DALLAS — Want a positive spin after the Dallas Mavericks lost their third consecutive home game?
You could point to the fourth-quarter comeback that gave the Mavs a chance to send the game into overtime on a tough, contested 3-pointer by Dirk Nowitzki that fell short at the buzzer. But it seems pretty soft to offer any praise for a team that, with two days of rest, let a sub-.500 team that played the previous night build a 21-point lead on the road and shoot 51.8 percent from the field, including 69.6 percent in the third quarter.
We won’t try to spin that small-ball rally as some sort of silver lining after the Mavs’ 114-111 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
We will point out that the Mavs’ mediocrity at the American Airlines Center early in the season reduces their odds of holding home-court advantage in a playoff series. Heck, that might be a good thing, considering the Mavs are 5-5 at home and 8-6 on the road.
Of course, you can’t find anybody in the Mavericks locker room who would agree with that logic. Their focus is on fixing the problems that keep sending Dallas fans home disappointed.
“I’m honestly tired of talking about it,” said Wesley Matthews, whose 28-point performance Saturday went to waste. “It’s just gotta happen.”
The “it” Matthews refers to is a mentality, a level of consistent aggression and all-out effort that the Mavs have failed to reach too often, especially at home. Matthews said the Mavs must have “that fourth-quarter mentality,” in hopes they might replicate with regularity the hair-on-fire style of their rally, which was keyed by a zone defense and four-guard lineup flying around, with J.J. Barea scoring 13 of his season-high 21 points in the final frame.
The Mavs absolutely can’t have the mentality of the third quarter, when they were outscored 39-22 and looked horrendously helpless as Otto Porter Jr. lit them up for 17 of his career-high 28 points.
“We were the ones that had two days off,” said Nowitzki, whose defensive work on Otto was singled out by Wizards coach Randy Wittman and center Marcin Gortat in their postgame comments. “They came on a back-to-back. We should have had a lot more pep in our step and guarded them better than we did.”
The Wizards were 16-of-23 from the floor and 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the third quarter. Washington’s shooting percentages for the game (51.8 from the floor and 48.3 on 3s) were also pretty embarrassing for the Mavs, especially considering the Wizards were without sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal.
“I blame myself,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’ve got to get these guys better prepared to play. We’re not where we need to be. … This league is not easy, and this is a difficult period that we’re going through right now.”
What’s the solution? Carlisle will spend Sunday studying the film and searching for answers while the Mavericks have a day off to rest their legs. He needs time to come up with X’s and O’s solutions, but he knows the Mavs must be “more edgy,” no matter the strategies he employs.
“Individually and collectively, we’ve got to play more aggressively,” said small forward Chandler Parsons, who had another rough night as he continues to struggle while returning from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee. “We’ve got to play harder. We’ve got to not worry about the offensive end, not worry about our own individual shots, not worry about all that stuff and just compete. Leave it all out there, especially on the defensive end.”
On Saturday night, the Mavs left the American Airlines Center with a bitter taste in their mouths, a feeling that is far too familiar six weeks into the season.