Many insiders believed that the Dallas Mavericks would know a heck of a lot more about themselves after a three-game road trip that took them to Oklahoma City, Memphis and San Antonio.
So far, things are not looking good.
The Mavericks followed up Sunday’s 117-114 loss to the Thunder — it snapped a six-game winning streak — with Tuesday’s 110-96 loss to the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
Dallas plays at San Antonio on Wednesday night before returning home to face Denver on Saturday.
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But the Mavericks still have some soul-searching to do after Tuesday’s collapse that saw them fall behind Memphis 85-60 early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to get better,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who collected 14 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday. “I even knew that in the six-game winning streak.
“We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to get better defensively, work together, end the possessions with rebounding, and then we can get our flow-game going. We gave up [117 points] in OKC and 110 to a team that’s a slower-paced team — it’s just not good enough.”
And if that trend continues in San Antonio, the Mavericks will likely go winless on this road trip.
“We’ve got to go out there and forget about [the Memphis loss] and come with a lot of energy and give it our best shot over there in San Antonio,” said guard J.J. Barea, who scored 16 points against Memphis. “We’re capable of doing it, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The Spurs lead the Southwest Division with an 11-3 record. To close the gap, the Mavericks (9-6) have to play better defense and protect the ball better than they did against Oklahoma City and Memphis.
“Obviously, we’re a mature team. Everybody’s been around the block — 10 years plus,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve just got to forget about it, try to get some rest tonight, have a little meeting in the morning — a little breakfast meeting get-together.
“The main thing is you’ve got to stay together.”
The Mavericks know the Spurs — with all their veteran savvy and leadership — can create all sorts of problems.
“We weren’t going to win all games here, so we knew eventually we were going to hit a little tough stretch,” Nowitzki said. “And we’ve got to stick together and try again tomorrow against obviously a very, very good team — well-coached, smart team.
“You just can’t make that many mistakes, especially on the road.”
Nowitzki is concerned that the Mavericks have made a habit out of starting slowly and then putting themselves in catch-up mode. It’s a recipe that has turned disastrous for Dallas.
“We don’t have the most energetic group out there,” Nowitzki said. “We don’t really have an energy player out there, but we’ve just got to pick it up with whoever is out there — those five.
“We have to get some juices flowing. We’ve got to get some stops, we’ve got to get some rebounds and get something going on the offensive end earlier.”
Against the Grizzlies, the Mavericks looked off. They couldn’t establish a consistent flow, and their 19 turnovers led to 21 points for the Grizzlies, who led by 14 early in the second quarter and by 25 early in the fourth.
“We can’t afford to go down like that,” small forward Chandler Parsons said. “We’ve got to set the tone. We’ve got to have a different disposition from the beginning of the game.
“We didn’t come ready to play [Tuesday], and when you’re going up against a team of their caliber they’re going to exploit you.”