Mavs Dusk In Phoenix: 'Soulless No-Shows'?

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle reacted to Sunday's bitter 98-92 loss at Phoenix by icily questioning his Mavs' very souls. He hinted at a locker-room issue and while he wouldn't divulge what that might be, I'm here to help.

The Dallas Mavericks have now gone two months without beating a winning team on the road, the latest failed test a 98-92 Sunday loss at Phoenix described by coach Rick Carlisle as a (first-half) "no-show'' in which his club was unable to demonstrate its "soul.''

"We were a no-show as a team -- coaches, players, everybody,'' Carlisle said. "It was an embarrassment. ... The basketball gods are going to get you when you don't show up to play for 24 minutes. That's what happened ... We don’t play hard all the time, and that’s a problem.''

The Mavs (44-27) come home with their tail 'tween their legs -- and with the schedule demanding they face the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs twice in a four-day span -- knowing that the Phoenix game is one that represents a potential win "there for the taking,'' as TV voice Mark Followill called it.

But it was also there for the "giving,'' and Dallas' vaunted backcourt did just that to key a loss that, to me, is far more about the hole dug (and the shovels behind it) than the almost-comeback.

Barea was unavailable to play in the game due to injury. Devin was unavailable to continue due to injury. But fine. Rondo/Monta vs. Bledsoe/Tucker is tha matchup that needed to be won, anyway, so ...


Rajon Rondo was unable to stop anybody in the Suns backcourt, as evidenced by the first two periods alone for Bledsoe, who was plus-17 for the half, and Parker, who scored 14 in the just first quarter. And Monta? He was scoreless in the first three quarters of Friday's loss to Memphis, and he followed that up here by going 0-for-6 in the first half of this game until he finally got a buzz-beating teardrop to fall, taking the deficit to 57–42.

The shooting percentages at the half tell a story; without Monta's late shot, Dallas was around 33 percent and the Suns around 55 percent.

But the issues here go deeper than team stats and missed shots -- though Ellis would keep missing them, helping to ruin Dallas' third-quarter comeback that actually meant the Mavs led 86-80 midway through the fourth. (Monta finished with 11 empty points on 4-of-22 shooting, including 0-of-8 in the final quarter, as Carlisle kept calling that number, to no avail.)

Issues: Dirk Nowitzki's energy is not there (he managed to score 10). Tyson's rebounding assistance is not there (TY grabbed 11 but Dallas was out-boarded 49-40). I bet Rick offered up an ass-chewing halftime talk and I bet the fellas were pumped that little-used Raymond Felton was part of the comeback and I know the backcourt of Bledsoe and Parker is solvable (they settled for 20 and 15, respectively). But when the coach says things about his guys' "souls'' and then directs the media to quit asking him about it and to instead quiz the perps after saying, “We’ve got to be a more together team; it’s work and it takes effort in the locker room, it takes sacrifice, and we’ve got to be willing to do those things,'' ... I also bet I know the code:

There is an issue in the locker room regarding either:

1) Purse-strings.

2) Personality.

3) Playing time.

4) Power.


If you read, you already know which number to guess. Go back to our "Cheating The Game'' piece from 10 days ago. Now go to our man Mike Marshall's Twitter feed and dig around. The answers are all there. "P No. 4,'' Power, was a problem solved with Rondo by handing him the "keys to the car.'' But "P No. 1 has been brewing for almost as long. ... and it's the sort of locker-room no-no that often causes a good team made up of good men to disintegrate.

Carlisle said it's not his place (for the moment) to identify the specifics of the problem, obviously hoping his veteran guys will themselves police and correct what ails the Mavs. And he's right. This is not a Mark Cuban issue, a Donnie Nelson issue or a Carlisle issue. That Triangle of Trust has assembled a roster fully capable of at least "showing up,'' fully capable of at least "playing hard all the time,'' and fully capable of demonstrating that it has a soul.

If, indeed, these Dallas Mavericks actually have one.

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