- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Coach Rick Carlisle had a simple explanation for his Dallas Mavericks' miserable offensive performance.
"We couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle," Carlisle said after the Mavs shot a season-low 32.3 percent in Tuesday night's 99-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "It was frustrating, but I'm not going to make excuses with the trade."
The Mavericks understood that they faced a major challenge this week. With four games in five days against teams in playoff position, the Mavs have no practice time after making a seven-player trade with the Washington Wizards.
The Mavs are counting on swingman Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood, who were acquired from Washington along with reserve guard DeShawn Stevenson, to play major roles for a team that believes it should make a lengthy playoff run. The results of their first game as Mavericks weren't pretty against an Oklahoma City team that has a West-best seven-game winning streak.
Butler, who started at shooting guard, couldn't buy a bucket after the first quarter. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
"I was getting good looks, getting to the basket," Butler said. "I could have finished on a lot more plays, but that's just getting your legs under you after the break and the transition and everything. But those shots are going to fall. They're definitely going to fall.
"I'm staying in the gym and picking up the offense and learning on the fly. Everything is going to come."
Haywood, who came off the bench but will start for the foreseeable future after Erick Dampier suffered an open dislocation of his right middle finger, put up decent stats in 15 minutes, with seven points, six rebounds and a blocked shot. However, the Mavs were outscored by 16 points with Haywood on the floor.
But nobody in the visitors' locker room was interested in making excuses about adding major pieces to the mix in the middle of the season, something that didn't work well for Dallas two seasons ago (the Mavs went 17-17, including the playoffs, after pulling the trigger on the blockbuster trade for Jason Kidd).
Plus, it's not like the newcomers were alone in their struggles. Shawn Marion (3-of-11), Jason Terry (4-of-15) and Dirk Nowitzki (9-of-22) shot the ball poorly, too, as the Mavs' offense became stagnant in the second half.
Several Mavs pointed to the first quarter as proof that they could play well quickly after their recent renovation. The Mavs had a 26-16 lead after the first quarter, but that went up in smoke as the Thunder rolled to 40 points in the second, the most allowed by the Mavs in a single quarter this season.
"I think you can see the potential, especially there in the first quarter when we were moving it and everybody was getting open shots," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 24 points and nine rebounds. "I definitely see the potential."
The third quarter was simply painful to watch.
The Mavs, who have lost six of their past eight games, hit a new offensive low. They endured a seven-minute scoring drought and finished the frame with a grand total of 11 points, a team low for a quarter this season. Their shooting percentage in the quarter (.142) looked like a Breathalyzer reading.
"We started pressing there and tried to do it individually to try to stop the bleeding," point guard Jason Kidd said. "It just didn't work out. We were settling for jump shots there."
The Mavs managed to make the game somewhat interesting in the fourth quarter with their familiar starting five on the floor and the ex-Wizards watching. But bad got worse when blood gushed from Dampier's middle finger after he fouled Russell Westbrook, the bone ripping through the skin, an injury that sent the big man to an Oklahoma City hospital.
Surgeons worked to fix Dampier's finger. The Mavs' front office already performed its major operation. It remains to be seen whether the trade with Washington will help the Mavs recover from their misery.
3dEthan Sherwood Strauss
4dMatt Walks, ESPN.com