'A Puddle Of Blood': Pistons 103, Mavs 89

Early in the second quarter of Mavs-Pistons, Sasha Pavlovic took a shot to his face, leaving his nose broken and bleeding on the court. Why is this the lead to our First Impressions? Because the shattered bloody mess acts as a perfect metaphor for what took place the rest of the contest.

The Dallas Mavericks walked on the court in Detroit to face the Pistons hoping to stop the suffering of a five-game losing streak. Instead, they slipped in the blood and lay unconscious in a growing pool of maroon despite a brilliant offensive performance from Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 32 points.

The Pistons dismantled a once daunting Dallas defense on their way to delivering a 103-89 loss to the Mavericks, pushing the losing streak to six … something we haven't seen around these parts in almost 11 years.

*How bad was the Dallas defense in the second half?

"We caved," Rick Carlisle stated with clear frustration after the game.

What led to these words?

The Pistons ended the third quarter by hitting 12 consecutive shot attempts before missing their final shot of the period. Including the beginning of the fourth, Detroit would have a stretch where they would knock down 15-of-16 baskets.

For the entirety of the third quarter, they put in 16-of-22 attempts to shoot 72.7 percent.

The fourth quarter didn't get much better, as the Pistons would make 12 of their 21 shots.

For the second half as a whole, Dallas allowed Detroit to shoot 65.1 percent (28-fo-43) on their way to 62 points.

Beyond their layup drill of a second half, the Pistons shot 57.5 percent for the game.

*The numbers paint a clear enough picture, but the game itself pounded the point home. Something was clearly wrong.

There were missed or late rotations, failures to get back in transition, lead-footed individual defense and an overall lack of effectiveness or energy.

You want to quickly point to the fact that Tyson Chandler was not available as he continues to fight his own battle against illness.

You want to, and while his energy and protection of the paint were certainly missed, it's the responsibility of his teammates to make up for his absence. Against the Pistons, they thoroughly failed to do so.

*Dirk Nowitzki wasn't quite back to full throttle physically, but shrugged off any ill effects lingering from his knee injury to score 32 points on 10-of-17 field-goal attempts in addition to five rebounds and five assists.

Dirk did his best to carry a struggling offense. Yet, other than an almost invisible 18 points from Jason Terry, help did not arrive.

When the game was still only a four-point deficit at the half, Dirk was sitting with 18 points on 4-of-7 field goals, 2-of-2 three pointers and 8-of-8 free throws.

The rest of the team had 19 points on 9-of-28 (32.1 percent) field goals, 0-of-8 three pointers and 1-of-6 free-throw attempts.

*Against the Grizzlies, the Mavericks starters totaled 26 points. Against the Pistons, Dirk bested that total on his own as the starting unit put up 60.

Very different numbers.

Same result.

*Despite the return of Dirk, watching these Mavs leaves one with the feeling that they seem to be waiting on something … but what?

*Beyond all of the bruising numbers, there's something more demanding to be seen. This is a team that appears to be lost. You can put your finger on a hundred small splinters decorating the growing abrasion, but can't define the wound as a whole.

Something is missing. Something is askew. The gears aren't lining up with each other, and the sound of their grinding is overcoming all on the court.

There's been no finger-pointing. Players have said the right things. The coach has pulled at every thread available to him … and "rock bottom," as Dirk labeled their place after the Memphis game, continues to be redefined.

With the Lakers looming for a Wednesday matchup, has "rock bottom" been reached, or will there be a little further to dig?

Or, is there the perfect opportunity to right the ship in one grand statement?

*It's frustrating. It's confounding. It will leave you with anger or a dismissing shrug of the shoulders.

But, thanks to their excellent start, this team has not thrown away a season. In an instant, all the things that have spun out of control and into the red can change. Fear is justified among the fans and media, but cannot be tolerated within the team.

What are they waiting for?

It's time to stop waiting, and claw their way out of the hole they now find themselves in.

Easier said than done, but it must be done. No one's going to hand them their confidence back. They must find and feed it on their own.

*We won't search for silver linings on this day. We will note that a player DallasBasketball.com reports the Mavs have their eye on, Tayshaun Prince, was impressive.

Prince scored 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and added five rebounds and five assists.

In summary: Whether lost, confused or temporarily separated from their confidence, the Mavericks must get their feet beneath them and use the "rock bottom" they've found themselves pressed against to push off of and up. … while trying not to again slip in that puddle of blood.

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