'Heartbreak Ridge': Clips Nip Mavs Again

'All these three losses in this homestand have been heartbreakers,' Dirk said following Thursday's 109-103 all-to-familiar collapse against the Clippers. 'But we've got to swallow it and try to be better.' Our analysis - including Video Visits with Jose, Vince, Dirk and Rick - will help us understand it. But maybe not swallow it.

DONUT 1: 'Heartbreak Ridge' ...

Trace over a perfect row of shark teeth and your finger will rise and fall. Climbing and descending sharp angles, from peak to canyon, like the dragging of emotion and hope from health to hurt from game to game. Entering game six of the longest homestand in the franchise's history, the The Dallas Mavericks had watched their results flutter from win to loss to win to loss … and so on.

No result had been duplicated consecutively, for every moment of triumph there came its perfect opposite, coming off OKC win a gratifying win over Oklahoma City and there the Los Angeles Clippers waited … up and down and up and right back down.
In a game that featured six technical foul calls, all in the second half, including a single incident early in the third that drew three when Shawn Marion was first shoved by Chris Paul and then again by Matt Barnes as Marion went out of bounds, causing Marion to confront Barnes ... emotions were as high as the playoff implications.

Dallas crumbled late, allowing the Clippers to close with a 12-2 run, déjà vu all over again for the Mavs against this team this season, losing by a final of 109-103, falling two behind the Memphis Grizzlies in the loss column and one behind the Phoenix Suns.

All of this brought about the other obvious result of dragging one's finger over a shark's teeth … the blood.

And the heartbreak.

DONUT 2: Dirk's Video Visit …

"All these three losses in this homestand have been heartbreakers,'' Dirk said, "so it's tough. But we've got to swallow it and try to be better."

DONUT 3: The final five minutes …

The Mavs led by as much as 11 in the fourth quarter. That lead had been trimmed to five with five minutes to play. From that moment on, only frustration awaited.

Ball-movement vanished from the offense. No longer was the Clippers defense challenged as Dirk Nowitzki went uncharacteristically cold, missing all four attempts he took in the final five minutes and committing a personally rare turnover. One of the best offenses in the league became a group of disconnected individuals, and the game slipped away.

Even what may have been the two best plays of the final five minutes for Dallas, both charges drawn by Monta Ellis, came directly following offensive failures (a terrible miss by Jose Calderon that may not have drawn iron, and a Dirk attempt blocked by Blake Griffin).

How that final five minutes looked by the numbers? Outscored 16-5. Outshot 3-of-8 to 1-of-9. Out-free-throwed 10-of-10 to 3-of-7. Outrebounded 10 to 4.

When you only have one turnover and still have as many turnovers as made field goals, there are going to be problems.

DONUT 4: Dirk's late struggle …

At the end of three quarters, Dirk was having his way with Blake Griffin. Nowitzki had 19 points, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor, 1-of-2 behind the arc and 4-of-5 from the line. Griffin appeared helpless to deter the big German from getting whatever he wanted at the offensive end, even if an observer may have desired a few more attempts.

The game was tied, heading into the realm recently ruled by Monta Ellis, a kingdom Dirk has grown comfortable resting at or near the apex of.

While there were certainly more than a handful of defensive lapses, it was more surprising to see the offense let Dallas down late, led by the inefficient play of Dirk and Ellis.

Dirk missed all six shot attempts he took in the fourth and went 2-of-5 from the line, including making only one of three with 3:05 to play in a two-point game (after his single make) … and somewhere a universe cracked in half, reality unable to remain intact, gravity disproved, all that binds discredited.

From there we should have known what was coming. When Dirk misses two of three from the line with the game on the line, it's safe to assume things simply weren't meant to go the Mavs way … and they didn't.

Dirk finished with: 21 points, 7-of-15 field goals, 1-of-4 behind the arc, nine rebounds, three assists and three turnovers.

DONUT 5: Monta's game-long struggles …

Monta Ellis began the game aggressively attacking, getting to the rim five times in the first quarter. It was the style of play you love to see from Ellis. Unfortunately, he missed all five attempts.
The level of difficulty was high at times, but these were attempts that more often than not are rewarded with points, whether from a made basket, free throws, or a teammate cleaning up after opponent's rebounders are left out of position having helped stop Monta's penetration.

They simply weren't falling.

Late, Ellis settled for a couple of poor attempts and could never quite get on track, but continued to shoot, racking up more attempts than all but one other game in March and had his second least efficient shooting game of the season, making just 4-of-19.

Monta's final numbers: 12 points, 4-of-19 field goals, 0-of-2 behind the arc, 4-of-4 free throws, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and three turnovers.

DONUT 6: Frustration growing …

While it's no surprise to see Matt Barnes act as an instigator with a needless push added on to the end of a play, and less surprising than some would expect to find Chris Paul involved, it is rare to see Marion show as much anger as he did early in the third on the play that ended up gathering a trio of technical fouls.

Whether it's the physical play of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the whistle-chasing acting of Chris Paul or the purposeful annoyance of Barnes, the Clippers are a team designed to frustrate opponents.

In the last meeting, we saw the game seem to shift with five technicals called in the second half, three on the Mavs … even if the initial reaction was a scoring burst for Dallas.

