February 1, 2012

Ice-cold Mavs lack finishing kick in loss to Thunder

Rick Carlisle is ejected after he boots the ball into the stands, and Dirk Nowitzki is wide left and right with his shot.

DALLAS -- Rick Carlisle started his postgame news conference by apologizing for kicking the basketball into the stands during the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game against Oklahoma City.

But the Dallas Mavericks' coach stopped short of apologizing for the way the Mavs played in the second half against the Thunder.

In a game that took on an aggressive, playoff-type overtone, the Mavs made just eight field goals in the second half and suffered a 95-86 loss to the Thunder at American Airlines Center. The action was so maddening that Carlisle received his first technical at the 11:33 mark of the fourth quarter for arguing a call, then received his second less than two minutes later.

"I want to apologize to our franchise, [owner] Mark [Cuban], our fans," Carlisle said. "The incident where the ball got kicked into the stands, that can't happen.

"My intent was not to kick it into the stands. I was trying to kick it to the referee, but I'm not a very good kick."

In the second half, the Mavs weren't very good marksmen, converting just 8 of 38 shots. And six of those 30 second-half misses were blocked by Serge Ibaka, who wound up with a career-high 10 blocked shots to go with 11 rebounds.

Ibaka posted stop signs inside all night, nullifying anything the Mavs wanted to do in the paint. Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki wallowed through another miserable night as the Mavs dropped to 14-9 on the season.

Back for his third game since returning from a sore right knee, Nowitzki was just 2 of 15 from the field and scored only eight points. Overall in the three games, Nowitzki is 11 of 39 shooting and has scored just 28 points.

"I can't speak for his physical situation as to how he's feeling right now or during the game," Carlisle said. "It took time last year when he came back.

"It took a significant period of time for him to get his rhythm and those kinds of things. He's working through some stuff, and that's where it is."

With Nowitzki out of sync, and Brendan Haywood (back), Jason Kidd (calf) and Lamar Odom (stomach ailment) not playing, the Mavs were no match for the NBA's best team.

At least they weren't in the pivotal second half.

The Mavs led by as many as nine points in the first quarter. But the Thunder rallied behind Russell Westbrook (33 points) and Kevin Durant (23 points) to build as much as a 10-point cushion, 77-67, three minutes into the fourth period.

Dallas, which clung to a 52-49 advantage at intermission, clawed and scratched until it eventually tied the game at 85-all on a running hook by Shawn Marion with 2:14 remaining. But the Thunder ended the game on a 10-1 run, with Westbrook's 3-point dagger giving Oklahoma City a 92-85 edge with 35.2 seconds left.

"I think we were right there with them with a lot of our key guys out tonight," said Vince Carter, who scored eight points on 3 of 10 shooting. "But we played through it, gave ourselves a chance to win, but we couldn't pull it out.

"They're a very good team. And when Westbrook is hitting shots and getting to the basket he's tough."

Jason Terry paced the Mavs with 25 points, and Brandan Wright and Marion each scored 12. But the Mavs -- they shot a frosty 35.7 percent from the field -- failed to get an offensive surge from anyone else.

That led to some frustrations and to that inadvertent kick into the stands by Carlisle, who might hear from the league office on that matter.

"That can't happen," Carlisle said of the kicked ball. "That's a regrettable situation. It's something that can't happen, but we weren't playing well, either.

"When you're not playing well, a lot of things get magnified."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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