DALLAS – Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was very direct when saying his team’s struggles are not directly tied to the shooting struggles of 13-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
"This is not a Dirk thing, this is a Mavericks thing,’’ Carlisle said following Tuesday’s embarrassing 127-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. "It’s not a Dirk thing, it’s a Mavericks thing.
"You can’t go out and perform the way we did the last three quarters and point to Dirk.’’
Maybe not, but Nowitzki admittedly hasn’t been on-point with his shooting stroke since the All-Star break. Carlisle, though, rushed to his superstar’s defense.
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"If that is indeed the case, then the guys around him need to function at a higher level so that we can A, get him better shots, B, protect him better on defense, and C, play better as a team,’’ Carlisle said. "But let’s not make this a Dirk issue.
"This is a Mavericks issue. Tonight, I’m telling you, it’s on me.’’
Nowitzki was 3-of-10 from the field with 13 points against the Cavs. In the 11 games since the All-Star break the 17-year veteran is 55-of-139 for 39.6 percent, and 12-of-37 on 3-pointers for 32.4 percent.
The Mavs led 31-26 after the first quarter, which ended with Devin Harris and Monta Ellis each scoring a basket in the final three seconds. Ellis’ hoop came after he stole the inbounds pass.
But from there, the Cavs took complete control of the game, outscoring Dallas 41-22 in the second period while rolling to a 67-53 lead at intermission.
Nowitzki couldn’t pinpoint what happened that blew up in the Mavs’ faces. But he knows it wasn’t pretty.
"Anytime you get blitzed for 130 at home you have to look at everything,’’ Nowitzki said. "You have to look at game plan, transition plays, didn't have any guys back, so you have to look at some stuff.
"So I don’t know if it was a lack of effort or lack of awareness.’’
Carlisle shouldered the blame for his team’s poor second-quarter defense. Cleveland was 15-of-23 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-poiint range in the second quarter.
"Well, after the first quarter it was our worst performance of the year, just flat out,’’ Carlisle said. "We just did a horrible job.
"I’m taking full responsibility for what happened the last three quarters. It’s a horrible job of coaching these guys and preparing them.’’
In what is their worst loss of the season, the Mavs looked like they were running in a pair of cowboy boots. They just couldn’t keep pace with the speedy Cavs.
Carlisle said: "We got a little lucky in the first quarter and caught some breaks, and then from then on, 41 points in the second quarter, too many breakdowns, too many lack of concentration mistakes that are just normally beneath who we are.
"But it’s on me. I’m sick to my stomach about this."