After a week of recharging the battery, it’s back to work. It’s certainly different not covering a team during the playoffs. Even if the Mavs snuck in as the 8th seed in the West, a direct path to another 4-0 sweep would still have them playing around this time.
Before tackling the challenges of what to do this summer and going forward, it’s worth looking back and getting a little flustered when looking back at the games that slipped away from the Mavs. There are 10 games that really could’ve changed the course for Dallas. If they win just five of the 10, they likely find themselves in the playoffs.
Let’s look back, and get weird.
Nov. 10 at Charlotte (101-97 OT)
In the first of 11 instances for the season, the Mavs went into overtime with the game against the Bobcats. Dallas suffered a loss to Charlotte for the first time in franchise history. They had been 16-0 all time since Charlotte entered the league in 2004. Dallas led by as many as 15 points in the second half before giving up the game in overtime. The fourth quarter of that game was some of the worst basketball witnessed in quite some time. Mark Cuban cited at the end of the season that this game was the first signal that his team might be in trouble.
Nov. 12 versus Minnesota (90-82)
Dallas suffered their first home loss of the season and was entrenched in a three-game losing streak after suffering a loss to Minnesota. A loss to Minnesota doesn’t sound so bad, but the loss was magnified based on the fact the Wolves were without the services of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy.
Nov. 27 at Philadelphia (100-98)
The game marked the first of many moves to the bench for Darren Collison. He finished the game with 12 points, six assists and five steals. Turnovers plagued the team in a big way as they committed four turnovers in a span of six possessions in the fourth quarter. Vince Carter fueled a major comeback for the Mavs, but the effort ultimately fell short. In the final seconds, O.J. Mayo went to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game. After Dallas went 19-of-20 from the line, Mayo missed both free throws (the second intentionally).
Dec. 12 at Boston (117-115 2OT)
Dallas committed a season-high 28 turnovers in the double-overtime loss to Boston. Twenty-eight turnovers in a game that went to double-overtime doesn’t sound terrible, but Dallas had 22 turnovers in regulation. The Mavs were able to battle back time and time again to keep the score within reach, but a variety of issues got in their way, causing them to lose a game they easily could have won.
Dec. 14 at Toronto (95-74)
This game will be remembered for the streak that ended. The Mavs’ NBA record streak of games with a made 3-pointer met its end in Canada. They were 0-of-13 from 3-point range. Derek Fisher’s hit apparent 3 early in the fourth quarter ruled a 2-pointer after a replay review showed he had a foot on the line. Before the game against the Raptors, the last time the Mavs failed to make a 3-pointer in a game was Feb. 26, 1999. Dallas was just extremely flat, which was troubling against the lowly Toronto squad. It was the first night of a back-to-back for Dallas. In a potentially soft game to the start of the back-to-back, Dallas lost. They also went on to lose in overtime the following night in Minnesota.
Jan 5. versus New Orleans (99-96 OT)
During his exit interview in where he mentioned a unique story about his daughter, Rick Carlisle cited a home game in January that was a tough, tough loss. I’m taking a stab at it and suggesting that this was the game. At the time, New Orleans brought in the worst record in the West. Dallas had an 11-point lead in the second half only to see it disappear. Greivis Vasquez led the comeback effort, and Eric Gordon took control in overtime for New Orleans. The result of the game spoiled Dirk Nowitzki’s first start of the season.
Feb. 26 versus Milwaukee (95-90)
Dirk Nowitzki had 20/20 vision with 21 points and 20 rebounds, but he missed two shots and committed two turnovers in the final three minutes and 12 seconds. Dallas had a five-point lead with 3:12 to go and saw the lead evaporate. The performance by Vince Carter in this game was clearly an anomaly as he went 0-of-8 from the field against the Bucks.
Mar. 3 at Houston (136-103)
In the first of a critical home-and-home series against the Rockets, the Mavs laid an egg. Houston took a 64-61 lead into halftime, and ran over Dallas in the third quarter. Dallas allowed a season-high 44 points in the third quarter and scored a measly 17. Houston scored the first 15 points out of the intermission. In a game that had a lot of playoff implications, Dallas simply didn’t answer the bell.
Mar. 14 at San Antonio (92-91)
Dallas had a chance to go a perfect 4-of-4 on their road trip but they ultimately fell short against their in-state rivals. The Mavs were down eight points with 2:37 to go, but they refused to go quietly into the night as they had a strong comeback effort. The game will likely be remembered for Vince Carter taking the last shot of the game. The ball did not go to Dirk Nowitzki, who went for seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter. The decision to go to Carter was not a bad one but the shot was the bad call. He took a contested three-point shot over Tiago Splitter when they were only down one point.
Apr. 4 at Denver (95-94)
The Nuggets only led for 2.8 seconds of the second half. Unfortunately for the Mavs, it was the last 2.8 seconds of the game. Former Mav Corey Brewer grabbed an offensive rebound off a Kenneth Faried missed free throw, ensuring an extra possession for Denver. The ball wound up in Andre Iguodala’s hands and he got into the lane and recorded a layup. Denver played without Ty Lawson and lost Danilo Gallinari in the second quarter to a season-ending injury.
Apr. 10 versus Phoenix (102-91)
The Suns came into town on the second night of a back-back, on a 10-game losing streak, and with the West’s worst record. Phoenix had three scoring runs of at least 12 points. Dallas simply fell asleep in anticipation of this game. Phoenix had also lost 10 consecutive games against Dallas in the American Airlines Center before securing this victory. With this loss and the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers, the Mavs’ playoff hopes were officially laid to rest.
You could single out the consecutive games in February against the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors where there was questionable officiating at the end of the games, with the game against Portland getting an official notice from the league admitting that the officiating was poor. You could single out those games, but I’m not going to. Dallas shouldn’t be relying on officiating to bail them out of games.
Six of these losses came against teams that are not in the playoffs. Take away the scores of the Houston and Toronto games and the average deficit in the other eight games was 4.6 points. Again, if they could have won just half of those games, it likely leads to the Mavs getting into the playoffs. Instead, they have a long summer and a frustrating one. It’s going to be a summer of work, for sure. It’s longer than expected. It’s also more painful when you take some time and actually look back at the games they let slip away.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.