Another game for the Dallas Mavericks, another loss. The Portland Trailblazers blew out the Mavs 104-96 in a game that was never really close. Six games in ten days, three back-to-back games on the road, has taken a toll. Without Tyson Chandler for the game, out with a back contusion, the Mavs knew they had their work cut out for them before they took the court.
Brendan Haywood got the start at center and performed well. LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 18 points, well below his season average of 31 points against the Mavs in their three previous matchups coming into Sunday night. Haywood played hard, adding 5 points while grabbing 11 rebounds.
Haywood was not the only change to the starting lineup. Rick Carlisle must have decided that the DeShawn Stevenson experiment was not going to work and put Shawn Marion back into the starting lineup. Marion responded by leading the team in scoring, going 8-11, 19 points, while grabbing 5 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki, with 16 points, and J.J. Barea, with 12 points, were the only other Mavericks to score in double digits. Jason Kidd put up another 0 in the points column, shooting 0-6, with five of those shots coming beyond the arc.
The Mavs once again fell behind earlier, trailing 23-17 after the first quarter, behind 10 big points from Aldridge. Things only got worse in the second quarter with the Mavs surrendering 38 points while tallying 29. The Mavs allowed 61 points in the first half. The Mavs were unable to get any closer in the third quarter, falling further behind, trailing by 18 points. The game was more or less over at that point. The Mavs were able to close the gap and make it somewhat respectable, but they never got close or threatened to take the lead.
While I understand that Tyson Chandler is the heart of the team’s defense, the problem was not in the middle, but at guard. The size disparity between the two clubs was obvious and a huge problem for the Mavs. If these two teams meet in the first round, and it very well could happen, the Mavs are going to have to find a way to neutralize the size advantage of the Trailblazers. Perhaps a zone defense will need to be used. I don’t have the answer, but I do that if something does not change, the team will not have to worry about playing the Lakers or Spurs.
After three straight losses, and ugly losses at that, anxiety is beginning to build. The team looks very tired. Some of that is due to an unbelievable, and unfair, schedule. Three back-to-back games, all on the road, is unfairly arduous. With this team, with their age, and at the end of the season when a lot of games have already been played, it is even worse.
The players seem to be acknowledging some concern as well. When Dirk Nowitzki was asked if he was concerned about the way his team is playing as they head towards the playoffs, he responded by saying, “Worried a bit much. Obviously this is a little late to be going down. Definitely disappointed. But it could be worse — this could be the playoffs.”
Good point Dirk. But in a few weeks it will be the playoffs. Will this team be ready? No one knows for sure but right now there is hardly any good reasons to believe that they will be ready and able to win and make a deep run. But lets not get ahead of ourselves.
The team has a much needed two days to rest and recover. They are finally back home which should also help. The Mavs will be back at it on Wednesday against the feisty and dangerous Denver Nuggets. Denver just beat the Lakers, in L.A., yesterday and look to be a team that could cause some problems in the postseason. So they will provide a great test for the Mavericks and an opportunity for the team to show that the season is far from over.