Wesley Matthews found some semblance of a silver lining on a Wednesday night when the Dallas Mavericks slipped into a very deep ditch at American Airlines Center.
Following the Mavericks’ 102-96 loss to the Detroit Pistons, Matthews said: "Maybe it will make us take our level of play up to where we should be at.’’
The Mavericks’ level of play came into question again Wednesday when they lost for the fourth time in a row. That’s the first time that’s happened this season, and the first time it’s happened since Jan. 23-28, 2015.
And by now, this losing trend has become much more than just a head-scratcher. It’s become like a nasty virus which the Mavericks can’t shake.
"We’ve got to get off this skid and stop the bleeding,’’ Matthews, the Mavs’ starting shooting guard, said. "We’ve been getting (beat) in transition points, and we held them to 10 this game.
"We’ve got to out it all together. The competition is getting tougher.’’
Indeed it is.
The Mavericks are 0-2 on this three-game home stand, which ends with Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Monta Ellis and the Indiana Pacers. That’s a Pacers’ team which handed the San Antonio Spurs just their 10th loss of the season this past Monday, and will not play another game until that critical match in Dallas.
The Mavericks just can’t get out of their own way right now. They have settled into a pattern of making crucial turnovers, critical mental mistakes and incomprehensible plays.
And for the second time in three games, Chandler Parsons was stuck trying to inbound the ball late, and the Mavericks were out of timeouts. But unlike Sunday in Denver when Parsons’ desperation inbounds pass led to a game-tying basket for the Nuggets – Denver eventually won the game in overtime – this time the five-second violation whistle did in the Mavericks.
"The game was pretty much decided at that point, so I’m not going to make a big thing about that,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’re having some bad luck and in this situation you got to make your luck.
"I don’t fault our effort one single bit, but we made some uncharacteristically loose plays with the ball a few times, we had some bad decision-making at key times.’’
Consider the hectic schedule still on the table, those bad decision-making must come to a halt. Or else the Mavericks will have a difficult time finishing this season with not only a winning record, but with a playoff berth.
The Mavericks (33-32) are seventh in the Western Conference standings, just half-a-game ahead of Houston (32-32) and three games ahead of ninth-place Utah (29-34).
Also, the Mavericks have lost more home games this season (15) than they lost last season (14).
So, with some of the NBA’s best teams still remaining on their schedule, do the Mavs have the necessary ingredients to cook up another playoff appearance?
"We will have to be,’’ Matthews said. "There’s no choice.
"We’ve said that we are a playoff team and we believe that we are a playoff team. It’s time to be that and see what we’re about."
With a chance to knock off the Pistons, the Mavericks couldn’t get the ball to one of the players who had the hottest hand. Parsons was 10-of-18 with 23 points after the third quarter, but only got off two shots – he made one of them -- in the frantic fourth quarter.
"Things get tightened up at that point in the game and that is where the ball has to move and find the right guys at the right time, and it didn’t,’’ Carlisle said. "That is my responsibility, I will take the blame for all of that stuff, but it’s one or two plays each quarter that make it a four-point deficit with a minute to go instead of a four-point lead.
"We had the bad ending to the first quarter after having the seven-point lead. There were a couple of other times where we had a miss at one end, and then an and-one at the other end, and we have to eliminate those."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points and Zaza Pachulia collected 10 points and 13 rebounds. But the starting backcourt of Deron Williams (3-of-13, eight points) and Matthews (4-of-9, 10 points) combined to shoot seven-of-22 from the field and score 18 points, while the Mavericks’ usually lethal bench added only 18 points and seven rebounds.
"It’s a difficult time, without question,’’ Carlisle said. "Sticking together and communicating with each other and just finding little ways to help each other through the tough portions of the game is what its about, and that’s what we’re going to have to do better come Saturday.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m on dfwiradio.com