This is sounding like a broken record for the Dallas Mavericks.
For the fifth time this season Thursday night, the Mavs took a lead into halftime. And for the fifth time they found a way to disturb all of their first-half encouragements and be outscored in the third quarter.
It’s a bothersome nasty trend that enabled the Portland Trail Blazers to blow out the Mavs 108-87 at the Moda Center in the opener of a two-game road trip.
The Mavs (3-2) end this trip Friday night in Utah against a Jazz squad that upset Cleveland on Wednesday.
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On Thursday, the Mavs used 15 points by Dirk Nowitzki and 10 from Monta Ellis to cling to a 50-46 lead at the half. Then, as if on cue, the Mavs flopped again in the third period, during which they got pushed around, outhustled and outscored 35-18.
Game, set and match.
“We’ve got to figure it out pretty quick,’’ Nowitzki said of the third-quarter letdowns. “It just seems like we don’t have the energy, and that’s unfortunate — we’ve got to correct that.
“Teams are coming out of the locker room determined to pick up the pressure and we just haven’t responded the right way, so that’s obviously concerning. We got another chance tomorrow against a team that’s coming all night at you, and we’ve got to be ready.’’
While the Mavs were busy sleep-walking in the third period, the Blazers came out firing and used a blistering 25-9 run to assume a 71-59 lead with 4:34 to go before the fourth quarter started. With Wesley Matthews tallying 10 points and Nicolas Batum adding a pair of 3-pointers, Portland toted an 81-68 lead into the fourth period.
It was enough negative vibes floating around to make coach Rick Carlisle wonder how he’ll fix the third-quarter disasters.
“I thought our first half was OK, but the second was very poor,’’ Carlisle said. “I’m going to take responsibility for that.
“I have to do a better job getting these guys ready to play an entire 48 minutes.’’
Things got so bad for the Mavs that Chris Kaman came off the bench — seemingly with a nasty attitude — and punished Dallas with 12 points and five rebounds on 6-of-6 shooting in just 18 minutes of play.
Kaman played for the Mavs two years ago and they made no strong effort to retain his services.
“He’s a good player, he’s skilled, he’s big, he had a couple of good looks around the rim,’’ Nowitzki said. “He had a couple of layups there where he overpowered us, and he had one or two offensive rebounds.
“Off the bench playing against backup [centers] in this league, he’s going to be effective.’’
In the third quarter alone, the Blazers were so effective that they almost scored as many points in those 12 minutes (35) as the Mavs scored in the entire second half (37). It was that lopsided of an affair over the final 24 minutes.
“They were going through lots of picks and throwing some shots,’’ Mavs center Tyson Chandler said. “They’d limit us to one tough shot.
“They do a great job of reloading the ball, having five guys in the paint.’’
This is the first time this season that Mavs didn’t score at least 100 points in a game. Dallas came in leading the NBA in scoring (11.8 points per game). No one had been able to completely shut them now.
Until the Blazers played their version of lockdown defense on the Mavs.
Still, the Mavs knew of their third-quarter issues prior to this game. And they did nothing to solve the situation.
“We haven’t been playing in the third quarter,’’ said Mavs point guard Jameer Nelson, who finished with six points (2-of-9 shooting) and one assist. “We keep saying the same thing at the end of every game, and obviously we’re smart enough that it’s a long season and adversity is going to hit and it’s hitting now in the third quarter.’’
The Mavs made no excuses for their lack of effort. But Nowitzki did point out that the fourth foul Ellis was charged with early in the third quarter sort of changed things a bit.
Dallas was up by four when Ellis went to the bench, and down 64-55 when he returned midway through the third period.
“Monta getting his fourth foul there on a suspect whistle didn’t help there in the third quarter, but you’ve got to play through some stuff on the road,’’ Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to keep the same energy on the defensive end and not really worry about the shots and shot-making offense so much.
“We’ve got to get some stops to get the ball moving again.’’
Nowitzki led the Mavs with 17 points, Ellis scored 14, and Chandler Parsons tallied nine of his 11 points in the third quarter. It’s the first game this season in which the Mavs didn’t have at least five players score 10 or more points.
“We were up four at the half in a place that’s tough to play,’’ Nowitzki said. “We’ve been in good positions in every game so far.
“We just didn’t respond the right way at halftime, so whatever we’re doing we got to mix it up. If we need to go out there earlier at halftime and warm up earlier —I’m just not sure. But we’ve got to have the same force that we have at the beginning of the game in the third quarter.’’
And the Mavs know that needs to start Friday against the Jazz. Or else they may be staring at an 0-2 road trip before they host Miami on Sunday.
“I have to look closely at what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing the right things and have the right guys in at the right times,’’ Carlisle said. “We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and mope.
“We have to go into Utah tomorrow, and that place is very, very difficult, too. We have to get back at it pretty quick.’’