MEMPHIS – Many insiders felt the Dallas Mavericks would know a heckuva lot more about themselves following a three-game road trip which would take them to Oklahoma City, Memphis and San Antonio.
So far, things are not looking very good.
The Mavs followed up Sunday’s 117-114 loss to OKC – it snapped their six-game winning streak -- with Tuesday’s 110-96 loss to the Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum.
Next up: An angry Spurs team that’s anxious to prove – again – that they’re the best team in Texas and unquestionably one of the better teams in the entire NBA.
Meanwhile, the Mavs have some soul-searching to do after a collapse which saw them fall behind Memphis 85-60 at the outset of the fourth quarter.
"We’ve got to get better,’’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who collected 14 points and 10 rebounds. "I even knew that in the six-game winning streak.
"We’ve got to keep working, we got to get better defensively, work together, end the possessions with rebounding, and then we can get our flow game going. We gave up (117 points) in OKC and 110 to a team that’s a slower-paced team – it’s just not good enough.’’
And if that trend continues in San Antonio, the Mavs will likely go winless on this road trip.
"We got to go out there and forget about tonight and come with a lot of energy and give it our best shot over there in San Antonio,’’ said J. J. Bare, who scored 16 points against Memphis. "We’re capable of doing it, so we’ll see how it goes.’’
The Spurs lead the Southwest Division with an 11-3 record, so the Mavs are two-and-half games behind San Antonio. But if the Mavs hope to close the gap on their I-35 rivals, they’ve got to play better defense and protect the ball better than they did against Oklahoma City and Memphis.
"Obviously we’re a mature team, everybody’s been around the block, 10 years plus,’’ Nowitzki said. "We’ve just got to forget about it, try to get some rest tonight, have a little meeting in the morning – a little breakfast meeting get together.
"The main thing is you’ve got to stay together.’’
The Mavs know the Spurs, with all their veteran savvy and leadership, creates all sorts of problems. Way more problems than what they faced against the Thunder and Grizzlies.
"We weren’t going to win all games here, so we knew eventually we were going to hit a little tough stretch,’’ Nowitzki said. "And we’ve got to stick together and try again tomorrow against obviously a very, very good team, well-coached, smart team.
"You just can’t make that many mistakes, especially on the road.’’
Nowitzki is concerned that the Mavs have made a habit out of starting games real slow, and then put themselves in a serious catch-up mode. It’s a recipe that has turned disastrous so far for Dallas.
"We don’t have the most energetic group out there,’’ Nowitzki said. "We don’t really have an energy player out there, but we just got to pick it up with whoever is out there – those five.
"We have to get some juices flowing, we got to get some stops, we got to get some rebounds, and get something going on the offensive end earlier.’’
Against the Grizzlies, the Mavs just looked off centered. They couldn’t establish a consistent flow, and their 19 turnovers led to 21 points for the Grizzlies, who led by 14 early in the second quarter and by 25 (85-60) early in the fourth quarter.
"We can’t afford to go down like that,’’ small forward Chandler Parsons said. "We’ve got to set the tone, we’ve got to have a different disposition from the beginning of the game.
"We didn’t come ready to play tonight, and when you’re going up against a team of their caliber they’re going to exploit you.’’
The Mavs just hope they don’t get exploited again on this road trip in San Antonio.
"This is probably the toughest road trip you can draw up,’’ Parsons said. "At OKC, then at Memphis, and then at San Antonio, it doesn’t get much more difficult than that.
"The good news is we have another one tomorrow and we can go out there and play much better and try and salvage this trip by getting a big win on the roads against San Antonio. But it’s another good team and we’ve got to come ready to play.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.