DENVER – If the Dallas Mavericks miss the playoffs, their inability to execute during crucial times will be their undoing.
And that’s surprising considering all the veteran leadership and high basketball IQ players the Mavs have on their roster.
But in the Mavs’ case, leadership and all that high basketball IQ hasn’t translated into victories lately. That was evident yet again Sunday night when the Mavs suffered another brain freeze during critical junctures of the game and ended up losing in overtime to the Denver Nuggets, 116-114, at the Pepsi Center.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
In the aftermath in the quiet Mavs’ locker room, the talk centered primarily around the Mavs inability to close out games against teams that are headed straight for the NBA lottery.
"It was a game of runs tonight and we just made some crucial mistakes down the stretch,’’ said David Lee, who finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. "We couldn’t really get a stop when we needed to.
"It seems like we had the game – both teams had the game won three or four different times. It was a hard-fought game and that’s one we need to get.’’
The loss dropped the Mavs to 33-30 as they remain in sixth place in the Western Conference standings. But with a home game Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers on the horizon, the Mavs will enter that game with consecutive losses to playoff-bound Sacramento and Denver.
"It’s difficult, it’s hard to swallow, but we’ve got another one tomorrow night, so we can’t really think about this one too much,’’ guard Raymond Felton said. "I’m pissed about it right now. Upset.
"It’s going to be a long flight back to Dallas, but we’ve got to put it behind us because we’ve got another one tomorrow night. We’ve got a tough team coming in here.’’
For the Mavs, every team appears to be tough, regardless of where they reside in the standings.
Lee, though, surveyed the situation and declared that the loss to the Nuggets wasn’t as devastating on paper as it appears to be. Asked how the last two incredible losses to Sacramento and Denver have hurt the team, Lee said:
"In the standings, not really, because everybody else is losing. It’s all about for us how we’re playing, and we just haven’t had our best consistently in these last two games. Tonight is a tough one on the road.
"Denver plays well at home – I think the one against Sacramento to me is a little more disappointing. This one is a tough team that plays well at home and they’re capable of beating anybody, but still we had our chances tonight and should have won the game.’’
Felton fouled D. J. Augustin with only 0.9 seconds left in overtime, and Augustin proceeded to nail a pair of free throws to snap a tie and win the game. It’s just another game where the Mavs showed that they really don’t know how to close out games.
For the Mavs’ sake, they hope that changes against the Clippers.
"We’ve got to go and give our best effort, come with a good game plan tomorrow and execute to the best of our ability,’’ Lee said. "We know we’re capable of beating anybody, especially at our house.
"And it’ll be good to get back home. We just got to get our rest tonight and get prepared for tomorrow.’’
And prepared to, hopefully, execute better than they did the past two games.
"It’s all about just finishing plays,’’ Felton said. "I think executing is not really the thing that’s not there.
"I think it’s more so just finishing plays, getting rebounds when we’re supposed to, getting stops when we’re supposed to. Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t, and tonight we didn’t. It sucks. It’s tough.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com