While I was out last week the Dallas Mavericks blew a seven-point lead in the final minute in a flabbergasting loss in New Orleans. Afterward, head coach Rick Carlisle called his team "soft."
Veteran shooting guard Jason Terry bristled at the suggestion, saying "I'm not soft, not me. I don't know where that comes from, but we ain't soft."
Upon further review - 96-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday night, I'm looking at you - yes Terry, you and your team are indeed soft.
In front of the largest regular-season crowd in American Airlines Center Mavs' history, Dallas lost to the Lakers despite committing only five turnovers, outrebounding L.A. by five, blocking nine shots and having the luxury of Kobe Bryant miss a big chunk of the second half with a sprained ankle.
I'll say it again, Caron Butler has something the Mavs desperately need. An edge. A willingness to dive on the floor. To get a flagrant foul. To refuse to settle for the open jumper and drive the ball to the basket.
At this point - despite two seperate 17-1 stretches this season - the Mavs won't catch the Spurs for the best record in the West and, in fact, they'll finish No. 3 behind the charging Lakers. Why?
I've got some examples and, Terry, you're not gonna like 'em.
The Mavs trailed the Lakers, 84-79, with five minutes remaining. Their next six shots were all jumpers from at least 15 feet. Still, the Mavs had a shot, down three with 12 seconds remaining.
Off a perfect inbounds play, Terry got the ball wide open just outside the lane on the low block. But instead of going up for a dunk, possibly drawing a foul and creating a game-tying three-point play, he tried a finesse flip that caromed off the rim and out.
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When the Mavs are good, they're great. If the outside shots are falling, they can beat anybody anywhere anytime. But if not, I still don't see a relilable Plan B.
A couple of missed shots and all the sudden J.J. Barea over-dribbles and Dirk Nowitzki forces shots and Terry, well he just keeps catching-and-shooting. Against the Lakers he was six of 16, missing four of five 3-pointers.
Reminded me of last spring's playoff loss to the Spurs when Terry was as passive as he was horrible. Reminded me, yet again, that these Mavs aren't different enough to believe they won't wind up the same as those Mavs.