Mavs Fall in Orlando: Is The Sky Falling in Dallas?
A few weeks ago, the Dallas Mavericks were riding high, sitting in right in the middle of the Western Conference Playoff race. Hey, we felt good vibes from being at an arduous practice on Wednesday and then while watching the trade deadline go by with inactivity that we let ourselves dream about a climb to No. 5 in the West.
Now, after a brutal 110-104 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday to open the post-All-Star-Break stretch run, 29-27 Dallas has lost five of its last six games and sits in sixth but just a game-and-a-half ahead of being outside of one of the top eight spots.
Maybe it was rust from the Mavs 10-day rest period during the All-Star Break, or maybe the 24-29 Magic were just a bad matchup. What we do know after Friday night is that the Mavericks hold on their playoff spot is waning. Fast.
“They came out, and they looked fresher than us with their young legs,” Deron Williams said. “We were just playing catch-up.”
The first quarter was a rough one for the Mavs, as they fell behind Orlando 31-13 heading into the second quarter. The offense just wasn’t there in the early going, and it put the Mavs in a big hole that they would have to fight and claw their way out of.
“We had a horrible start to the game. ... Obviously, they’re very athletic, and they jumped all over us,'' said Dirk Nowitzki. “We were kind of sleep-walking out of the Break ...''
That is a frank, and a damning, admission.
Chandler Parsons did his best to bring the Mavs back with a barrage of 3’s throughout the rest of the game, hitting six of seven from the field and scoring 24 points. Dallas would even take a 14-point lead at one point in the game, but unfortunately, outside of an 11-point/19-rebound performance from Zaza Pachulia, and a 25-point effort from Deron, the Mavs struggled to keep their lead over the youthful Magic.
“Against any team, it’s tough to come back from a deficit like that,'' Parsons said. "But we did a good job fighting and scratching our way back in. It’s a disappointing loss for where we want to get to and what we’re playing for, and we can’t have many more of these types of losses.”
Inconsistency from the free-throw line, coupled with 18 turnovers and Orlando’s 63-45 domination of the boards would ultimately doom the Mavs in the end. The offense, which was on fire throughout a majority of the second and third quarters, fell apart down the stretch, scoring just 23 points over the last 17 minutes of game time.
“We spent so much energy coming back from being down so early and so quick, it was just like we ran out of gas, and they just got stronger,” D-Will said. “They made the plays when they had to, they got stops when they had to, and in the fourth quarter and overtime we only scored 23 points. That’s the ballgame right there.”
In Dirk's opinion, this is on him. "I had a good look for the game-winner. I should have just made it and gone on home. So that's on me." (Here's Dirk's postgame visit:)
In coach Rick Carlisle's opinion, this is part of a re-evaluation of who's who in the clutch: "I told the team yesterday, there's nobody in indelible marker as a closer on this team, with the exception of Dirk and D-Will. Those guys are going to be in there. The rest of it has to be earned."
That's a harsh reality for a guy like Wes Matthews, who is struggling -- and causing outsiders, for certain to wonder about when that $70-mil value is going to reveal itself.
Frustrations came to a head in the overtime period, when Parsons and Pachulia got into it after a made jumper from the top of the key. Both players later said it was "nothing'' and made peace together in the locker room, but the moment seemed to be a microcosm of the Mavs night in the end.
Now, after a NBA-leading ninth straight overtime game, the Mavs find themselves in a frustrating and all-too-familiar position of defeat. They can scramble for help via the buyout route ...
But besides looking around the streets, when they look around in the standings, the bottom seems infinitely nearer than when they look up at the top. And when they look up, they might see the sky falling.