Yet another game was come and gone and the Dallas Mavericks found themselves wondering how another big lead almost disintegrated into an embarrassing loss.
The Mavs led the Cleveland Cavaliers by 24 points with less than a minute remaining before halftime Monday. But the Cavs sliced and diced their way through the Mavs’ porous defense until they were able to inch within 91-89 with 3:25 remaining in a game the Mavs eventually won 102-97.
“We’re still not as tight at the end of games that we need to be,” owner Mark Cuban said. “But the fact that we’re there and having those leads, we’re doing a lot of good things leading up to that point.”
Cuban blames the nine new faces as the reason the Mavs are blowing — or nearly blowing — large leads. It’s a hefty price to pay when the roster has gotten flipped two summers in a row.
“Guys are not used to each other yet,” Cuban said. “There’s not a lot of corporate knowledge. We’re not all the way, but we’re getting better.”
Donnie Nelson agreed that the new players getting familiar with the six returning players has played a role in the Mavs’ large leads getting erased. That lack of familiarity is why the Mavs have lost four games this season when they’ve blown leads that were 17 points or more.
“We’ve got nine new faces,” said Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations. “And obviously [coach] Rick [Carlisle] has done just a really, really terrific job putting things in place.”
Nelson said that although the Mavs will take a 25-18 record into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. game in the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Raptors, they’re never in a position to be satisfied. He even referenced last year when then guard O.J. Mayo enticed some of his teammates to grow beards until the Mavs could reach the .500 mark.
“The good news is we’re not growing beards,” Nelson said. “The bad news is the West from top to bottom is thick, and we’ve got our work cut out for us in the second half. … You’ve got about 11-12 teams that are vying for eight spots, and there’s no nights off, period. It’s a slugfest.”
Nelson also noted that the addition of point guard Devin Harris, who has been back for two games after missing the first 41 after undergoing surgery on his left foot in August, will give the Mavs a boost at both ends of the court.
“He’ll certainly be a help,” Nelson said. “We’re really excited about our young point guards [Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel], but there’s nothing like experience. Devin has the familiarity of running an NBA club and doing it at a high level. But his versatility and ability to get after people defensively is definitely going to give us a nice little shot in the arm and it’ll give us a nice dimension that maybe we don’t have right now.”
Center Samuel Dalembert is listed as day-to-day after straining his left shoulder during Monday’s victory over Cleveland.
Dalembert suffered the injury in the second quarter against the Cavaliers, but started the second half. However, he left for good with 10:42 remaining in the third period.
At the Mavs’ practice Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre, Dalembert did some light weight lifting, but didn’t do any court work.
The departure by Dalembert was evident on the boards Monday. In the first half against Cleveland, the Mavs outrebounded the Cavs 24-13, but in the second half the Cavs won the board battle 33-15.
“I’ve always said all season if Sam is active and controls the paint we’re a different team defensively,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He can be that X-factor for us defensively because he’s got that length. …He got some good offensive rebounds in the first half, so we felt like when he’s active on the defensive end he’s a difference-maker for us, so hopefully he’ll be all right.”