After falling behind 17 points, the Mavericks roared back with a 33-19 third quarter to take a six point lead in the fourth. With all the momentum on their side, Dallas looked ready to earn an emotional comeback win against a fringe West playoff team before it all fell apart down the stretch.
"[The first half] was an embarrassment, flat out. Second half, we got angry and we played a hell of a lot harder but we made too many mistakes," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game.
It's true that effort is sometimes lacking in Dallas, especially on defense, where players constantly lose track of their man or fail to box out. But a glaring problem on Sunday was Monta Ellis shooting 4-22 from the field, including 0-8 in the fourth quarter.
"We had to get shots," Carlisle said of Ellis' night. "He's the one guy who can get clean shots. He's getting good looks. I always believe he's going to make the next one. My responsibility as a coach is to get shots. We can't go places where clear shots are not going to be generated."
He continued: "Look, this is not a Monta Ellis shooting problem. This is a Dallas Maverick hard play problem. We don't play hard all of the time. That's the problem. It's pretty clear that's where our inconsistency is. That's where we have to get better. We have to be a more together team. I believe that we can do it. We did it in the second half."
Carlisle said he didn't have an answer to the team's lack of effort.
"That's a question you have to ask them. I have my theories but I'm not going to air them out publicly," he said. "In terms of the soul of the team, you have to ask those guys."
It doesn't get any easier. The Mavericks play the Spurs at home on Tuesday and again in San Antonio on Friday. Following that are games against Indiana, Oklahoma City, Houston and Golden State. Carlisle has had success calling his teams out in the past, but time's running short for them to figure it out.