Dallas Mavericks

Pachulia describes Mavericks as ‘very soft’ early against Milwaukee Bucks

Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia, center, is defended by Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, left, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Milwaukee.
Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia, center, is defended by Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, left, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Milwaukee. AP

Zaza Pachulia was not in the best of moods after he witnessed a sub-par performance — for half of the game — by the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the Bradley Center.

Sure, the Mavs rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks and actually had a one-point lead and the ball with 14 seconds remaining in the game.

But all the bumbling and stumbling the Mavs did in the first half surfaced again during the critical stage of the game as a turnover by Dirk Nowitzki with 13.9 seconds left led to Khris Middleton’s game-winning shot with 9.1 ticks left as the Bucks escaped with a 96-95 triumph.

Afterward, Pachulia, a proud man who played the previous two seasons for the Bucks, voiced his displeasure with the way the Mavs performed.

“The first half we came out very soft and we were just out there showing up,” Pachulia said. “We just showed up. We weren’t playing basketball.

“Defensively, no energy. Very soft. Offensively, we weren’t sharing the ball. It was very individual basketball. I’m disappointed because that’s not our personality, and that’s not how we play.”

But that’s exactly how the Mavs (21-16) played Friday. And it cost them dearly.

The Mavs hoisted up an incredible 44 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, and made only 14 of them. It’s the most 3-pointers any team other than the Houston Rockets has attempted in a game since 2012.

The athletic Bucks jumped over and around the Mavs and beat them up at will, outscoring Dallas 56-32 in the paint. It seemed like more as the Bucks enjoyed a dunk-fest and layup drill which hiked up their 46.3 percent shooting from the field.

“It was anybody’s game there at the end, but yeah, the first half wasn’t great,” Nowitzki said. “We were a step slow, we gave up layups, we gave up threes, they got whatever they wanted.

“By halftime, we corrected that and made a heck of a run and just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

That lack of execution down the stretch was surprisingly so poor that coach Rick Carlisle didn’t even want to discuss it with the media.

“I love our second half, I love the way we battled, we were really together,” Carlisle said. “We really were committed to finding a way and we almost did, so I give our guys a lot of credit.

“But I don’t want questions about the last few plays — we can’t focus on it. We’ve got to focus on a better all-around and efficient game from start to finish.”

For the Mavs, the turnovers were a complete mystery since they tied a franchise low with just four turnovers when they defeated the Bucks in Dallas, 103-93, on Dec. 28.

Meanwhile, Deron Williams’ misfired on a jumper at the buzzer which would have won the game. On Tuesday, Williams’ 3-pointer at the buzzer helped the Mavs beat the Sacramento Kings in thriller fashion, 117-116, in double overtime.

“Obviously we thrive on execution and obviously we didn’t do a great job of closing it out,” said Devin Harris, who scored a season-high 19 points. “We’ll use it as a learning experience, but I like where we are in that (last possession) and the guys with the ball.

“I’m very confident in their abilities. Sometime shots fall like they did against Sacramento and sometimes they don’t (like) tonight.”

While that may be true, the Mavs know the least they can do is give a full effort for a full 48 minutes. That’s what drew Pachulia’s ire.

“We weren’t sharing the ball,” Pachulia said. “It’s just sad to see us playing that way because that’s not how we play.

“It was very disappointing. Then in the second half we turned it up, but when you are playing against an energetic team, those young guys play hard.”

Pachulia finished with nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds, Nowitzki poured in 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting, and Wesley Matthews added 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Chandler Parsons, meanwhile, struggled and finished with just three points while making only 1-of-8 shots.

Despite all of those shortcomings, the Mavs still were in an excellent position to steal this game. But they failed to do what was necessary down the stretch to close the deal, and thus are 1-1 on this three-game road trip which ends with Sunday’s 4 p.m. game in Minnesota.

After that double overtime win over the Kings, Carlisle gave four starters — Nowitzki, Pachulia, Matthews and Williams — the next game off, Wednesday night in New Orleans. The Mavs, though, surprisingly won that game, 100-91.

But with all the starters in the lineup against the Bucks, the Mavs had no such fortune, as the turnovers and missed 3-pointers kept stacking up in an uneventful first half which ended with Dallas behind, 55-39.

“I’m disappointed because that’s not our personality,” Pachulia said. “That’s not how we play, and it’s disappointing to see us come out like this after having a couple of days off.

“We didn’t come out on fire. We aren’t built to turn it off in the first half and turn it on in the second half.”

Thus, it was that lackluster performance in the first half which directly led to Friday’s loss. And directly led to Pachulia being critical in what he was seeing.

“It’s a very disappointing, especially to me,” Pachulia said of Friday’s loss. “Nothing personal.

“I just wanted to win.”

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram