THE TOP STORY: While the 53-23 Mavs go about the business of establishing that they are not good enough to be deserving of anything better than the No. 3 seed in the West, competitor OKC does the same regarding the No. 4 seed. Dallas' embarrassment here (and Thursday against the Lakers in a 28-point loss) is matched by the Thunder's shame in losing to the Clippers on Saturday, one night after losing in Portland.
What it means: The third seed remains likely for Dallas, which needs a win (or a Nuggets loss) to clinch a top-four slot and first-round home-court edge. The Mavs are not going to catch the Lakers or Spurs ahead of them, nor is OKC (three games back) going to catch Dallas.
Basically, looks like we've got the three seed locked up," Dirk Nowitzki said.
And we believe the silliness over "hoping'' which opponent Dallas faces has met its end. The Mavs started this grueling roadie with a 3-0 record but now must win at Portland on Sunday night to avoid making this a .500 trip. With a loss to the Blazers, the Mavs will also drop to 8-8 in their last 16 games.
All of which means that while it will be fun to watch down-the-stretch basketball to see who will finish sixth and get first crack at the Mavs (Blazers? Hornets? Memphis?), this present edition of the Mavs, in this present state, needs to be completely focused on its own tasks … leaving little room for the excitement of scoreboard-watching.
YOUR OFFICIAL NBA HIGHLIGHT PACKAGE: Which suggests how winnable this game was down the stretch ...
THE LINEUP CHANGE: There are few people on the planet who will win a head-to-head X-and-O debate on basketball with Rick Carlisle. We believe we are appropriately deferential (without being "reverential''). But the shifting of DeShawn Stevenson into Saturday's starting lineup makes no more sense to us after the game than it did before.
What problem was it supposed to solve? Since when is Stevenson a legit 3? Is this supposed to suggest that Peja deserves less minutes there? What did Shawn Marion do wrong to earn a rag-dolling? How can having a guy play no role in a rotation one night and then play with the starting five the next be characterized as anything but instability?
And if this was a move made specifically to combat this opponent … Since when do the lowly Warriors get to dictate lineups, pace or matchups to the title-minded Mavs?
Well, since 2007, actually, when a not dissimilar move from then-coach Avery Johnson resulted in a mind-numbing decision to bench starting center Erick Dampier in favor of a non-starting non-center named Devean George.
And from that Game 1 boneheadedness, the rest of that series became history. Eight-beats-One history.
To the argument that this is different "because that was Avery Johnson'' or "because that was a playoff game'' we say:
*And THIS was the work of "Ivory Johnson.''
*And THIS coach has been saying for a week that these games – even the ones against Utah and Phoenix so we suppose Golden State, too – feature "playoff atmosphere.''
So it's close enough to us. And the result here is like the Game 7 that never happened then. A Game 7 that featured vastly different personnel … but still some influence from ex-Warrior Barnes, who has moved from city to city in his seven-year NBA career but has now taken up residence in Dallas' collective psyche.
THE CHARMINATOR LIVES: We said it on ESPN Radio on Saturday morning: We find the chatter unbecoming. Certain members of the Mavs family keep on "taking on'' guys like Phil Jackson and Ron Artest and, most recently, Matt Barnes … and the Mavs keep on losing to guys like Phil Jackson and Ron Artest and Matt Barnes. And then you get so wrapped up into trying to out-cute, out-talk or out-tweet those guys that the next thing you know, you are losing to guys with ponytails named "Amundson.''
And when Barnes Talk is still resonating when you are supposed to have moved on to play a lotto team, and the lotto team beats you?
Matt Barnes wins.
FREE RODDY B (FOR NINE MINUTES?): We left off our list of DeShawn move victims one Rodrigue Beaubois, who was allowed to start but played only nine minutes, and just two in the second half.
There is not a stone we've failed to unturn here. The short least due to Roddy B's inexperience-driven mistakes? We're on it, in the most comprehensive way possible. The conviction that a Dallas team without Roddy B as an important part of the rotation is no better than the recent edition of the clubs that can barely get to Round 2? We're on that, too, and have been all year.
