The Dallas Mavericks have a troubling trend popping up again, they cannot maintain leads. In each of the last two games, the Mavericks have built solid leads on their opponents and have been unable to maintain the lead to secure a win. In the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, Dallas played "Mavericks" basketball in the first half. They were solid on defense and getting out and running their flow offense. They ran out to a 10-point lead early and led 55-51 at halftime. Dallas matched its then second-highest point total for a first half, 56 points (which was done eight other times in the season), but they put up 40 second-half points.
It was a new opponent on Saturday night but the Mavericks had the same issue. The Mavericks led the Magic 50-34 but eventually lost it 117-107 at American Airlines Center. With the score was tied 85-85 with 10:24 to go in the game, the Magic throttled the Mavericks with a 23-2 run and eventually led 108-88 before defeating the Mavericks 117-107. "Our problems all year long have been with having a lead and then not being able to sustain it or put a team away," said Jason Terry. "So if we're going to be the team we say we want to be, regardless of who's in uniform, you're going to have to do something about it. You can't just allow teams to keep coming back on you. It's been our problem all year long and until we address it, we'll be sitting here with a sad face."
Plain and simple, Rick Carlisle is not a fan of making excuses. The fact that Dirk Nowitzki has missed seven straight games due to a sprained right knee and Caron Butler had season ending surgery will not make the losing any easier to handle. They are missing Nowitzki and Butler, but the Mavericks' issue with holding on to big leads is not a new one. During their season-high 12 game winning streak, with both forwards in uniform, the Mavericks built multiple 20 point leads on their opposition and had to scratch and claw to hold on to victories.
"We've been right there in a lot of these games and we just for some reason either run out of gas or just don't sustain the consistency we need to sustain throughout the whole game and that's what really caught us," Mavericks forward Shawn Marion said. "It's a long season. It's still early. We are still one of the top teams in the league right. We lost two of our main guys and one of them will be coming back soon. At the same time, we are a very talented team. We just have to stay with it and stay positive."
Admitting that it's similar to a broken record, Carlisle has said that the Mavericks must focus as a unit when it comes to defense and rebounding. If they do that, the offense will be able to work in their flow offense. That will also allow the Mavericks to work at a faster tempo and attack the defense with plenty of time on the shot clock. As the possession drags on, their offense can get stagnant and be forced into a tougher shot. The team had remained steady on the defensive end of the court until the last two games in which the Thunder shot 47 percent and the Magic threw in 51.9 percent. The Mavericks actually shot 53.9 percent, their highest percentage in a loss this season. That shows that Carlisle is not blowing smoke, their offense can roll but they need to maintain their energy level through the entire game if they want a better chance to win games.
Does having Nowitzki back in the lineup fix all the issues? It is possible, but it's a given that the team is better having the big German instead of him sitting on the sidelines in a suit. Nowitzki's MVP campaign is definitely getting a boost as he sits on the sidelines. The Mavericks are 24-5 with him and 2-5 without him. They average 99.5 points a game with him, and 92.3 without.
The Mavericks will embark on a four game road trip over the next week and Nowitzki is hopeful to return. With that said, the team understands that it's necessary to get back on track. "(The road trip) is very important because we’ve got to get back on a streak and get back into our winning ways," Tyson Chandler said while looking ahead. "It’s been tough, but with all the guys out we’ve just got to hold down the fort and be positive. Hopefully, we’ll be getting the big fella (Nowitzki) back and we’ve got to get back rolling and get back to doing some damage." The Mavericks hope to do some damage but they are also hoping they can avoid damage control.
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