Canadian Collapse: Raptors 93, Mavs 85

'It's a hard league and the games are long,' coach Rick Carlisle said, reflecting on Wednesday's 93-85 loss at Toronto in which Dallas gagged up yet another massive lead. But yeah, I suppose Rick is right. If not for the fact a) the NBA isn't easy and b) the games aren't short, the Mavs would be steamrolling toward the top of the standings.

The Dallas Mavericks tried to get this done while sneaking in a night of rest for Dirk Nowitzki, 35, maybe a reasonable thought ... until Dallas managed just 12 points in the fourth quarter while blowing what had been a 21-point lead.

"It was just the right thing to do, right thing to do for him, for the organization," Carlisle said. "He needed a day to rest."

Does Rick deserve our trust in knowing his personnel, in recognizing dead legs, in picking his spots?


Does Rick deserve our criticism for overseeing a meltdown of the sort now so common around here that it cannot in any manner be described as "shocking'' or "stunning'' but rather as Dallas' modus operandi? Is there a way to "know his personnel'' well enough to manage it through games in which it leads by 17-plus?


"This,'' Rick said, "is the year of 'no-lead-too-big, no-deficit-too-great."

Actually, to suggest that "this is the 'Year Of Something' indicates that it's a universal trend. This is NOT, in the NBA, "The Year of Losing 17-Point Leads And Then Losing The Game.''

It's just that in Dallas.

Dallas is 25-19 and has blown leads of 17, 17, 18, 19 and now 21 points in loses. They botched those first four games even with Dirk on the floor (but shooting 2-of-18 in his wind-down tries in that quartet of humiliations). Otherwise, there is a pattern that was followed to the painful letter here.

Ask somebody to pick up Dirk's slack or to give him aid? Nah. Jae Crowder started for Dirk. He took three shots and scored seven points, not enough. Monta Ellis was good at 9-of-18 for 21. But he took 17 of those 18 shots before every working his way the line. Vince Carter off the bench? He was spectacular in the early going but finished 3-of-7 for eight points.

Indeed, the bunch of them were just that: Spectacular in the early-going, as Dallas scored 34 points in the first quarter ... and dismal late, as the Mavs managed that same 34 points over the course of the entire second half.

"It's very frustrating," said Carter. "I think we just have to zero in on just staying focused, staying the course, continue to do what got us to that point. I think sometimes you get comfortable. It's very frustrating."

There were other discomforting oddities and embarrassments. The 40 points for DeMar DeRozan represent the most scored by a player vs. the Mavericks this season. That's right; Dallas turned DeMar DeRozan into LeBron James (who had 39).


Meanwhile, the Mavs couldn't answer late against a Raptors team that, under old friend Dwane Casey, has Toronto playing the best fourth-quarter D in the league, allowing 22 points per.

That's 22 -- not the 12 that the Mavs scored in the final period, a number almost mirrored by the nine turnovers Dallas also had in the quarter.

"You can't throw the ball away 21 times for 25 points and give up a 40-point night to a guy who is a good (as opposed to 'great') player,'' Carlisle said. But "I believe in our team and I believe in these guys, and we're going to keep working at it. I'm going to keep believing in them."

I'm going to keep believing that these fellows know what they're doing, that a night of rest for Dirk has a payoff later, that there is something being learned by a largely veteran team that suffers an epic collapse more than one out of every four times it loses.

I also believe that the NBA will remain "hard.'' And that the games will remain "long.'' And that believing that "this is just one of those crazy years'' isn't a nearly-good enough answer.

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