Probably the most opinionated player on the Dallas Mavericks’ roster is shooting guard Wesley Matthews.
And after the Mavs lost their season-high fifth straight game Saturday to the Indiana Pacers, Matthews questioned a wide range of things, including his teammates’ heart.
His message: The Mavs can’t keep doing the same things that have led to this free fall in the standings and expect different results.
“There’s no X’s and O’s, there’s no strategy,” Matthews said. “It’s heart, it’s being competitive.”
It’s ‘I don’t want to be done in April.’
Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews
Then, Matthews spoke the universal words associated with teams who already know their season is going to end when the regular season ends.
“It’s ‘I don’t want to be done in April,’ ’’ Matthews said. “Whatever! It’s all this. We all got one [heart]. We all got to wear it on our sleeves.”
The Mavs (33-33) hope to take Matthews’ passionate words to heart when they face the host Charlotte Hornets (37-28) at 6 p.m. Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The game against the Hornets, who own the NBA’s longest winning streak at seven games, serves as the opener of a two-game road trip for the Mavs.
We’re a .500 team right now, and we are our record, and I told the guys after the game that we’ve got to understand that we’ve got to earn our way back up above .500.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
The trip ends Wednesday with a meeting against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers before the Mavs return home to face Stephen Curry and the world champion Golden State Warriors on Friday.
“We’re a .500 team right now, and we are our record, and I told the guys after the game that we’ve got to understand that we’ve got to earn our way back up above .500,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s not going to get easier here, especially going on the road, but it can be done and we’ll get there.
“It’s work, and we’ve just got to keep gathering up a great collective effort. Against better teams it’s going to be more difficult.”
It’s a tough situation we’re in right now, but we can’t quit. said. We’ve got to stay positive as a team.
Mavericks guard J.J. Barea
The Hornets are tied with the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors with the best record in the NBA over the past 15 games at 13-2. That means the Mavs will probably have to play one of their better games of the season to win.
“It’s a tough situation we’re in right now, but we can’t quit,” guard J.J. Barea said. “We’ve got to stay positive as a team ... and go on Monday and give it our best shot again. There’s no panic, but it’s tough. We’ve just got to find a way to snap out of it.”
Snapping out of it against Charlotte would take a herculean effort. The Hornets have won more games since March 1 (seven) than the Mavs have won since Feb. 1 (five).
“We’ve got to keep plugging and keep fighting,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We don’t have any quitters in this locker room. Coach is not going to allow that, that’s not what [owner] Mark [Cuban] stands for.
I think offensively we’re fine. We got to do a little more defensively — get one or two more stops.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki
“We’ve got to approach the next game like it’s our last and leave it all out there and see if we can get a big road win.”
Transition defense, half-court defense and lack of rebounds are at the root of what ails the Mavs, who own the NBA’s current longest losing streak.
“I think offensively we’re fine,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got some shot-makers, we’ve got some playmakers. You score 105, 106 [points] at home, that should be enough to win the game. We got to do a little more defensively — get one or two more stops.”
The Mavs are just two games ahead of the Jazz for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. Without some soul-searching changes, Dallas may wind up missing the postseason for the second time in four seasons.
“It don’t matter — in town, out of town,” Matthews said of the road trip. “We’ve got to go. It’s our heart, it’s pride, it’s compete, it’s ‘I’m going to get this ball before you, if you make this shot it’s going to be one of the toughest shots you’ve made all season.’ And that’s it.”
Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice