Commentary

Mavs at home: 'One big question mark'

Dirk Nowitzki's return was ruined as Dallas fell to the embattled Trail Blazers

Updated: December 23, 2009, 12:36 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki's recently lacerated right elbow didn't bother him too much Tuesday night. But his back was aching from trying to carry the Dallas Mavericks at home again.

The Mavs had another miserable offensive night at the American Airlines Center, shooting 38.8 percent from the floor. They've managed to pull out wins on many of those types of occasions this season, but that wasn't the case against a pesky Portland team that was dealt yet another devastating injury.

Portland's 85-81 victory was the Mavericks' fifth loss at home, one more than they have on the road. The Mavs' home record would be mediocre if not for a handful of dominant Dirk clutch performances, but he had a good look go in and out in the final minute and didn't touch the ball when Dallas had a chance to tie or take the lead on their final possession.

"It just feels like at home I've got to make every shot down the stretch to win," said Nowitzki, who had 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting in his first game since a gruesome collision Friday night with Houston's Carl Landry. "That's how it feels. If I don't make it, like that pull-up left, we're losing. I don't know; we've got to figure something out."

Nowitzki, who played with a big pad protecting his elbow days after getting parts of two of Landry's teeth removed from it, brimmed with frustration after the Mavericks failed to find a way to beat a Portland team that has to lead the league in bad luck.

Trail Blazers big man Joel Przybilla is out indefinitely after rupturing and dislocating the patella tendon in his right knee during the first quarter. He joins center Greg Oden, forward Nicolas Batum and forward Travis Outlaw as key players on Portland's long-term injury list.

"It's nerve-racking just to take the floor, whether it's practice or the game, with us losing guys," said Portland coach Nate McMillan, who conducted his postgame interview on crutches because of a recent Achilles injury. "But this was a great win for our group under the circumstances."

And it was an awful loss for the Mavericks, whose depth displayed in their Dirk-less win Sunday over the Cleveland Cavaliers disappeared. Nowitzki and J.J. Barea (22 points on 9-of-16 shooting) were the only Dallas players to score in double figures. Their teammates managed to make 12 of 51 shots from the floor.

Yet the Mavs had a chance to pull out another ugly home win. Trailing by two, Jason Terry grabbed a rebound and rushed up the court to fire up a runner, which clanked off the rim like all but two of his 13 shots. Terry didn't consider calling a timeout even though point guard Jason Kidd was lying flat on his back following a collision with Portland's Brandon Roy.

"I'm the head coach, so I'm accountable for the result of that play," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "The fact that we didn't call timeout is on me. I take responsibility for that, so that's my fault. And I won't go into it any further."

Said Terry: "Me on Steve Blake, nine times out of 10, I'm going to make that shot. I'm not second-guessing myself."

The Mavs, as a group, are wondering what has to happen to get them out of their home funk. Nowitzki uses terms like "mind-boggling" and "one big question mark" and "not pretty" when discussing the Mavs' offensive difficulties at their arena.

"For some reason, our energy level here at home is nowhere like we should be," said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who was scoreless in 25 minutes. "I don't know if we're getting lulled to sleep out there or what. We've got to get this energy like we should at home. We should be unbelievable here at home."

At this point, the Mavs are a little above average at home and awfully frustrated about it.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

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