All-Access Pass: Clippers 119, Mavs 112

This was a game in the Mavs pocket, up seven with four minutes to play and the opposing team's best player out. The Clippers on Friday at the AAC were there for the taking. By losing 119-112, Dallas never took. Come into the locker room with us with your All-Access Pass and let watch Dirk say: 'The way we let those games slip away, I don't think we're a playoff team.'

Clippers 119, Mavs 112...

The Dallas Mavericks returned home after a couple of ugly wins closed out a perfect, 3-0, road trip. Enter the Los Angeles Clippers, led by Chris Paul, who would have to exit in the third quarter after falling hard on his right shoulder after a minor collision with Monta Ellis as Paul tried to squeeze around a screen off the dribble.

Paul would not return. In the end, the Clippers didn't need him, closing the game on a 16-2 run on their way to a 119-112 victory.

"We just gave it away too easily," Rick Carlisle said. "Defensively, they went right through us … It's very disappointing because it was an opportunity lost."

Rick's Video Visit ...

This was a game in the Mavs' pocket, up seven with four minutes to play and the opposing team's best player in the locker room. You can bemoan the free-throw disparity, which was significant (38-14), but it felt like a game there for the taking, only Dallas never stepped up and took it.

The Uncommonly common …

So often, the Mavs put together an offensive surge, building a big lead or maintaining what should evolve into an insurmountable advantage … only to see it wash away in a gust of ineptitude.

As is the increasingly familiar experience, we saw what this offense can be when firing on all cylinders, when flowing movement swims over the court, an orchestra of precision, of crisp, efficient energy.

Dallas set a season-high with 70 points in the first half (more on this below), the most in any half for the Mavs since scoring 72 March 10, 2011 against the Knicks.

And, were up only three.


A frustratingly recongizable theme …

Are we all beginning to sense a pattern here?


For all of their grace, all of the moments that lend an easy admiration, there comes a crashing rebound … sometimes watching these Mavs feels like throwing a javelin to miraculous heights, straight up, and waiting for it to come down. Frozen in place, just hoping that the wind blows enough to prevent the spear's decent from mirroring its ascent … from crashing down in the middle of our still-caught gaze.

Watch the climb … hope against the fall.

Scoring 70 while allowing 67.

Building a seven-point lead with four minutes to play, with no Chris Paul and allowing a 16-2 run to decide the outcome.

Building a lead of 17, 18, 19 and watching a loss find its way to shore.

It's not an "opportunity lost" … but a wealth of opportunities gone.

Said Dirk: "The way we let those games slip away, I don't think we're a playoff team. We've got to win those games.

"We should be able to find a way to get some stops and then protect the home court. This is another one we've just got to have. We can't afford to give games away, and that's what we did."

The Big Two …

Dirk Nowitzki (a game-time decision with an ankle problem) finished with 24 points, 10-of-17 field goals, including 4-of-5 behind the arc, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and only one turnover.

Monta Ellis had 13 points, 6-of-12 field goals, nine assists, two steals and only two turnovers.

But nobody is happy ... as you can tell from Monta's Video Visit:

They totaled two free-throw attempts between them, both from Ellis … among Clippers starters, only Jared Dudley did not attempt more, and he matched them with two of his own.

It makes sense that Blake Griffin, shooting just under 70 percent from the line entering the night, and a player any team would prefer to see at the line than posing in his newest poster mid-dunk, would have more attempts. He would take 13.

You can accept that Chris Paul is going to get his trips to the line … but you can't accept a 38-14 disparity in free-throw attempts.

Regardless of where you see the origin, whether you blame offensive style, lack of aggression, bad or lazy defense, or the referees … whatever the cause, it can't happen.

Dirk's Video Visit ...

"No way we should've lost that game,'' Nowitzki said.

And again, that "not-a-playoff-team'' evaluation ... that look like it stings for him to say it as much as it stings for you to hear it.

It's a problem …

We can decry the lack of respect Dirk seems to get certain nights, or the hits and bumps a player who's been in and out of the top spot in the league in drives per game (Monta Ellis averaged 10.5 entering Friday night, per SportsVU's Player Tracker – second only to Ty Lawson's 10.6) seems to take while ranking 15th in free-throw attempts … we can blame, make excuses, complain or uselessly chase one of a hundred other worthless threads.

It doesn't matter.

It just can't continue to happen.

11 times his season, a full one-third of their games, the Mavs have allowed their opponent to have a free-throw attempt differential of at least +10. They are 5-6 in these games.

They've been lucky.

Entering Friday night, there had been 157 NBA games featuring one team with at least 10 more attempts from the line than their opponent. The team with the free-throw advantage was 103-54 in those games.

The defense is a problem. Timely rebounds are often a problem. The lack of interior bangers with size is a problem.

They can't be compounded by gifting the opponent free points.

In these 11 games, the average point margin in the Mavs wins has been +6.6, in losses -8.8.

Regardless of the reasons, it's hard to deny free throws impacted the outcomes of those games.

The Matrix …

Over the last four games, Marion is averaging 18.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 62.3 and 54.5 field-goal and 3-point percentages, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, just 1.5 turnovers, 113.2 offensive rating and 98.9 defensive rating … including 20 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals against the Clippers.

Since the letdown of the Spurs game, Marion has gone about setting a tone of aggression, hustle and effectiveness.

He's been a leader by example … and the Mavs are 3-1.

In the first quarter, he went over 17,000 points for his career, the 82nd player in NBA history to do so.

More exclusively, as Mark Followill pointed out, Marion joined a truly elite group with at least 17,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks. There are only four members: Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett.

Marion is one of the most under-appreciated players of our time. The mere fact that there will be a debate about his Hall-of-Fame worthiness is an insult … there should never be a doubt.

Marion's Video Visit ...

The rookie …

Shane Larkin finished with eight points, 3-of-4 field goals, 1-of-1 behind the arc, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one turnover in 13:35.

None of his numbers jump off the page, though he did tie his career high in rebounds and set new highs in field-goal and 3-point percentages, Larkin changed the feel of the game.

It may be an essentially meaningless stat, but it can capture of moment at times, but Larkin was one of only four Mavs to post a positive plus/minus, and easily led the team at +12.

Mavsellaneous …

*The last time Dallas scored 70 points in the first half was a win over the New York Knicks March 10, 2011 … Mavs had 72 in the first two quarters that game.

* This was the 49th time in franchise history the Mavs scored at least 70 in the first half. They are now 42-7 in those games.

*The last time the Clippers scored 67 points in the first half of a game … and were losing: April 21, 1989 against the Seattle SuperSonics.

*The last time any team scored at least 67 in the first half, only to find themselves down at the break: the Houston Rockets, against the Miami Heat, on March 27, 2011.

*This marked Darren Collison's return to the AAC. The crowd didn't seem to notice … well, until he started to play. Collison set a season-high with 20 points, to go with four assists.
The Mavs always believed DC was a high-quality backup. Problem was, he was Dallas' starter. Now he's exactly what they projected him to be, playing behind Paul.

*The Mavs had no answer for Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. The pair combined for 50 points, 33 rebounds, six assists, four blocks, and 14-of-20 free throws … including a career high in points for Jordan, with 25.


*Let these numbers for the second half sink in:

Blake Griffin: 69.7 free-throw percentage for the season, entering Friday night.

The Dallas Mavericks: 81.2 free-throw percentage, prior to the game.

In the second half: Griffin 10-of-11 free throws.

Mavs: 6-of-10 free throws.

The Final Word ...

"We just gave it away too easily." -- Rick Carlisle.

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