but his supporting cast shot just 35%.
Usually scolded for falling in love his jump shot, Vince Carter brought the right mindset but -- excluding a vintage reverse dunk -- failed to execute (14 points on 13 shots). He aggressively drove the ball and attacked the Indiana big men, but the defensive combination of Roy Hibbert and David West overpowered almost every attempt by Dallas to generate offense in the paint. Dallas lost the points in the paint battle 50-34.
For good measure, the Indiana front court also abused Dallas on the glass, 55-34, including seven for former Maverick Ian Mahinmi. The Pacers are the top team in the NBA in REB%.
"We got to have everybody battling," Dirk said. "I thought there in the first half there were a bunch of balls that we had in our hands but we couldn't come up with. Those were unfortunate, especially against a physical team like that. Those are the ones were we definitely have to secure them."
It's still strange for me to think of the Pacers as an elite team, but they continue to make a great impression on the league while staying out of the national media for the most part. Paul George isn't a sexy household name, but his All-Star selection earlier this season appears to be the beginning of a superstar in the making. "Right now, he's approaching being a top 12-15 player in this league," Carlisle said of George, who compiled 24 points on 17 shots, eight rebounds and six assists.
"We lost to a team that is deeper and better in all facets of the game," Dirk said.
Oh O.J....: Sporting a bulky shoulder brace on his left shoulder, Mayo looked different tonight but played just like he has in recent games. He shot 3-for-10 (1-for-5 from downtown) and committed a couple turnovers
It's amazing to think that this is the same player who dropped 40 on the Rockets a couple months ago and filled in for Dirk consistently while he was out. It's not a consistent problem, he just kinda sucks of late. Some games, he's deferring and passing up open looks, and others he's too aggressive, bowling into the lane for the charge or taking unnecessary step-back jumpers.
It's Josh Hamilton all over again, to a slightly lesser extent. He plays a few games in a row where he looks like the second scorer the Mavericks have been searching for, then hits an extended slump where he's just pitiful. Even when he's on a roll, he still shows off his poor decision making by committed mindless turnovers -- just like Hamilton swinging at a ball that never even got near the strike zone.
When it comes down to it, inconsistency kills. Nobody cares that Josh Hamilton played like a first-ballot Hall of Famer for two months because when it came down to it, he didn't produce when the Rangers needed him. I appreciate Mayo's contributions early in the season and I'm sure, in some sort of situation, he's capable of reproducing it. But I can't back resigning a player who has to be coddled and given extra attention.
It's hard, because I like Mayo. His fashion style is always entertaining in the locker room after the game and he definitely has shown glimpses of incredible talent that has contributed to some great basketball memories from this season. But he swings at way too many balls in the dirt and if he hasn't fixed it now, it probably won't ever happen.
Four Minutes, -11: As the Mavericks continued to get pounded on the glass, Carlisle played his wildcard (and that's generous) and gave Chris Kaman some run. The seven-footer posted a -11 in four minutes, grabbed one rebound, missed one shot, and committed three fouls (two personal, one technical). As desperate as this team is for big men with size, Kaman just doesn't have the right mentality and is simply redundant with Dirk filling the role of "big man with range".
Fear the Beard: After the game Indiana talked about not wanting to give the Mavericks an opportunity to shave their beard after playing them. Maverick players immediately dismissed the storyline as something kept alive by the media, and they're entirely correct. As a media person, the "beard pact" is an easy angle to take and being able to make jokes about Omar, Mayo's "personal barber", is hilarious, but all of that stays in the locker room, for both teams.
Missed Opportunity: The Lakers dropped a game to Milwaukee and, with a win, the Mavs could have moved within half a game. Now, they fall behind Utah to the 10th seed. Elton Brand said it best: "Terrible time to have a loss...it's very disheartening and it was just one of those games."
Guard Me, I Dare You: It what shouldn't be a real surprise to anyone, Dirk is having another incredible month. Since the All-Star break (20 games), he's averaging 19.2 points a game on a ridiculous slash line of 52/44/94%. He's scored the most points in the paint (46) this month than any other this season, which is perhaps the best indicator that his legs are pretty much were they need to be and he feels completely comfortable putting the ball on the floor.
Former Mavs: Ian Mahinmi made a foray into the locker room after the game, giving hugs and interrupting Dirk's interview. He got several compliments on his bright red pants. Gerald Green didn't join him in the visit but did pick up a couple blocks in a 10 minutes of play. He's had a pretty decent season off the Pacers bench, and I'm happy he found his way back into the league. He certainly has NBA talent.
Next Time Out: We can all agree that rebounding was a major issue tonight, and unfortunately, the situation doesn't get much better on Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Mavericks match up against Chicago. The Bulls have the seventh best REB% in the league and fourth best OREB% which will force Dallas to once against put extra effort into preventing second chance points.