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Final score: Cats maul Mavs, 114-89

So much for that winning streak.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

In an awful game where the Dallas defense made the Charlotte Bobcats look like the Dream Team, the Mavs are probably happy just to be on the way out of town, and in one piece(hopefully).

The big story was Dirk Nowitzki, who exited early in the second quarter with an ankle injury but did manage to return.  At that point Charlotte had just finished a 10-2 run to stretch their lead to double-digits, and with Nowitzki out they would expand that advantage to 14 by halftime.

Al Jefferson scored 30 points, but the real problem came from outside, where Anthony Tolliver hit 5-10 threes for a career-high 22 points, and as a team Charlotte shot 12-24 from deep.

Dirk and Monta Ellis did their best to keep Dallas in it, with 16 apiece, but they simply could not stop the bleeding at the defensive end, and with a little under five minutes left Rick Carlisle waived the white flag and emptied the bench; probably a good idea, as Dallas goes to Indiana tomorrow night to face the team with the best record in the NBA.

It would be easy to blame Dirk's injury for such a lopsided affair, but it would also be lazy and wrong.  Charlotte outscored Dallas in every quarter, including the two after Nowitzki came back.  Undoubtedly, momentum had something to do with how hot the Bobcats got from outside, but with or without Dirk Dallas was outplayed in just about every aspect of the game.

Early on neither team could miss, as over a four minute stretch in the middle of the first quarter the two teams combined to shoot 11-12 from the field, making eight straight field goals.

Unfortunately, while Dallas slowed down a little, the Bobcats had no such inclination.

Two minutes into the second quarter, Josh McRoberts appeared to inadvertently step on Dirk Nowitzki's foot, which dropped Dallas' leading scorer to the floor for a moment and seemed serious enough to cause him to limp immediately to the locker room.  Charlotte was already building a solid lead, and this would be all the extra motivation they would need.

By the third quarter, Charlotte was unconscious, and before Dallas could blink the lead had exploded to 26.  Even after Dirk got into a rhythm, the Mavs were so far behind that they may as well have been climbing a steep hill during a tsunami.

Dallas had what seemed to be a reasonable enough plan of attack on defense, doubling Al Jefferson early and often in the low post, usually with the lengthy Dirk.  However, the rotations on the perimeter were atrocious.  When McRoberts and Tolliver weren't hitting wide open threes(they combined to go 8-14 from downtown), they were getting into the lane for even easier looks.  McRoberts had 13 of his teams' astonishing 42(!) assists.

Then, whenever Dallas opted simply to let Jefferson go, none of the big three at center could do much to get in his way.  So, the Mavs were essentially picking between strychnine and hemlock.

Worth mentioning was that Devin Harris also had to leave the game a little gimpy(and this time it appeared to be Ramon Sessions stepping on his foot), but initial reports are that both he and Dirk are OK.  Harris had another strong game(and seems to be getting very comfortable running the pick and roll with Brandan Wright), so we hope this is truly the case.

Dirk and Monta both had solid scoring efforts in limited action, but Vince Carter laid an egg tonight, going 4-15(including a poster-quality block from Bismack Biyombo at the rim), and was the primary culprit in the bottom falling out of tonight's game in the second and third quarters.

As noted by Ben Swanson of Rufus on Fire, this will be the last time the Charlotte Bobcats face the Dallas Mavericks as the Bobcats.  Probably a welcome fact, given the complete domination from Dallas over the 'Cats short and dubious history to this point(they had beat Dallas only once entering tonight).  But, it seems they'll get the last laugh.

Dallas takes one on the chin tonight, but however much it stings, they won't have long to think on it, as tomorrow they face arguably the game's best on the road.  This may turn into a bit of a speedbump after the five game win-streak put air back in the Mavericks' sails.  Such is the way of an 82 game long season.  If anyone was worrying the All-Star Break might get Dallas out of their groove, it turns out this might be a vitally important break.  Getting Dirk, Devin, and Ellis(who is fighting through some pain of his own) as healthy as possible is just what the doctor ordered.

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