Defensive debacle 'beyond embarrassing'

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
11:22
PM CT
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks’ latest defensive disaster caused one painful phrase to pop into coach Rick Carlisle’s mind:

“Other than saying ‘beyond embarrassing,’ I don’t know what to say.”

Carlisle’s sentiments came after the Portland Trail Blazers ran a 36-minute layup line Saturday night en route to a 127-111 rout of the Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.

[+] EnlargeMavericks defense
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThe defense of the Mavs' starters was particularly porous Saturday against Portland. But the bench rose to the occasion. "Everybody's just got to work a little harder," Dirk Nowitzki said, "and compete like the guys did in the fourth quarter today."

The final score really doesn’t do justice to what an awful outing this was by the Mavs’ regulars. The Dallas reserves dominated garbage time to make the outcome appear to at least be remotely respectable. But this potential playoff preview was a pathetic performance by the home team.

The Blazers deserve some credit. After all, led by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard, Portland is the NBA’s highest-scoring team.

But it’s absolutely ridiculous to allow anybody to make it look as easy as the Blazers did in the first three quarters, when Portland scored more than half of its 104 points in the paint. The Dallas defense was terrible in transition and horrific in the half court. The Mavs could have laid out rose petals to show the Blazers the way to the rim, if that didn't require a little effort.

“It’s on all of us as a team,” Dallas center Samuel Dalembert said. “It’s embarrassing. As you can see, things didn’t go the way we anticipated.”

Anyone else who was surprised either hasn’t been paying attention or is in denial.

Breaking news: The Mavs are a bad defensive team.

They allow the sixth most points in the NBA this season. That tends to happen when your starting lineup features two guards with terrible defensive reputations (Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis), a 35-year-old power forward who has always been severely limited athletically (Dirk Nowitzki) and a maddeningly inconsistent big man who is asked to clean up a lot of the messes (Dalembert).

The problem is the Mavs, with all their new pieces, aren’t showing progress defensively. They’re regressing, actually, at least against quality competition.

This was the eighth game the Mavs played in the past month against a team that is in position to make the Western Conference playoffs. They’re 2-6 in those games and have allowed an average of 117.1 points on 50.2 percent shooting from the floor.

The Mavs have twice this week alone had halves during which they allowed 70 or more points. Even with their personnel flaws, that’s a shameful failure to execute and compete.

“Everybody’s just got to work a little harder, make the catches a little harder and compete like the guys did in the fourth quarter today,” Nowitzki said. “That’s the only way to play. Like I said, I don’t think we’re talented enough to coast through games or coast through quarters. We’re just not good enough.”

Most fans missed the one bright spot for the Mavs in this blowout. Can you blame folks for fleeing for the exits with the home team trailing by 34 points entering the fourth quarter?

But the Mavs’ bench made up enough ground, going on a 17-0 run at one point, to make Portland coach Terry Stotts put his starters back on the floor with 4:19 remaining. As humiliated as he was, Carlisle made sure to recognize the effort of DeJuan Blair, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin in the final frame, using it as a threat to the Mavs’ regulars.

“I’m going to find guys that are going to fight and get them in the game,” Carlisle said. “Simple as that.”

The Mavs’ defensive flaws really aren’t that complicated. They’re just hard to fix without some major roster remodeling.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2