There was a time when the Dallas Mavericks used to brag about their ability to protect the basketball.
Those days appear to be long gone after yet another game where the Mavs tossed the ball around like a hot skillet. The result: The opportunistic Memphis Grizzlies turned 19 Dallas turnovers into 21 points and went on to defeat the Mavs 110-96 on Tuesday night at FedEx Forum.
After winning six straight and being the surprise team of the NBA, the Mavs (9-6) have taken a step back while dropping their last two contests heading into Wednesday night’s game at San Antonio.
The Mavericks have committed 36 turnovers and given up 96 points in the paint in their last two games
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The loss to the Grizzlies (8-7) felt like a carbon copy of Sunday’s opener of this three-game road trip, when the Mavs turned the ball over 17 times in a 117-114 loss at Oklahoma City. The lack of ball security led to easy opportunities for the Grizzlies, who sped up the game while playing without the injured Zach Randolph.
“It’s the same stuff that was in OKC, and that’s not good enough,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. “When we turn the ball over, we’re in trouble.
“They’re obviously without [Randolph], so they play a smaller lineup — more up-tempo, more shooting, more spreading the floor like a lot of other teams do now. We talked about it [Monday], we talked about it [Tuesday] morning how they’re great at steals, how they play the passing lanes.”
It’s the same stuff that was in OKC, and that’s not good enough. When we turn the ball over, we’re in trouble.
But all that talk didn’t net the Mavs any measurable results.
“We didn’t get it done,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We did a poor job with ball protection in the first half — 12 turnovers for  points. We did a better job in the second half. But we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
The Mavs trailed 46-36 at halftime, and then a 14-4 burst by the quick-handed Grizzlies increased that deficit to 82-60 after the third quarter.
And when Jeff Green (19 points, seven rebounds) opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer in front of the Mavs’ bench, the Grizzlies had their biggest lead of the night at 85-60.
With 14 fourth-quarter points from Raymond Felton, the Mavs crawled within 10 twice in the final stanza. Nowitzki went to the bench for good with 6:30 to go and the Mavs trailing 89-76.
But with a game Wednesday night against the Spurs, Carlisle couldn’t reasonably justify putting his superstar back in the game.
“I thought we had a run in us,” Carlisle said. “We made a bit of a run with time to pull Dirk out, and I just didn’t think we got close enough to merit putting him back in there.
“And I thought the small lineup with quickness and shooting and penetration was our best chance to knock some points off the deficit. It just didn’t happen.”
We turned the ball over left and right, and we gave them  points in the paint. And half of them were in transition on layups. It was a tough night.
JaVale McGee didn’t play Tuesday. Neither did Devin Harris. Both players rested for the major test against the Spurs.
Chandler Parsons played a season-high 25 minutes but struggled with just six points (3-of-9 shooting) and five rebounds. Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 10 rebounds) registered his ninth double-double of the season.
J.J. Barea tallied 16 points, Wesley Matthews scored 11 and Deron Williams added 10 points and a team-high five turnovers.
When the Mavs resorted to intentionally fouling poor free-throw shooter Tony Allen, it backfired as Allen was 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
It was another dark night for the Mavs, who shot 39 percent from the field and hit just 11 of 34 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We turned the ball over left and right, and we gave them  points in the paint,” Nowitzki said. “And half of them were in transition on layups. It was a tough night.”
Mavericks at Spurs
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, FSSW