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3 things we learned as Mavs blow big lead and lose to Kings, 112-98

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Dallas looked really good in the first half, but somehow became a completely different (and awful) team in the second half.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. This is easily the most frustrating game I've watched this season. Everyone remember when Dallas was up by 14 points? I honestly can't say for sure what happened. It just felt like a flip switched and suddenly none of the Mavs could remember how to shoot the basketball. Then frustration set in, and the defensive effort disappeared. And then everything snowballed.

So I guess let's talk about something good before I unleash the full amount of snark and grumpiness.

Zaza Pachulia is incredibly important to this team

I tweeted a couple of times tonight that I feel like Zaza is as valuable as Tyson was last year. Which feels like blasphemy, but is starting to feel like it may actually be true. Zaza isn't the defensive anchor or roll man that Tyson was, but he affects the game in more ways than Tyson did. His effort, defense, rebounding, and free throws are huge for this team. And that mid-range jumper is killer--and teams will just let him have it!!

He had 13 points and 10 rebounds tonight. And he was probably the best defender on DeMarcus Cousins tonight. That said, his defense on Boogie got progressively worse as the night went along, and he had a few really questionable decisions late in the game. Nothing good happened in the 2nd half, and Zaza was no exception. And yet, the first half was a really good example of what he means to this team, despite being a consolation prize of sorts.

#freeDwightPowell

Dwight Powell was a bright spot in a very frustrating game. When he first came into the game, he very quickly got under Kosta Koufos's skin, drawing two fouls against the reliable backup big man in only a couple of minutes of play. And yet it felt like Rick Carlisle pulled him pretty quickly, and was purposefully keeping him on the bench until late in the third quarter. If someone can explain to me why that is, I would love to hear it. It baffles the hell out of me.

In particular, Carlisle went to JaVale McGee a lot in the first half. And even as things were falling apart in the third quarter. This, despite McGee being really pretty consistently bad. I don't know that he was ever in the right position on the defensive boards. I don't want to rag on the guy too much, because he's still coming back from injury. But he was a big part of the problem tonight and contributed mightily to the Mavs blowing their big second quarter lead.

And for some reason, he kept getting minutes over Dwight Powell. I'm really curious to see what explanation Carlisle offers for this, if any. I mean, Rick Carlisle is a basketball genius, and I'm just a Dwight Powell fanboy--so Coach doesn't have to explain anything to me. But I really would like to know why that decision was made.

Three point shooting destroyed the Mavs

I may have some questions about Rick Carlisle's rotations, but coaching didn't lose this game. Shooting did. The Mavs shot 24 percent from three tonight, and it felt much worse than that. Especially in the third. It felt like Dallas was never going to make a shot again.

The worst part is that the misses seemed to really get into the Mavs' heads. The whole thing built on itself. A few shots didn't fall, then the Mavs got hesitant, then the turnovers started happening. And because of that the defense suffered, and Boogie and Rudy Gay started to go off.

Give Rick Carlisle some credit. He tried to staunch the bleeding with a couple of well-timed timeouts. He tried Hack-a-Rondo. (The strategy didn't really do much in terms of getting Dallas back in the game, but dammit if it wasn't satisfying as hell for the Mavs fans who are still really angry at Rondo.) Hell, he even tried hacking Kosta Koufos! Koufos is a pretty decent free throw shooter who just missed a couple in this game, and Rick basically decided "hell, why not? Nothing else is working."

Carlisle even tried busting out a five-guard lineup. He was literally just throwing shit against the wall to see what would stick. That's how bad the offense got in the second half.

But tomorrow we get Wesley Matthews's homecoming against the Blazers, who are having their own struggles tonight against the Clippers. So hopefully the Mavs offense wakes up, and we get some fun basketball tomorrow. Because tonight was the opposite of fun.