Commentary

Mavs can't climb out of every hole

Habit of falling behind catches up to Dallas as win streak comes to screeching halt

Updated: March 16, 2010, 12:59 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- It's no fun to nitpick a team in the midst of equaling the NBA's longest winning streak of the season.

How about now that the Dallas Mavericks' run ended in ridiculous fashion? Well, a team that lets the lousy New York Knicks walk out of their building with a 34-point win deserves to be nitpicked, if not worse.

It was stunning that the Mavs' 13-game winning streak ended with a 128-94 loss to a team they routed by a franchise-record 50 points on the road earlier this season. But the blowout actually continued a disturbing trend: The Mavs have a bad habit of digging holes for themselves.

[+] EnlargeWilson Chandler
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireWilson Chandler and Knicks slammed the Mavericks' 13-game win streak.

Dallas, which dropped to third behind Denver with this debacle, is pretty darn good at digging out of those holes. They lead the NBA in wins after trailing at halftime (18) and wins after trailing by double digits (17).

Of course, it'd be a pretty good idea to avoid facing such obstacles on a regular basis. The Mavs are 18-18 after trailing at halftime. They're 17-18 in games in which they face a double-digit deficit.

It doesn't take John Hollinger's calculator to figure out that means the Mavs (45-22) manage to get in those predicaments more than half the time. While the Mavs comeback ability inspires some confidence, spotting the opponent a big lead certainly doesn't seem like a recipe for playoff success.

"You're look at the entire season as a sample," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think we are a lot different team in the last 25 days than we were the whole season. I'd like to know what the numbers were since the trade. If the symptoms are the same, that's something we're obviously looking to remedy."

Fair point, and unfortunately, I wasn't prepared for Carlisle's request for the folks at ESPN Research during his postgame press conference.

But the percentages aren't much different than the season-long numbers. The Mavs have trailed at halftime in eight of 15 games since pulling off the blockbuster trade with the Washington Wizards. They've also trailed by double digits in eight of those 15 games.

That doesn't take away from the Mavs' 13-2 record since they've welcomed aboard Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. But do you really like the Mavs' odds of winning a series against the Los Angeles Lakers or Denver Nuggets if they can't fix this flaw?

Actually, the Mavs have managed to rally from 10 down to defeat Denver once this season. Of course, they also lost to the Nuggets by 36. And they lost to the Lakers by 35.

Dirk Nowitzki noted, as did Shawn Marion, that it takes the veteran Mavs a little time to get loose. Not quite sure how to change that, since they're not getting any younger. In fact, the Mavs' top seven players are all in their 30s after Caron Butler celebrated his birthday Saturday night.

How can a bunch of basketball geezers get off to good starts?

"That's something that we have to address," 36-year-old Jason Kidd said. "But we're not panicking. It's just one game."

No, it's a trend. The nightmare against the Knicks was just an extreme example of the danger of digging holes in the NBA.

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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