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Final Score: Mavericks implode in 2nd half to Blazers, 106-104

All things seemed to be going swimmingly for the Mavericks in a conference showdown that would give Dallas a chance to pull closer in the playoff race. A positive halftime vibe and significant lead fell apart in the second and the Mavericks lose on a buzzer-beater by LaMarcus Aldridge.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Don't be fooled by the similar jerseys and appearance: the players who took the court in the 2nd half were not the same ones who played the first.

With a 17 point lead at halftime, this recap was pretty much all planned out. It was clear the Mavericks had come out the superior basketball team tonight with no reason to think they couldn't carry it to the second half. The ball movement was impeccable, the defensive energy was really ramped up, and if not for a few blown layups it arguably could have been a
"perfect half".

But the Mavericks are not a team run by logic or common sense this season. After dominating both sides of the floor, they all of a sudden struggled with the simplest things. There was no discipline as players flew through the air on pump fakes and a fewer quality shot attempts, to name a couple things that went wrong.

The Mavericks were playing without Chris Kaman, who suffered a concussion in practice on Monday, and though his injury is not considered serious, it's unknown when he'll return.

A first half that poured plenty of kindling on the "Kaman doesn't fit" fire changed its stance in the 2nd half, as the Mavericks struggled to find easy baskets in the 3rd and 4th -- a Kaman speciality. Carlisle tried all three centers down the stretch, but none really stuck. Even the ultra-consistent Elton Brand was off tonight - hard to blame a single bad game, but I thought some of his misses were huge momentum swings.

In the end, the impeccable first half play was wasted as the Blazers roared back from a 20-point deficit and a LaMarcus Aldridge game-winning buzzer beater buried the Mavs for good.

Worse, the Mavericks chance to make up a game on a fellow playoff contender was rebuffed. Playoff teams don't lose games when up by 20+ in the second half.

Bullet analysis:

- Dirk Nowitzki can't create the shot off the dribble right now. Although some might say it's his age catching up to him, and think it's still an obvious sign that he's not 100% and might not be for weeks more. Of course, he's still incredibly dangerous as a stationary jump shooter in the flow of the offense. We just can't except him to BE the offense right now.

- Bernard James' second consecutive start went well, although I think his short stint in the 4th quarter was ill-advised. Can't blame Carlisle for trying, as there was not a center who really stepped up for the team.

- More on James: his offense got the benefit of a few nice rolls on layups, but he definitely provides some energy. He wasn't bad on defense, either. He guarded both Aldridge and Hickson, and although they got the better a few times, they also were forced to throw up very difficult shots on other instances. I think he can stick in the starting rotation for the time being.

- O.J. Mayo finally shot the ball well, with 15 points on nine shots. Add in seven rebounds and nine assists, and he was the one bright spot for the Mavericks. Riiighhtt? Oh, and he committed five turnovers, including some back-breakers late. If it's not one thing with this guy, it's the other.

- Turnovers and offensive rebounding were two huge problems in November and December, but saw great improvements in January, both from O.J. and the entire team. Cue 16 turnovers and -5 on the offensive glass tonight, despite controlling those statistics early on.

- I must admit, Roddy B's two turnovers were not what you'd imagine. He stepped out of bounce trying to corral a steal after pick-pocketing an opposing point guard, then got called for an offensive foul after bumping a Blazer. He wasn't great, but definitely played well enough to keep Mike James on the bench for the start of the next game.

- In retrospect, the close of the first half was an indicator of things to come. With ten seconds left, the Mavericks took the floor with six players on the court and got called for a technical. At the time, it was a funny moment rarely seen in professional basketball. In a two point loss, however, it's easier to realize just how unacceptable and ridiculous that is. The Mavericks still have plenty of time left to catch a playoff seed, but only if they can start harnessing their first half identity more often.