In this matchup, there were six techs called after the intermission, again three on Dallas.

Perhaps it's irrelevant to the outcome, but the fact that the frustration was there in the first place likely was not.

Chris Paul's take: "We just keep fighting. Obviously we have to get better because we're a very emotional team. As you can see we probably lead the league in techs or something like that. This game was crazy, yall saw it.''

And if that's true for the team that keeps winning in this hateful matchup, it goes double for the team that keeps losing.

DONUT 7: On the bright side …

After this brand of loss, it can be hard to find something worthy of praise. Given Vince Carter's play, that wasn't the case here.

Carter tied a season high with 23 points by hitting 9-of-13 field goals, including 4-of-5 behind the arc, and added one block and three turnovers. On his own, Carter outscored the entire Clippers' bench 23-21.

For the first time this season, the Mavs lost when Carter hit at least 60 percent of his shots … they are now 7-1 in such games.

Vince's Video Visit:

DONUT 8: Never miss …

Jae Crowder scored eight of his 13 points in the second quarter, without missing in the quarter or the game.

Brandan Wright would take only three shots, making all three to finish with eight points.

That would make Crowder and Wright 8-of-8 from the floor for 21 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks and only one turnover.

They also led the Mavs in plus/minus, Crowder leading the way at +17 with Wright at +14 … in a game the Mavs lost by six.

DONUT 9: An unfriendly trend …

Chuck Cooperstein notes that three games vs. LAC have ended with the Clips having a 16-2 run in last 7:00, a 23-4 run in the last 4:47 and a 27-10 run over last 8:20. Here it was also a 12-2 in last 1:47.

Against the Clippers this season, so it goes for the Mavs … apparently.

Dallas will get one more chance in Los Angeles on April 3rd, and hopefully that frustrating trend will come to an end.

"We just haven't done a good job (at closing out the Clippers),'' Rick Carlisle said. "It's as simple as that. We have another shot at them next week so we have to aim at that. But we have games in the meantime and they are all important so we just have to shake this one off and get ready for the next one."

DONUT 10: Doesn't get easier …

The Mavs have nine games remaining. Five come against current playoff teams: Golden State to close the homestand next Tuesday, at the Clippers, Spurs and Suns in Dallas and at Memphis in the final game of the season.

Meaning? Saturday's matchup with the Kings is about as close as they come to a complete "must-win."

For more details on the "monster'' West playoff race, click in here.

DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous …

*The three Dallas losses so far in this eight-game homestand have come by a combined total of 10 points.

*Samuel Dalembert staring the game strong despite being a "game-time decision" with a sore back, grabbing eight boards in the first quarter alone and 11 by the half. Unfortunately, he would not collect another rebound in his eight minutes after the intermission.

Dalembert finished with six points, 11 rebounds and one block in just over 22 minutes.

Over the last five games, Dalembert is averaging: 7.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 23.2 minutes.

^Chris Paul scored two points on Wednesday in a loss at New Orleans. He scored 31 here.

*Over the last five games, Mavs opponents have averaged 23 points-off-turnovers.

That's not good. ... as acknowledged by Jose Calderon:

For frame of reference, their average allowed over the season has hovered around 16.

*The Mavs bench outscored the Clippers 51-21.

That 51 is the most the Mavs bench has scored since they scored 59 in a loss to Golden State March 11th.

*Delonte West is back in town after playing in China and apparently is living in Dallas. But probably not sleeping in the AAC locker room.

*The Mavs have themselves some big-picture issues down the stretch. They are addressed from every angle with the infamous DB.com Mavs Podcast here on iTunes and up and running below as well ... with a very special cast of characters:

Mike Fisher, Kevin Turner and Mike Marshall pull up a chair to the hoops roundtable to kick around the issues as the Mavs heat up ...

The DallasBasketball.com Mavs Podcast:

DONUT 12: Quoteboard ...

"We were trying to find a hot hand at the end and it was just a struggle. It was a struggle to get the ball into the basket. Monta had it a couple of times, Dirk had it a couple of times, Vince had it once, Jose had it once and we had some uncharacteristically off-shots. A couple of them were just unusually bad misses.'' -- Carlisle on Dallas' fourth-quarter shooting woes.

The expanded Mavs Quoteboard is here.

Here's more Carlisle, Rick's Video Visit:

"We have to shake it off,'' Rick said. "I didn't do an analysis just now but I think our guys are disappointed. They fought hard. We made mistakes and mistakes are very costly. ... 18 turnovers in a game like this for 24 points is too many, so, decision-making has got to be better.

"It's basically 'the next game becomes the most important game of the year,' that's just how it is going to be, every one down the stretch."

DONUT 13: The Final Word …

Entrenched in "the playoffs to make the playoffs,'' Dallas can't afford to simply trade shots, which is essentially what they are doing as they alternate wins and losses, now sitting at 3-3 on this homestand, having not won or lost two games consecutively.

The postseason is on the line. This is no time to be tracing the silhouette of a shark's teeth as the wins and losses are charted, it leads to blood, to a season cutoff at 82.


"It's very frustrating,'' Vince said, "but we fought like hell to give ourselves a chance to win in the end and that's all you can ask for."

With nine games to play, time is running out. And we're daring to ask for more.

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