After building a seemingly comfortable 14-point lead late in the second quarter Monday night at Sleep Train Arena, nothing went right for the Dallas Mavericks.
Wide-open looks at the basket fell astray. The defense disappeared. Even a five-guard lineup wasn’t effective.
Chandler Parsons, despite a hot hand, couldn’t even yell his way into receiving more minutes.
The net result: The Mavs looked like mere pushovers in losing to the Sacramento Kings 112-98. The meltdown dropped the Mavs to 10-8 heading into Tuesday night’s game in Portland.
With everything flowing so well, the Mavs mounted a 41-27 lead after a Raymond Felton 3-pointer with 3:49 remaining before halftime. From there, the Kings seized control of the momentum and the game, and the Mavs left town trying to explain how everything went so wrong so quick.
“We’re not making shots right now,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “So we’ve got to stay the course, keep stepping into them aggressively and we’ve got to do a better job defensively and get some easier shots.
“They gradually chipped away and gained the momentum towards the end of the second quarter. We just got to play better from start to finish, it’s as simple as that.”
The Mavs led 58-54 at the half, but made only 5-of-23 shots in the third quarter when they were outscored 22-13. And when Parsons banged in a 3-pointer to get the Mavs within 78-74, he was yelling at the bench and upset that he had to leave the game for good with 10:53 remaining because he had reached his 24-minute restriction limit.
“It’s frustrating,” said Parsons, who scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. “I obviously wanted to play, especially in a close game like this I want to be out there.
“I want to help my team and I want to be out there in the fourth. But that’s part of it, and it’s stuff that I’m going to battle with them all the time, but you’ve got to be smart at the end of the day and be a professional about it.”
Parsons, though, wasn’t thrilled to be pulled from a game that was still there for the taking.
“I said before our season started that this is going to be a process,” Carlisle said. “Parsons hit his best shot of the night and I had to pull him out because he was at his minutes restriction.
“That’s just the way things are, and we’re going to have to deal with it. There are certain challenges we’re facing, but at this point it’s a stay-the-court proposition and now the time’s where our team’s got to stick together.”
Parsons, though, felt he could have made a difference had he been allowed to remain in the game.
“It’s a little bit of a distraction, no doubt,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 13 points. “He’s yelling at the bench and wants to stay in.
“I mean, it’s a circus, but that’s just the way we handle it here and I think he’s going to work his way even up to more minutes and he’ll be OK. He’s a player, he wants to be out there.”
The Mavs were pounded inside the paint by DeMarcus Cousins, who finished with a game-high 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Also, ex-Mavs point guard Rajon Rondo finished with 21 points and five assists, Rudy Gay scored 20 and former Mavs guard Darren Collison added 15 points.
Playing like a bull on a mission, Cousins kept rumbling inside and was virtually unguardable for the 8-10 Kings.
“Cousins had a monster game,” Carlisle said. “He’s a force in there and he’s very difficult to deal with, and we allowed him to get going too much, and their whole team played great.
“It ended up being a very rough night for us. But we don’t have a lot of time to lick our wounds — we’ve got to get ready for tomorrow.”
With Parsons tallying seven points — including hitting a 3-pointer with 1.9 ticks left — the Mavs bolted to a 32-23 lead after the first quarter. At that time they had a strut in their step and were displaying that take-charge look in their eyes.
But those good tidings turned in a blink of an eye.
“Maybe the game was coming too easy for us,” said Wesley Matthews, who scored 10 points. “We were making shots, forcing misses.
“We started to get a little bit casual, turned the ball over.”
That causal approach turned out to be disastrous for the Mavs, who shot 42.9 percent from the field and made only 9-of-37 shots from 3-point range.
The Mavs even resorted to intentionally fouling Rondo, and that worked to some degree, as Rondo was 7-of-14 from the charity stripe. But they couldn’t contain Cousins and Gay.
“I thought we were flowing pretty good there in the first quarter,” said Nowitzki, who was 5-of-15 from the field. “Everybody was touching it, we were getting rolls to the basket, and we were getting open looks.
“I’m not sure what happened [from] there. From the second quarter on they played obviously with a little more energy, but still we had so many open looks.”
In the second half the Mavs were outscored 58-40 and shot a dismal 34.9 percent from the field while missing 17-of-19 shots from 3-point range.
Parsons, meanwhile, lost his battle in lobbying for more minutes.
“It’s not a great situation, I guess, but it’s something he’s got to be patient with,” Nowitzki said. “He’s only 27, so you don’t want to make things worse for the rest of his career.
“He’s got a lot of years ahead of him, so we’re taking it slow with him.”