Rick Carlisle has a mantra that he likes to repeat from time to time.
“I’ve told you guys this many times, it’s much more a first-quarter league than it is a fourth-quarter league,” the Dallas Mavericks coach said. “When teams get momentum early and beat you in the first quarter, they’ve got a great chance of taking a lead into the fourth, and that’s exactly what happened tonight.”
The Indiana Pacers only led 25-24 after the first quarter. But they had the Mavs back-peddling all night and eventually delivered enough knockout blows to knock off Dallas 111-100 at American Airlines Center.
It was the second loss in a row for the Mavs (10-5) and was the first time they’ve lost a game this season to a team with a losing record.
“There is no way around it,” said Chandler Parsons. “It’s an embarrassing loss. There is no excuse for this.”
Tyson Chandler agreed that a loss to a lowly Eastern Conference squad like the Pacers, who are now 6-8, is unacceptable.
“A bad loss for us,” Chandler said, “especially coming off of one we should have won [Saturday] in Houston. We let that get away, and to come out the way we came out tonight is disappointing.”
The injury-riddled Pacers used their smarts, worked the shot-clock and shot the ball well enough to build a lead the Mavs couldn’t overcome.
“We haven’t been good the last two nights,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “I said it before the season, this team is going to be challenged defensive-wise and rebounding-wise, and if we don’t bring it every night, then we’re going to get lit up.
“We were just a step slow. It’s another reminder that we’re not good enough to coast against anybody.”
The Mavs came in expecting more from themselves after they coughed up a 95-92 loss in Houston on Saturday. But the Pacers controlled the momentum throughout, and also beat the Mavs on the boards 44-37.
Some of what Indiana did could surface against Wednesday when the Mavs close this homestand against the New York Knicks.
“Look, we’ve just got to work at it and we’ve got to get better,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And we’ve got another team [the Knicks] coming in here that’s really, despite their record, they’re playing a lot better basketball.
“They’re getting healthier and they’re going to present a lot of the same problems. Physical guys, good one-on-one players, guys that can rebound. And so we’re going to have to step it up.”
Step it up, or else the Mavs will start a four-game road trip Friday in Toronto on a three-game losing streak.
“It’s not just been tonight,” Chandler said. “It’s been the last couple of nights, and we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to correct that if we want to accomplish anything this season.”