DALLAS – The wins just keep on coming for the Dallas Mavericks. But they’ve also become head-scratchers which have become difficult to enjoy.
The Mavs are 3-1 on this young season, and are a one-point loss on the road to the world champion San Antonio Spurs away from being a perfect 4-0. But their defense in the third quarter of those games has been far from perfect.
In essence, the Mavs have been outscored in the third quarter in all four games, including 38-24 Monday by the Boston Celtics. The mishaps have become a sore spot and have made accumulating victories more difficult.
"We just got to do better,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after his team beat the Celtics 118-113. "Look, I’ll take it and continue getting the leads.
"That’ll be great. If we can keep doing that we’ll deal with the other stuff.’’
The "other stuff’’ has to be solved before the Mavs hit the road for games in Portland on Thursday and in Utah on Friday. Otherwise, it could be a long road trip.
Dallas held a seemingly comfortable 63-32 lead over Boston with 4:07 left in the second period, and still was nursing a 67-41 advantage at intermission. But what occurred in the second half was reminiscent of what happened the previous three games.
In the season-opener at San Antonio, the Mavs were up 53-45 at halftime, and then got outscored by 31-20 in the third period and lost that game 101-100.
This past Thursday at home against Utah, Dallas built a 69-44 halftime lead over the Jazz. However, the Mavs were outscored 29-24 in the third quarter before forging ahead and winning that contest, 120-102.
And last Saturday in New Orleans, the Mavs rolled to a 66-52 lead at the half, but were behind 75-72 -- with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter. The Pelicans outscored the Mavs in the third quarter 37-20, but Dallas rallied for a 109-104 victory.
On Monday, the Celtics crawled to within 114-113 of the Mavs with 39.5 seconds remaining after Avery Bradley made two of three free throws.
The fact that they had to exert so much energy in the second half after looking like world-beaters in the first half has been downright annoying to the Mavs. Against Boston the Mavs got outscored 72-51 in the second half, including 28-10 by the 4:51 mark of the third quarter.
"We’ll get it solved,’’ Carlisle said. "It’s hard to get a young athletic team that’s pissed off coming out in the second half.
"They came right at us and we didn’t do a good job. So we’re going to have to play better, and our guys know that.’’