Before Wednesday’s game in San Antonio, the Dallas Mavericks repeatedly talked about the need to get off to a fast start in order to fend off the Spurs.
But it turned out to be just that. All talk.
A little over eight minutes into the game, the Mavs were 4 of 15 from the field and trailing the Spurs 20-8. Although the Mavs bounced back and tied the game twice in the third quarter, they wound up losing 88-83.
The slow start put the Mavs in a position where they expended too much energy just to get back in the game.
It’s a problem the Mavs know must be corrected before they host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. Dallas (9-7) is tied for fourth with Memphis in the Western Conference, seven games behind undefeated Golden State (16-0).
“We’ve got to come out with a different mentality,” point guard Deron Williams said. “It’s definitely becoming a problem and one we’ve got to nip in the bud right now.”
The onus on those slow starts for the Mavs lies with the starting five, who haven’t been able to outplay the opponents’ starting unit. And the domino effect has been disastrous for the Mavs, who have dropped three straight games.
“It’s on us as starters to come out and get it going, and I think it starts defensively,” Williams said. “If we play the way we did in the second, third and fourth quarters in that first quarter, the first quarters are going to be a lot better for us.
“And that’s something we’ve got to consciously do night in and night out.”
After the slow start, the Mavs were in position to win Wednesday’s game. But a 3-pointer by Kawhi Leonard put the Spurs ahead 87-83 with 15.1 seconds remaining.
“This one hurt, but I thought we played them well,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds. “I thought, again, we didn’t start the game off pretty well — we got knocked on our heels a little bit.
“They’re a great first- and third-quarter team and they just come out with a lot of force and energy, and we were on a back-to-back and were a little slow, so we had to battle back again.
“But I like the great fight we showed the entire night to keep coming back and be in position to be right there in the end.”
Two winnable games
The Mavs began three-game road trip riding an impressive six-game winning streak. But it ended unceremoniously with a disappointing three-game losing streak.
Disappointing, because the Mavs opened the trip Sunday by losing 117-114 to an Oklahoma City team that played without the injured Kevin Durant. And then they were blown out 110-96 by a Memphis team that played without Zach Randolph.
The Mavs finished the road trip by holding San Antonio to just 88 points on 40.7 percent shooting. But that still wasn’t enough to defeat the Spurs.
“It’s very disappointing,” Williams said. “The Memphis game was kind of out of control from the beginning — we definitely fought back.
“But this game [against San Antonio] and the Oklahoma City game were definitely winnable ballgames and we let them slip away.’’