PHILADELPHIA – As the coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Rick Carlisle has a big decision to make.
While the Mavs took the train from Philadelphia to New York after their rather embarrassing 116-74 loss to the 76ers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center, Carlisle was contemplating what’s next with his squad.
Carlisle knows the Mavs were thoroughly spanked by a Sixers’ team just playing out the string in a season which has Philadelphia a guaranteed spot in the NBA Draft Lottery. But the question remains, if the Mavs can’t perform any better than they did against the Sixers, they may be joining Philadelphia in the Draft Lottery.
But now to Carlisle’s dilemma.
Following Friday’s pathetic output, how does Carlisle get his team back in the right frame of mind after they suffered their worst loss of the season and will play at Brooklyn at 11 a.m. Sunday?
"I’m going to have to watch the film and decide the best thing to do tomorrow for the team,’’ Carlisle said. "We do have a lift and a walk through scheduled and I’ll decide whether we’re going to get taped up and go hard and remind ourselves what it means to compete.’’
The Mavs certainly didn’t compete hard against the Sixers, who outplayed Dallas in every phase of the game imaginable.
"I don’t think excuses are appropriate, but it starts with me,’’ Carlisle said. "I take full responsibility in all these situations.
"The players certainly have some responsibility, too. And we’ve all got to look in the mirror and do a helluva lot better on Sunday.’’
The loss dropped the Mavs to 29-39 on the season and four games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The lop-sided score just left the Mavs in a somber mood.
"Having a performance like this is mindboggling, but we have to just keep our composure,’’ said Harrison Barnes, who had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting. "At the end of the day we didn’t lose this game because of anything more than energy and effort.
"I mean just how they were playing, how they were getting their shots, the mistakes that we were making, there’s just no excuse for that."
Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 10 points, said he was shocked by the Mavs’ performance.
"We were just awful -- give them credit,’’ Nowitzki said. "They threw a hard game at us, they were making some shots, they hit us in every facet of the game.
"They gave us (29) fast break points, they killed us by (21) on the glass, and on down the line. They outplayed us, they outfought us and it was embarrassing.’’
About the only bright spot was that the Sixers showed a tribute to Mavs center Nerlens Noel in the first quarter, and that received a loud ovation from the fans. The Mavs acquired Noel from the Sixers on Feb. 23 for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a protected 2017 first-round draft pick.
"Me and the fans here have a special bond,’’ said Noel, who had nine points and five rebounds. "It was definitely great that they came out and supported me and gave me that clap during that video, and they know I appreciate that."
Noel, however, didn’t appreciate how this game unraveled for the Mavs, who shot just 34.5 percent from the field.
"We just came out a little flat,’’ Noel said. "Both groups – the benches and the starters – definitely needed more energy, especially on the defensive end.
"I think the defense is definitely somewhere where we could have picked it up at. It’s all about effort in games like this, and we all as a collective group know we didn’t bring that tonight, so we’re going to have to pick it up against Brooklyn.’’
In order to pick up the pace against Brooklyn, the Mavs certainly have to start by showing a pulse. They got drilled on the boards by the Sixers (55-34), and also were outscored in fast break points (29-5) and points in the paint (56-34).
"You got to change your mindset,’’ Noel said. "You got to forget about this game and step into the next one with a little more revenge if anything so we can really jump back into a good position and regain the momentum."
That’s a belief shared by Barnes.
"I think we just have to have a better resolve,’’ Barnes said. "For some reason it’s just like when we lose all the wheels fall off.
"It’s uncharactertic how we lose, but when we win we’re ourselves, so I think that’s our biggest thing is every single night we just have to bring that consistent energy and effort. Right now we’re fully healthy, so we really don’t have any excuses, and we’re playing veteran guys, so we just have to figure this out.’’
Whatever Carlisle figures out what to do with his team on Saturday is still a mystery.
"I don’t know what I would do as a coach,’’ Nowitzki said. "I guess we’ll watch some of that (film) tomorrow, and it’s a quick turnaround for the next game.
"We shouldn’t be inconsistent on hard play, we’ve got to play smart and hard and go from there. Tonight, I think it was the first time we were all healthy."
And not even a fully healthy roster could save the Mavs from that beat-down delivered by the Sixers, as the Mavs experienced one of those unable to walk and chew gum at the same time moments.
"It’s the NBA, it’s supposed to be hard," Carlisle said. "Otherwise, they’d be pulling people off the streets to play the game, coach and even do you guy’s jobs.
"I’m not going to write this off as just one of those nights. This is a situation where this kind of performance is inexcusable."