These are the type of games the Dallas Mavericks used to lose on a regular basis in the 1990s when they were the butt of jokes by late-night comedians.
But what happened Wednesday night at the FedEx Forum was no joke.
One minute the Mavs led the Memphis Grizzlies by 25 points, and in a flash, they sputtered and lost in stunning fashion 90-84. The loss was the third in a row for the Mavs, dropping their record to 25-32 and putting them on the verge of being excluded from any conversations involving the playoffs.
It was the fourth-largest blown lead in Mavericks history.
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Afterward in the locker room, Mavericks players were obviously frustrated with a season that suddenly has gone from bad to worst.
“There are so many low points, I don’t even know if this was the lowest,’’ said star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who tallied just 10 points. “We played a very good team tonight on the road, and we knew eventually they were going to make a run.
“We could have been up 40 and they would have made a run.’’
The Grizzlies’ biggest run came when they opened the second half with a blistering 22-0 spree that left the Mavericks stumbling. They only scored a measly five points in the disastrous third quarter.
In the quarter, the Maverickss were just 2 of 17 from the field and committed seven turnovers. It was as if the Mavs stepped in a manhole, never to be seen again.
“They turned it up a notch and we didn’t,’’ said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. “They came out and were being aggressive and they just punked [us] and took the game from us.
“That’s crazy. I didn’t realize until the quarter was over that we only scored five points. That tells you how aggressive they were and were making sure we didn’t get anything.’’
The Mavericks rolled to a 38-19 lead after the first period. The 38 points were the most the Grizzle had allowed in the first quarter since a Dec. 3, 2010, contest against Houston.
Incredibly, it took the Mavs another two quarters and 7 minutes, 19 seconds before they scored their next 38 points. That’s how decisively the Grizzlies suffocated the visitors on defense.
Before that, the good times kept rolling for Dallas as it built a 51-26 lead with 5:25 left before halftime. Then, it was as if the Mavericks put their plane on automatic pilot and forgot to do the necessary things that got them that massive 25-point lead.
“They turned up defensive pressure and we didn’t respond very well to it,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had four turnovers at the end of the first half that cut into our lead and gave them momentum, and we did a poor job to start the third quarter, obviously.’’
When O.J. Mayo hit a jumper with 34.4 seconds left before halftime, it gave the Mavs a 55-38 lead. The Mavs didn’t get their 56th point until Mayo connected on a free throw with 3:51 remaining in the third period.
By then, the Grizzlies had reeled off 24 unanswered points in most dominating fashion, while the Mavericks wilted.
“At halftime we talked about it that they were going to turn up the pressure and that we needed to step up and respond to it and attack it,’’ Carlisle said. “And we just didn’t do a good job with it.’’
The start of the game had an eerie similarity to Tuesday’s game in Dallas against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Mavericks led that game 11-0 before losing 95-90, and they led the Grizzlies 10-0 before again crumbling down the stretch.
Even Nowitzki, who came in following two impressive outings, fell victim. He didn’t make a field goal in the second half.
“It’s a tough loss, it’s a disappointing loss,’’ Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to circle the wagons and get ready for the next game
“This is a challenging stretch, it’s a challenging year, but we’re going to stick together and keep fighting, and that’s just the way we’re going to do business with this thing.’’