Wednesday morning, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle talked about how his team had 21 Super Bowls left this season.
Carlisle just hope the Mavs will play the next 20 “Super Bowls” much, much better than the one they played Wednesday night, because there was absolutely nothing super about the way the Mavs played against the lowly Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
Going against a Nuggets team that’s waiting to take an early summer vacation, the Mavs failed to make a concerted effort and wound up losing 115-110.
The loss was embarrassing for the Mavs (36-26), who were handed their first three-game losing streak of the season and couldn’t beat a team that came in having lost 11 of their last 12 games. Afterward, Carlisle pointed the finger at himself for obviously not having his players ready.
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“I take full responsibility for this loss because at the beginning of the game we weren’t into it and it was my mistake,’’ Carlisle said. “I should have subbed all the guys out of the game that were in there that gave up 12 points in 3 1/2 minutes.
“Not doing that was a major mistake. I’ve been allowing guys to play through things and I believed that these guys would snap out of it, and we didn’t, so it’s a coaching loss.”
With Ty Lawson dominating things, the Nuggets were up 33-16 late in the first quarter, which ended with Denver ahead 41-34. Overall, the Nuggets did whatever they wanted to do, snapping a six-game losing streak and going to 3-0 against Dallas this season. Denver ran its record over the Mavs this season to 3-0.
“They’re not a good matchup for us,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 27 points. “I think that’s pretty obvious.
“But still if we compete a little harder in the first quarter and don’t go down 17 in the first half, I think we would have had a shot.”
Denver led 68-51 at the half, but the Mavs finally showed heart and some grit and closed to within 79-73 heading into the fourth quarter. But the Nuggets were off and running again and built their lead to 95-75 with 7:40 remaining
“We didn’t play good,” said Monta Ellis, who scored 16 points. “We didn’t come out to play, we gave up 40 points in the first — we can’t do that.”
Asked if the Mavs looked at the Nuggets’ recent plummet and took them for granted, Ellis said: “We didn’t even know their stats. No one looks at that.
“They just came out and they were the better team and they won.”
Carlisle said it was difficult to watch his team falter when the Mavs now go home to play two much tougher opponents in Portland and Indiana amid a heated playoff race.
“They ran into an angry team tonight,” Carlisle said of his players. “They ran into a team that was sick of getting beat up and they played with a lot of force.
“We were too casual to start the game and we got knocked back on our heels and on our butts.”
Carlisle started Bernard James at center in the second half and he gave the Mavs a spark. Meanwhile, starting center Samuel Dalembert played just 10 minutes and didn’t even play in the second half.
“We came out angry [in the third period] and we came out with some resolve,” Carlisle said. “But it’s going to take anger and resolve on every defensive possession for 20 more games for us to get to the hump and to get over the hump.”