ATLANTA – At times Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, it appeared as though the Dallas Mavericks were trying to put their left foot ahead of their right foot before their left foot had a chance to hit the floor.
The clumsiness led to an uncharacteristic 22 turnovers for the Mavs during their 100-95 loss to the Hawks at Philips Arena.
Some of the Mavs’ turnovers are a by-product of the fact that they added four players to their roster within the last five weeks. A period where it’s tough just trying to get everyone on the same page.
"We got to still make solid plays,’’ said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who committed four turnovers against the Hawks. "Sloppy passes and stepping on the sidelines. . .
"Just here and there, and just make solid plays.’’
In his five-week stint with the Mavs, rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell has often driven in the lane and gotten caught in the air between traffic with no where to go.
"We drive in there and get caught in the air, that’s always tough for little guards and that’s tough to make a play,’’ Nowitzki said. "It’s better to keep a dribble, come back out and reset and re-try again.’’
One of the biggest turnovers the Mavs committed occurred with just 11.1 seconds left when they were down 98-95. That’s when an inbounds pass from Devin Harris which was intended for Seth Curry was stolen by Kent Bazemore, who waltzed in for a breakaway dunk that sealed the game and put Atlanta ahead 100-95 with 7.7 ticks to go.
"It was just a miscommunication," said Curry, who tallied 21 points. "We were running up against the clock trying to take the ball out of bounds and I was running to one spot and (Harris) threw it to a different spot.’’
The Mavs (24-36) are usually a team that takes very good care of the ball. Now, those mistakes are piling up, as was the case against the Hawks.
"We won the turnover game,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had 22 and they had 23.
"The second half we were much, much better and held them to 37 points. We just got to put that kind of force together for 48 minutes -- that’s really what this is all about."
Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 25 points on 9-of-19 shots. But he missed a 21-footer with 11.9 seconds left with the Mavs down just one point.
"You can look at a lot of things down the stretch,’’ Barnes said. "But that first half has kind of been the story of our season.
"We kind of let the game get out away form us, they got hot, but in the second half we held them to 18 and 19 points in the third and fourth quarters (respectively). So, we did the job defensively in the second half, but the first half we couldn’t make up for it.’’
That tale of two halves is why the Mavs know they struggle to win games.
"We’ve got to make a line in the sand,’’ Barnes said. "As the leaders, a lot of that falls on my shoulders, so I have to do a better job of making sure guys are ready to start the game, that we defensively know our coverages and are in them, and we hit first.’’
By parting ways with Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and Deron Williams last week via a trade or the waiver wire, the Mavs welcomed a new chapter which changed how they attack games.
"I think before we were more of a slower, sluggish team – a slugout team," Nowitzki said. "But now we’ve got athletes, we’ve got speed and we should be able to run off some turnovers and get a couple of easy ones.
"We don’t have to get 20 fastbreak points, but we should get a couple of layups. And vice versa we’ve been turning the ball over too much. We’ve been making bad decisions – some on the drives, some on moving picks, or whatever the case may be."
The Mavs led the Hawks, 93-89, following a 3-pointer by Curry with 2:27 left. But they failed to hold the lead, and received what they thought was a tough break.
On the missed 21-footer by Barnes, rookie Dorian Finney-Smith tipped the ball to Curry. However, Finney-Smith was whistled for an over-the-back foul, and Ersan Ilyasova’s two free throws out the Hawks ahead 98-95 with 11.1 seconds to go.
"The critical play is the loose ball foul call on Finney-Smith,’’ Carlisle said. "When that referee sees it, he’s going to have a sleepless night.
"That’s all I can tell you because there’s no foul there and the ball gets tipped right to a guy (Seth Curry) that’s really hot and nobody near him, and (Dirk) Nowitzki is standing three feet between him wide open at the 3-point line. It’s just too bad, it’s too bad.’’
Nowitzki, who finished with 11 points and 10 boards, said: "It’s either team’s game. A play here, play there, a tough bounce there.
"I thought (Finney-Smith) had a good tip out. A tough call right there. I don’t agree with it, but it is what it is.’’
Finney-Smith thought he had perfected his job masterfully on that critical play.
"It was a loose ball and (Ilyasova) didn’t box me out,’’ Finney-Smith said. "We both went for the ball, but it’s over now, we can’t get it back.
"It’s a tough call, but (the referee’s) job is hard, too. Sometimes they can’t see it all, and tonight the call just didn’t go our way.’’
With that, the Mavs flew home where they’ll start a five-game home stand on Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies.