Before anyone and started pointing fingers, coach Rick Carlisle stepped forward and pointed a finger at himself for the Dallas Mavericks’ lackluster performance Sunday night against the New York Knicks.
In another ho-hum outing that’s becoming more mysterious by the game, the Mavs allowed the Knicks to bang them around on the backboards and get out of American Airlines Center with a 92-80 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,892.
It was the Mavs’ fourth straight home loss and dropped them to 19-15 overall and 0-2 on this three-game homestand that concludes Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
And if the Mavs don’t put up a better fight against the Lakers than they did against the Knicks, they’re facing the prospect of being swept on the homestand.
“I didn’t have them ready,” Carlisle said after the loss to the Knicks. “I will take the blame for that.
“It’s pretty clear. It starts at the top.”
Perhaps, but at some point the players have to get mad about their situation and do something about it.
The Mavs allowed the Knicks to race out to a 29-17 lead after the first quarter, 52-35 at the half and 58-39 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“We weren’t very good tonight,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. “You can blame everybody all the way around.
“We weren’t very good.”
The downward trend has become a head-scratcher for the passive Mavs, who only attempted one free throw in the second half after attempting 17 in the first half.
But even that doesn’t guarantee anything anymore, as sharpshooters Nowitzki and Vince Carter missed four and three free throws, respectively, in the first half.
“We’re not even showing up to play sometimes,” forward Jae Crowder said. “Like tonight, I felt like we didn’t show up until our backs were against the wall — and it was too late then.”
The Mavs did manage to show some signs of life when a driving floater by Monta Ellis cut the deficit to 84-78 with 1:33 left. But Iman Shumpert hit a 3-pointer, and after Jose Calderon missed a 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining, the Mavs’ hopes for a comeback were gone.
“We didn’t do enough, we didn’t put up enough resistance early,” Carlisle said. “We allowed them to get momentum and it all snowballed.
“We got to six [points] a couple of times, but it’s hard to get over the hump when you haven’t done it enough from the beginning.”
Not even the early exit of former Mavs center Tyson Chandler could spur on the Mavs. Chandler went out at the 4:24 mark of the first quarter with an upper respiratory infection and did not return.
Still, a Knicks team that entered the game next-to-last in the NBA in rebounds at 39.3 per game outrebounded the Mavs, 47-34.
Mavs center Samuel Dalembert could have helped in the rebounding department. But he was late for Saturday’s practice and did not play Sunday.
“We just didn’t come out with any energy,” said center Brandan Wright, who finished with seven points and five rebounds. “We didn’t have the desire we needed to play at a high level and they hit us in the mouth.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter and ex-Dallas Bryan Adams High School product Kenyon Martin came off the bench to score a season-high 14 points and grab six rebounds to ignite the Knicks.
Meanwhile, the Mavs spent most of the night surprisingly dazed and wound up shooting 41 percent from the field and missing 20 of their 26 3-pointers.
“It’s another tough lesson and I’m disappointed for our fans,” Carlisle said. “Our fans came tonight, they were into it.
“They wanted to get involved and for this to be a good night for us, and we let them down.”