When things get awful for a team – the way it got Wednesday night for the Dallas Mavericks – the best thing is to have a team meeting and let players and coaches say a few things to each other.
That’s precisely what the Mavs did following their lackluster 120-89 loss to the Sacramento Kings at American Airlines Center. A postgame media interview session in the locker room was cut short so the Mavs could air their feelings.
Obviously, the Mavs are frustrated. Wednesday’s loss was Dallas’ 12th in the last 14 games and dropped their record to 4-17.
It’s the worst record in the Western Conference, the second-worst record in the NBA, and the worst record after 21 games of a Mavericks’ season since they were 1-20 in 1993-94.
Coach Rick Carlisle, obviously dejected with what he saw, took no questions and spoke for less then 40 seconds during his post-game press conference.
“That was a very, very, very disappointing performance,” Carlisle said. “It starts with me.
“I’ve got to do a better job getting these guys ready to play, getting them ready to compete.”
The Mavs were only down 56-52 at the half. But their second-half performance was abysmal, as they got outscored 64-37 and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but on a basketball court.
“The second half was inexcusable,” Carlisle said. “The way we played – just the way we performed all around – everything from how we competed, decision-making.
“Shot-making comes and goes, but the competitive spirit has got to be there. We’re going to do better.”
The Mavs’ next chance to do better is Friday at the AAC when they host the Indiana Pacers. It’ll be the finale of a four-game home stand before the Mavs play the Rockets in Houston on Saturday.
“We’re going to go out there Friday and play this game the way it’s supposed to be played,” said guard Wesley Matthews, who scored all 16 of his points in the first half. “I’m always going to have faith.
“I’m never going to doubt any of these guys in the locker room. I’ve been to battle with all these guys in the locker room.”
The Kings shot 56 percent from the field, turned a season-high 23 Mavs’ turnovers into 34 points, and out-scored Dallas inside the paint 68-30. Sacramento also enjoyed a 33-13 advantage in fast-break points.
But that miserable second half, when the Mavs were several steps slower and just never could establish any rhythm, doomed Carlisle’s club.
“Some open shots here, some open shots there, some not so good positions on the other end of the floor,” Matthews said. “We missed some shots, we dropped our heads a little bit and turnovers kind of fueled their run, but we can’t give teams confidence.
“We have to be that hungry dog. They were pressuring us, we weren’t pressuring them. We just have to be better than that.”
In short, the Kings did whatever they wanted to, whenever they wanted to do it and however they wanted to do it.
Hence, the team meeting by the Mavs.
Wednesday’s blowout loss was reminiscent of the Mavs’ 128-90 loss in Cleveland on Nov. 25. And Carlisle even called a pair of timeouts late in the fourth quarter when he didn’t have any left, resulting twice in technical fouls.
Harrison Barnes, who scored 11 points, was asked if the losing had chipped away at the Mavs’ competitive spirit.
“No, I don’t think it’s necessarily taking away the competitive spirit, but we just have to be a cohesive group on the court,” Barnes said. “We all have to be pulling in the same direction.
“We can’t let turnovers, fouls, missed shots, games from weeks ago stand in the way from us going out there and doing what we’re doing right now and that’s a lot of it. We’re getting in our own way and I think that’s what’s holding us back.”
In analyzing what transpired against the Kings, Barnes said: “We just let them be the aggressors early on. We didn’t really play our style.
“If you look at the last game compared to this game, it was just day and night.”
And the last thing the Mavs need are any day-and-night situations. Especially if they turn out like they did Wednesday, when the Mavs scored 12 points in the third quarter for the fourth time this season.
This also was a slap to the Mavs on the defensive end. They’ve hung their hats on being a defensive-minded team, but this was the fourth time they’ve allowed at least 120 points in a game this season.
“Even when we weren’t winning games we were holding teams under 100,” Matthews said. “We can’t let either end of the court – the offense end of the court, outside distractions, them making tough shots – we can’t hang our heads.
“We have to keep punching, keep fighting and keep competing regardless because it’s basketball and it’s a blessing to be able to play this game.”