The Dallas Mavericks are trying to work through some honest realities -- you know, like what words to use, exactly, to describe "tanking'' -- but came out of a Monday visit to San Antonio with words like “pathetic,'' “disrespectful” and “lacking in humility” hanging over the game like a dark cloud.
No, the Mavs weren't “pathetic,'' “disrespectful”, and “lacking in humility” in this 96-91 loss to the Spurs.
The Spurs were.
"That was a pathetic performance on the part of the Spurs," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "(The Mavs) had a lot more (guys) out than we did. I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent."
It is, of course, never easy to go into San Antonio and pull out a win. Even when, as was the case with LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker here, Spurs stars are riding the pine. The fact is, with the way San Antonio’s franchise and team are run, they can plug-and-play just about anyone and be in the conversation to win a game.
Yet the much-maligned Mavericks, despite being a pedestrian offensive team at best, had a darn good shot at walking away from the AT&T Center with a victory. With Dirk, Bogut, Deron, J.J. and Devin Harris all sidelined, that is an even more impressive feat for the struggling Mavs.
"Impressive feats,'' obviously, being relative.
That’s one of the things about this team that still gets people like me to watch and write about them night-in and night-out: despite their obvious shortcomings and limitations, they compete for a full 48 minutes. This isn’t a team that is phoning it in. It's not losing on purpose. It's just losing. ... and here, did so with The Undraftables, as Seth Curry, Wes Matthews, Dorian Finney-Smith and Salah Mejri all started and Nico Brussino and Jonathan Gibson came off the bench -- none of them having been drafted.
“A lot of positives,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the loss. “It comes down to a game of inches. The untimely turnovers and a few unfortunate misses when we had open looks were the difference, but we’re doing an awful lot of things well.”
Maybe that has a lot to do with the head coach? Again, you’ve at least got to respect their effort.
After solid outings from Curry (a career-high 23 points), Matthews (20 points), and Harrison Barnes (20 points), it really looked for a while like this team would upset the reigning Southwest Division champs. Unfortunately for the now 2-11 Mavs, even a "disrespectful'' foe is better than they are.
It was the emergence of Curry that kept the Mavs afloat throughout the night, with him going 9-16 from the floor and 5-10 from three to go along with four assists. He hit some tough shots, including a couple that reminded us a little bit of his big brother over in the Bay Area.
Barnes was 9-18 from the floor, and pulled down nine rebounds, in a game which showed Mavs fans exactly what Barnes can do on the offensive end. As has been the case for the vast majority of this season, Barnes has been in control and efficient on the offensive end, knocking down tough contested shots, seemingly with ease.
What doomed the Mavs in the end was sloppy turnovers and bad decisions in the second half, allowing the Spurs to escape with a win in front of their home crowd. Combine bad turnovers with some big missed free throws, and its going to be really hard to win against a Pop-coached team.
Said Barnes: “We were right there. Seth played great and was hitting shots. Wes was hitting shots and was getting in the lane as well. That was great from that perspective. We battled.''
And the Spurs kinda didn't ... and still won.
"A very pathetic performance at both ends,'' Pop said, "in execution, in grunt, in fiber, in desire. It was an awful performance. Oh, and (the Mavericks) deserved to win the game. I forgot to say that."
But San Antonio won that game, despite missing two of their three best players, with Kawhi Leonard (24 points, nine rebounds and four assists on 8-19 shooting) having to do most of the heavy lifting. And in their psychological defense: What else can you really expect your team to think when you yourself, as a coach don’t think the Mavs deserve enough respect as a competitor to play Parker and Aldridge?
Looking at the schedule, 2-11 Dallas (which plays host to the Clippers on Wednesday) threatens to be stuck right around that same win total by the time they see this same Spurs team again on November 30th in Dallas. Maybe Pop will come to play with his full arsenal.
But maybe, as MFFL's continue to eyeball Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson or Lonzo Ball joining Our Boys In Blue next year at the American Airlines Center, it won't matter who Pop plays that night.