Commentary

Inferior rivals giving Dallas fits at home

Sixers' visit turns into unnecessary struggle for survival, troubling trend for Mavericks

Updated: December 1, 2009, 9:03 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks shouldn't have needed a dramatic finish to extend the Philadelphia 76ers' losing streak to seven games.

But that's what happened after the Mavs managed to blow an 11-point lead in the final six minutes and needed Jason Terry to hit a contested turnaround jumper with seconds remaining to squeak out a 104-102 win.

"Some nights, it's about survival," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

This should not have been one of them.

In a game that should have ended with garbage time, the Mavs breathed a big sigh of relief when Sixers star Andre Iguodala's jumper didn't go down at the buzzer. The victory at the American Airlines Center extended a troubling trend of the Mavs struggling to finish off inferior competition at home.

"I guess we'll take it at this point, but for sure we've got to find ways to put teams away and not let them hang around," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 28 points. "If Iguodala hits that shot today, we would have been sitting here sick. We've got to do a better job down the stretch closing games, keeping leads.

That's definitely something we'll address."

It's something the Mavs addressed after their last home game, when a Golden State squad limited to six healthy players rallied for a stunning win. That game came on the heels of the Sacramento Kings scoring 12 points in the final minute to give the Mavs a scare. The Warriors outscored the Mavs by a 22-5 margin in the final six minutes, so perhaps the finish against the Sixers should be considered an improvement.

It can't be considered acceptable for a team that expects to be contenders.

"We can't be doing that," forward Shawn Marion said. "Once we've got teams on their heels, we've got to keep them on their heels."

The Mavs' problems late in home games are difficult to pinpoint. They didn't have a problem putting their sneakers on opponents' throats when given the opportunity on their recent road trip, which featured blowout wins over the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers.

Carlisle pointed out way too many defensive breakdowns when he made the Mavs watch the fourth quarter of their loss to the Warriors. The Mavs also tend to get stagnant offensively down the stretch, often resulting in tough shots that lead to transition defensive opportunities for the opponent.

It doesn't help matters that the Mavs' list of medical issues is so long. Center Erick Dampier returned Monday after an eight-game absence because of an undisclosed illness. Josh Howard is out indefinitely while he continues to rehab from ankle surgery. Marion is playing on a sore ankle. Quinton Ross is sidelined with lower back pain.

Carlisle has resorted to playing his starters more minutes than he would like, especially with 36-year-old Jason Kidd. However, as Carlisle noted, the sympathy cards aren't pouring into his mailbox. The injuries are a problem, but not an excuse for poor finishes.

"We'll figure it out," Terry said. "I'm glad it's early on in the season. At home, we're a much better team than we've been showing at this particular point. It's no secret that that's definitely an area this team has to get better."

Especially with the competition getting better.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at tim.macmahon@espn3.com.

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