But Rick does give us a fresh angle here, because this is Golden State and there is another chapter of Mavs-Warriors that brings a smile: Roddy B and Interstate 40.
How was Roddy B good enough to be allowed permission to "mistake his way'' to 40 points at this time last season, as a rookie, but is now suddenly regressed to the point where his nine minutes Roddy Beaubois is essentially the workload of a 10-to-12 man in the rotation?
There were the three fouls he was whistled for in those minutes, among other errors, but considering the play of the rest of the guards (Barea excluded) and his prior success versus these Warriors, hard to believe his leash couldn't have had little more give.
If the goal is to have Roddy B ready for this year's playoffs, time is running out. The goal is not being met.
WHAT WENT RIGHT?: With so much going wrong, we'll start with what little went right.
It's a damn short list.
1. JJ Barea managed the third double-double of his career, and only the second consisting of points and assists, with 13 points, 11 assists and five rebounds … though he did shoot only 5-of-13.
Barea also acted as one of the few Mavericks with any interest in attacking the paint after the first quarter … this despite the fact that the team hit only 5-of-25 from behind the arc, needing to hit their final two to get to that number. There was clear early success in attacking the interior of the league's second worst defense, and just as clear was the Mavs lack of willingness to continue to do so.
2. Shawn Marion returned to the bench (more on that below) but finished with a team-high 21 points by hitting 10-of-17 field-goal attempts to go with eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal.
3. Tyson Chandler went 4-of-5 from the floor to score 12 points, grab seven rebounds and a block in 25 minutes of action. His minutes were curbed by foul trouble and the desperation move of Rick Carlisle to go extremely small for the final 4:16 in an attempt to erase a nine-point deficit.
WHAT WENT WRONG : Um, everything else?
There's no easier place to begin than the third quarter. A 5-0 run to close the quarter hides some of the damage done, leaving the score for the period at 24-17 in the Warriors favor.
If you look beyond those numbers, which aren't exactly pretty, you'll find things were much worse than a seven-point deficit.
Dallas went 7-of-28 from the floor, good for 25 percent … and with 33 seconds left in the period, just before Barea would sink a three and Marion convert a dunk for that 5-0 run, the Mavericks stood at 5-of-26 (19 percent) for 12 points.
The Warriors totaled two less field goals than the Mavs for the quarter … despite taking 15 less attempts.
At least partially fueling to that disparity in attempts was the fact that Golden State attempted 13 free throws, making 12 of them. Dallas made it to the line four times, with only one make.
The Mavericks also went 2-of-12 behind the arc.
To sum it up: Dallas held their opponent to 38.5-percent shooting for the period and still needed to close with a 5-0 run to not lose it by double digits.
If you were hoping the Mavs had misread their calendar and were going to yell "April Fools" at some point … you're still waiting.
ROLE ACCEPTANCE AND ROLE DEFINITION. REMEMBER?: As noted above, DeShawn Stevenson started at small forward as Carlisle continued to pluck at strings to define his rotations and his starting lineup. This allowed the often-dynamic bench duo of Marion and Jason Terry to be reunited, but like almost every other chord Carlisle played against the Warriors, the move fell flat.
Stevenson would play 16 minutes and contribute to the Mavs struggles from distance. He totaled three points by hitting 1-of-6 shots from the floor, including 1-of-5 behind the arc, and did nothing to slow Monta Ellis, who scored a game-high 32 points (including 11 in the first and 18 in the third, when Stevenson collected the bulk of his minutes). Ellis did so on a bum ankle, by the way.
Marion played well, but if he was hoping to have his role as a starter or a bench player defined, as he has stated within the past week, the move back to the bench may have done little to appease that desire.
We can promise you: Marion thinks this lineup change is a crummy idea. It serves no purpose that we can see, as we said. And we bet Marion agrees.
Does he deserve even a bit of a vote here?
Which brings us to our next topic.
Before the season began, Rick Carlisle stated that this season would be more about "role acceptance" than "role definition." This has been a constant theme within his "Be Ready" mantra.
