After Saturday afternoon’s 112-105 gut-wrenching loss to the Indiana Pacers, there was no talk in the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room about pushing the panic button.
But that panic button certainly has to be within arm’s length of every player and coach.
Particularly because the loss was the Mavs’ fifth in a row and lowered their record to a break-even 33-33 while putting them in danger of missing the playoffs. It also is the Mavs’ longest losing streak since they dropped six in a row from Dec. 20-30, 2012.
It’s not about X’s and O’s anymore. We’re a .500 team and we deserve to be a .500 team, and we’re at that crossroads where we want to go and what do we want to do about it.
Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews
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The Mavs were left to be real with themselves concerning what they’re faced with.
“It’s not about X’s and O’s anymore,” said guard Wesley Matthews, who scored 15 points. “We’re a .500 team and we deserve to be a .500 team, and we’re at that crossroads where we want to go and what do we want to do about it.”
The Mavs didn’t give a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center much to cheer about as they finished the homestand 0-3. More important, the Mavs are just two games up on the Utah Jazz (30-35) in the loss column in the race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
And with the Mavs facing a difficult two-game road trip Monday in Charlotte and Wednesday in Cleveland — followed by Friday’s home game against the NBA champion Golden State Warriors — things may get worse before they get better.
We are close, but we are just not good enough right now. We have to be better, and there are just a whole lot of tiny things that have to be slightly better.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
After the loss to the Pacers, coach Rick Carlisle kept talking about “the little things” that have prevented his team from breaking through. He also admitted what has been on the minds of many Mavs fans.
“We are close, but we are just not good enough right now,” Carlisle said. “We have to be better, and there are just a whole lot of tiny things that have to be slightly better.”
Those “tiny things” include rebounding better, playing better defense, protecting the ball, making some key defensive stops and making crucial baskets.
“We gave up 112 points and that’s usually not a recipe for winning, especially on your home court,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We fought —it’s just a bunch of little things.
“When you’re in a little funk, things are really not going your way, it’s one bounce here, it’s a bad turnover there, it’s not running back, not communicating, not whatever, doing the pick-and-roll coverages right. We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding.”
The Mavs had plenty of chances Saturday. They cut a nine-point deficit to 100-97 with 3:19 left after a layup by J.J. Barea.
It’s tough, nobody wants to be part of it. Unfortunately we’re going through this situation, but we’re going to get out of it as soon as possible.
Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia
But George Hill (16 points) hit a 3-pointer, former Mavs guard Monta Ellis (17 points) scored on a driving layup, was fouled and made the free throw, and Hill attacked the paint for a dunk and a 108-99 Pacers lead with 1:51 left.
“It’s tough, nobody wants to be part of it,” center Zaza Pachulia said, referring to the losing streak. “Unfortunately we’re going through this situation, but we’re going to get out of it as soon as possible.”
The Pacers led 26-23 after the first quarter and 55-51 at the half after Ellis darted downcourt and scored on a reverse layup with just 0.7 seconds before halftime. With Paul George scoring 13 of his 20 points in the third period, Indiana toted an 83-75 lead into the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Mavs — after getting in position to win — resorted to the things that have caused the five-game skid.
When asked about changes that could get the Mavs back on track, Carlisle said: “I’ve got to look at everything. I’ll look at the film closely, have the staff look at it, and we’ll look at everything.
“We’ll look at all the numbers, and we’ve been looking at all that stuff, and to this point everything points to staying the course, but I’m open-minded, so we’ll just keep looking at it.”