While sifting through the carnage of Friday’s colossal 42-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle somehow found a silver lining he could at least cling to for a day or two.
“We took a pretty significant step back [Friday] night,” Carlisle said. “The good thing about this league, it’s not going to be long until the next game comes, so we’ve got a chance [Sunday].”
Fighting for their playoff lives with only 14 games remaining, the Mavs (29-39) will face the Brooklyn Nets (13-55) Sunday morning at 11 at the Barclays Center. Unfortunately for the Mavs, some of the same frenetic athletic play they saw from the Sixers during Friday’s lopsided 116-74 loss is precisely how the Nets make their living.
We took a pretty significant step back [Friday] night. The good thing about this league, it’s not going to be long until the next game comes.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
“We were in a dogfight last week against these guys,” Carlisle said, referring to the Mavs’ 105-96 victory over the Nets in Dallas on March 10. “We were down eight three minutes into the third quarter, and it will be no different tomorrow.
“They play hard and they play the right way, and we’re going to have to play our game better than they play their game.”
The Mavs obviously were angry that they played so poorly against the Sixers. So when they showed up to watch film, lift weights and practice at the National Basketball Players Association gymnasium on Saturday, the mood was a bit somber.
“Our guys were anxious to get over here and get to work,” Carlisle said. “We’ll be ready for tomorrow, but at this point of the season there are no easy games.”
Guard Devin Harris figures bouncing back from that horrific loss to the Sixers should be a piece of cake for the Mavs.
“It’s not that hard,” Harris said. “We just got to play hard.”
Dirk Nowitzki summed up the loss to the Sixers as “pretty embarrassing.” Especially since the Mavs are vying for a playoff spot.
“It was embarrassing,” Harris said. “Our effort could have been a little bit better, but give them credit, too.
“They moved the ball extremely well and they played like they were the ones in a playoff race and we were the ones just kind of trying to finish out the season. Playing hard usually takes care of a lot of [problems] we had last night.”
Carlisle reminded his players the significance of playing to exhaustion when they’re on the court.
“The first hour [of Saturday’s practice] was really a lift and shooting segment and we did about 20 hard minutes, which we needed,” Carlisle said. “Look, we watched film this morning, we saw the nightmare of last night.
“It was pretty clear what we have to adjust, and so [Sunday] we’ve got an opportunity to do that.”
Center Nerlens Noel noticed his teammates were more attentive at Saturday’s practice, and that hard play was the theme of the day.
That’s a game you forget about and you move forward from and look to focus on tomorrow. But it was very embarrassing.
Center Nerlens Noel on the Mavs’ 116-74 loss at Philadelphia
“It was definitely a little more ramped up,” Noel said. “We definitely got to get back with the focus, back on the right path.
“That’s a game you forget about and you move forward from and look to focus on tomorrow. But it was very embarrassing.”
Carlisle viewed the loss to the Sixers – the Mavs’ worst loss of the season – as a teaching tool for his team, which dipped four games behind Denver for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
“Philly is a team that you can learn from,” Carlisle said. “They win their games on sheer persistence and hard play, and that’s what’s gotten us wins when we’ve been successful here over the last two months.”
And that’s probably what will get the Mavs more wins in the last month of this 82-game regular season. But they know they can’t be a no-show like they were against the Sixers.
“There’s no excuse for how we played and our lack of force and everything else last night,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to adjust our disposition and move the ball better.
“The young persistent physical teams are a problem – they’re a problem for everybody. Philly is a prime example, Brooklyn plays the same way, so it’s a very similar challenge.”