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Uh. Oh.

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Josh Howard poured in 30 points. Jason Kidd finally had himself a game with 19 points and 15 assists. And the Dallas Mavericks unleashed a 70-point first half on the Denver Nuggets.

So, guess what? The Mavs’ margin on 7th place in the Western Conference is all but poof. Nuggets: 118. Mavs: 105. Tightening sphincters: Countless.

After a gritty, gutty, glorious start last night, it all fell apart. The offense sputtered to 32 second-half points. Juwan Howard logged quality minutes. And Kidd’s Mavs fell to 0-9 against winning teams.

With Dirk Nowitzki still in a walking boot and Dallas clearly in reverse, it doesn’t look good. After last night, the Nuggets own the tie-breaker over Dallas by winning the season series. Avery Johnson, in fact, said in a panic before tip that it was a “single elimination game.” A tad hyperbolic, I’d say, since true March Madness would send the Mavs packing. Instead, they’re heading to Golden State for a Sunday-nighter that could drop them to 8th friggin’ place, or even out-of-the-playoffs 9th.

So distraught is the situation that we’re clinging to motivation from, of all people, Charles Barkley.

“Jason Kidd is the best leader we’ve got in our sport,” the noted Mavs’ harpooner said at halftime of TNT’s broadcast. “They’re going to make the playoffs.”

Kidd’s still a decent player. Someday he’ll be a Hall of Famer. But leader? Of whom? To where? Last night's improvement notwithstanding, seems to me the only direction he’s driving the Mavs is the lottery. --Richie Whitt

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