While at its core this may serve to inspire fringe rotation players to keep themselves prepared should they be called upon, we may also be seeing the unsettling effects it can have on those dominating the rotation.
If you can't define your role, how easy is it to accept it?
There are six games left in the regular season, with only two of those coming against sub-.500 teams (the 30-47 Clippers and the 37-38 Suns). The continued flux in the rotation, primarily among the starters, is unsettling.
JASON & JASON: Things started off well enough for Jason Terry, as he bested his Lakers totals in the first quarter … though that's not saying too much. He would go on to hit four of his first five shots, and seemed to be ready to back up his strong words with corresponding play.
Things didn't work out that way.
He would go 3-of-10 from that point on and surrender an untimely turnover with 1:31 to play and the outcome still very much in question.
If any of the Mavs arrived to the court with something to prove after the Lakers loss and subsequent war of words, it was Jason Terry. Because of this, and considering the defense trying to slow him down, his performance may be the most glaring.
Last year, Jason Kidd appeared worn down once the playoffs arrived. Later came the news of his illness during the Spurs series, but fans and the Mavs did not dismiss the burden of heavy regular-season minutes.
With the 38-year-old veteran seeing his shot stray, does he need some rest before heading into the playoffs?
Consider these numbers:
Since March 6, not coincidentally the same point from which the Mavericks have gone 8-7, Kidd is averaging six points while hitting only 32.9 percent of his shots, and 25.8 percent of his three-point attempts.
With opportunities running out, and the chance at the second seed vanished, perhaps it's time to consider rest.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Crunching …
*Monta Ellis scored 18 points in the third. The entire Dallas team countered with 17.
* Dallas allowed Golden State to score 13 straight points in the third.
*Nowitzki was held to 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
*Adding insult to injury: Former Mavs Summer Leaguer Jeremy Lin played for the Warriors and kinda looked like an NBA-capable backup PG. Lin played seven minutes. Meaning he's pretty much in the same burn boat as Roddy B?!
MAVSELLANEOUS: Jason Kidd was seen limping off the court at game's end. Mark Followill reports that Kidd banged knees with a Warrior and that it's probably nothing serious. … We're so troubled by the fact that the tiniest Mav, JJB, continues to go to the hole in his fearless manner and that it doesn't seem to rub off on his mates … Dallas had won all three Warriors matchups of the year before this one … Once again, Dallas lost a big lead, having been up 10 early in the second … This will likely be the last time we bother to mention this, because again, we're talkin' No. 3 now. But here goes: The Mavs trail the Lakers by 2.5 games for second place in the West with only six games left. There. The official mention of No. 2. The last one.
UNSETTLING: There's that word again.
There are a plethora of discouraging words that can be used to describe the play of the Dallas Mavericks against the Warriors, but one sums it up as well as any of them: unsettling.
After suffering their most embarrassing loss of the season to the Lakers Thursday night, eyes were set on the how the Mavs would respond against the lowly Warriors. To be as concise as possible with the answer: Poorly.
From the continued tinkering with the lineup and rotations in game No. 76, to Jason Kidd limping quickly off the court, to Jason Terry's wayward shot, to Roddy Beaubois' dwindling minutes, to Tyson Chandler's sore back, to the inability to put away the Warriors fresh off the worst loss of the season. … There's nothing calming, nothing uplifting about where this team is trending … noting again that they are now 8-7 since March 6.
"We'd love to get some wins here before we start off, but the playoffs are also a completely new season," said The UberMan. "We'd love to get some momentum, start making some shots, look a little better. We look a little flat lately, look a little tired. So hopefully we can step it up here."
THE FINAL WORD: There was a great graphic from the Mavs TV crew demonstrating that since March 11, the Warriors' offense ranks in the top one or two slots in the NBA in a host of categories. And in respect of the one thing Golden State has going for it, the Warriors are 24-14 at home this season.
However, they are still the Warriors, a team that in general invites you to play down to their level.
The Mavs accepted the invitation. Again.