Sometime during the non-collapse against the Blazers last week I tweeted this insanely stupid remark after the Mavs had surrendered a 30-point lead:
I'm changing the channel. There's nothing gained by this team making the playoffs and getting swept. NBA is not a participation league.— Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace) March 8, 2014
Last week was rough for me, personally. I was short on sleep, my day job was kicking my ass, my dog was really sick and had tuned in late to the Dallas game hoping for some fun. It ended up pretty damn fun, but the second and third quarters were agony. After more than 15 years of watching this team, I've gotten sort of used to losing leads and games in frustrating fashion. Blowing the 27 point fourth quarter lead to the Lakers back in 2002 is a defining Maverick memory for me.
So during the depths of my despair I wondering: where will this loss rank among the worst losses of the season? It obviously turned out to be a huge win, perhaps a season defining one, but the idea stuck. Dallas is in a fight for a playoff spot until the last game of the regular season. Bailey gave you the five wins that have defined the season thus far yesterday. So with that in mind, I'd like to revisit the games the Mavericks will regret most if the tentative hold on a playoff spot slips away late in the season.
5. Losses to Denver on November 23rd, 25th, and March 5th
These three have to be grouped together. Losing to the same team three times is pretty tough to swallow. Losing three times to a lottery-bound team is infuriating. Though Dallas only the contests by an average of seven points, only one of the three contests thus far was actually close. Denver beat the crap out of Dallas in the second in third games, with garbage time making the final result look closer than it really was. Denver was bound to be a match up problem for the Mavericks, with a great driving point guard in Ty Lawson and athletic bigs than can run circles around the mishmash Dallas front court. Still though...losing all three games? The Mavericks can avoid a season sweep in the final match up of the season on March 21st.
4. 92-80 loss against the Knicks in Dallas on January 5th.
The Knicks are a raging tire fire of a team. And the beat the bejesus after Dallas in this particular match up. Dallas both causes and gets killed by mismatches and the Knicks managed to punish Dallas everywhere on the court. New York led by as many as 19 in a game where Carmelo Anthony scored four points in the final three quarters. Beno Udich, who isn't even on the team anymore, dished out eight assists. Tyson Chandler only played four minutes. Dirk missed four free throws. The Knicks crushed Dallas on the boards, 47-34. This was the game that nearly had me calling for the team to tank. The Mavericks obviously got their act together over the ensuing month and a half, but this loss against a bad team still hurts.
3. 95-93 loss against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on December 11th
I'd managed to block this travesty of a game out of my mind until revisiting the schedule. After playing a great game in one of the toughest arenas in the league, the Mavericks let human fire ball Steph Curry get hot in the fourth quarter, as he scored 16 points to put Dallas down. If you'll recall, Dallas led by 6 late in the fourth after a back forth affair. Jose Calderon managed to foul Steph Curry on a three point shot, letting the Warriors make it a single possession with plenty of time remaining. Dirk and Monta Ellis each missed free throws to keep the door open and Curry hit a game winning shot over Shawn Marion after getting him to bite on a pump fake.
This was the game we all started to long for Devin Harris. This sort of stuff is why Calderon is not a feasible late game option if the game is close.
2. 129-127 loss vs the Clippers in Los Angeles on January 15th
Because I live on the East Coast, I made the strategic decision to go to sleep and miss the second half. Because I am also a Fatty McFatterson, I woke up around 3am to check the recap of the game from Ian. I recommend revisiting it because this could easily be the most frustrating loss of the year. Tons of fouls, including some techs, surrendering a 17 point lead in four minutes, Chris Paul and Matt Barnes...this game has a long list of 'scream at the TV moments'. The Clippers are playing like a true title contender and this was a chance to steal an important game. But, considering some of the breaks Dallas had gotten in earlier close games, perhaps things were bound to swing this way.
1. 88-87 loss against the Hawks in Atlanta on November 29th
In 66 games the Mavericks have failed to reach 90 points four times. They are 3-1 in those games, oddly enough. The lone loss came against the Hawks in a game that has never quite left my mind. All three of the worst losses of the season have come on the road and it's more than fair to argue that either of the previously mentioned games could be considered worst. Surrendering a 17 point lead against a mediocre Atlanta team still remains the worst part of this season for me. At least the Warriors and Clippers are solid, even great teams. The Hawks are so blindly average that there's no reason the Mavericks should've let them back in the game. Jose Calderon injured his ankle and Shane Larkin played miserably in his absence. This game did occur during Vince Carter's Walking Dead mode and Sam Dalembert hadn't yet decided to play actual basketball. But the Mavs shot 3 of 19 in the fourth and only scored 2 points in the final five minutes of regulation. In a season of offensive highs, this was the lowest point.
Andy has been saying, correctly I think, that these Mavericks are exceedingly predictable. Despite having watched nearly every game this season, it took a good amount of time to come up with this list. Last season, the Mavericks were so sporadic in their play, both before and after Dirk's return, deciding this sort of list for that team would've been a challenge. The Mavericks found new and different ways to lose games then.
This season though? My tweet during the Blazer game is really, really stupid when you consider the season. Dallas has been who we all thought they were. Monta is talented, Carlisle is smart, and Dirk is a legend. Though there may be a few more gut punch losses to come, this has been a ridiculously entertaining regular season.