Not long ago, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said, “We’re not playing for ping-pong balls.’’
That sounds like an April Fool's joke at the moment. But even if you’re an MFFL who agrees with Rick's sentiment, in the wake of yet another loss, a 99-90 decision Friday at Memphis, there is another approach you can take.
Continue to wish the 31-44 Mavs milk some good out of the close of the season … while wishing even harder that the lotto-worthy teams around them flop.
The Grizzlies are how “the other half’’ lives right now, Mike Conley (28 points), Zach Randolph (22) and Troy Daniels (21) leading them to a win that clinches a playoff berth for Memphis. This means seven straight playoff appearances for the Grizzlies, which of course used to be Mavs territory, too.
Dallas is left celebrating its “try-hards,’’ and this game was eventually that. The Mavs, now losers of four straight, were on their way to getting buried before almost overcoming a 15-point hole with a fourth-quarter deficit. Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea and Wesley Matthews hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minutes to bring Dallas to within 94-90 with 68 seconds left.
"It shows we have fight, but we have to show more fight at the beginning of games," Carlisle said. "It's just a matter of force."
He’s talking especially about a cold-shooting second quarter (when Dallas made only 2 of 18 shots) , about 22-percent shooting for the entire first half, and about Memphis lead that grew to 21 before intermission.
"We obviously showed them in the second half that we can do it and that we can get some stops," said Nowitzki, proud of a comeback in a game in which he contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds but went jut 3-of-17 from the floor. "We just have to put a consistent game together."
From our vantage point, as long as that striving for consistency includes stuff like Nico Brussino playing (as it did here) and stuff like Seth Curry resting his sore shoulder (as may be the case in the Sunday matinee at Milwaukee), fine.
Let’s get the Mavs’ fellow cellar-dwellers to do their parts.
The Mavericks are 11th in the West, six games behind eighth-seeded Portland with seven games left on the schedule. So that “race’’ is essentially over. “The Race To The Bottom’’? That is on, as long as we agree that “eighth’’ is more “bottom’’ than “ninth,’’ and more valuable, too. (We are "Frank (Ntilikina) About Dallas Goals'' here.)
Some thoughts along “The Race To The Bottom":
*The Mavs presently own the ninth-worst record in the league, a half-game behind Minnesota in “The Race To The Bottom.’’
*The next Mavs loss or Portland win eliminates Dallas from playoff contention. The Suns (in the 3 hole in the lotto) play at Portland tonight. The Suns will try hard to lose.
*New Orleans is 33-43, just behind Dallas in 10th place … but as the Pels owe their pick to the Kings, they have no reason to tank.
*MIN has 30 wins. Dallas can easily “catch’’ the T-Wolves, who presently hold the No. 8 spot. Minny plays host to the Kings tonight.
*The Kings have 29 wins. If they stay in the bottom 10, they get to keep their pick. They are presently sixth in the ping-pong ball count.
*The Sixers (fifth with 28 wins) and the Knicks (seventh with 29) are likely uncatchable for Dallas.
In summary: The Mavs can continue to say this isn’t about the ping-pong balls, and despite some of their subtle actions, they can actually mean it. (You can hit the Lotto Simulator here.) But Mavs-watchers can still watch the Timberwolves, especially, hoping that their outcomes impact Dallas’ ping-pong balls.