“You guys all have cellphones,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle recently said to a group of reporters. “It’s like a trickle charge. It’s gradual.”
Carlisle issued his “trickle charge” metaphor back on Nov. 3 when he was speaking specifically about Chandler Parsons’ slow-but-hopefully-steady climb to full power. But it hasn’t happened for Parsons. And in home games, for certain, it hasn’t happened for Dallas, which is now just 5-5 at the AAC, including three straight losses — the latest being Saturday’s 114-111 defeat at the hands of the Wizards.
Exactly which silver platter did the Mavs expect this victory to be delivered on?
It was “Seats For Soldiers” night, a marvelous program that sees Mavs front-row season-ticket holders offer their prime in-game real estate to military personnel. “It’s a wonderful event and I’d never seen it with any of the other teams I’d been with,” Carlisle said. “Season-ticket holders give up their seats and these seats are really high-priced. The men and women who serve our country get the opportunity to sit front and center at an NBA game, and that’s pretty cool.”
That sort of thing often allows for inspiration. Often but not always.
It was a night when Bradley Beal, the Wiz’ second-leading scorer with 19.8 points per game, wouldn’t play due to a leg injury. Unfortunately, maybe that was offset by the illness absence of Deron Williams, Dallas’ second-leading scorer with 15.3 points per game and the team leader in assists. Also unfortunate: Dallas’ perimeter people couldn’t handle John Wall, who had a huge night with 26 points and 16 rebounds, or somebody named Otto Porter, who burned Dirk and Co. inside with a career-best 28 points.
It was a night when the visitors had just suffered a loss at the hands of the Mavs a week ago, a continuation of a Dallas success streak that dated back into another decade. Washington had not beaten Dallas since Oct. 27, 2009.
“Individually and collectively, we’ve got to play more aggressively,” said Chandler Parsons, who is talking a good game but has been slow to rack up “good games played” as he battles to return from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee. “We’ve got to play harder. We’ve got to not worry about the offensive end, not worry about our own individual shots, not worry about all that stuff and just compete. Leave it all out there, especially on the defensive end.”
Is that what’s happening? Lack of aggression? Lack of effort? Concern about “individual shots”? Lack of “competing”?
“I’m honestly tired of talking about it,” said Wes Matthews, who scored 28 in the loss that sends Dallas to 13-11. “It’s just gotta happen.”
Some of these results are predictable, some are not. Washington’s game plan was all about torching Dirk the Defender, and Otto, as well as Marcin Gortat (14 points and 12 rebounds) ganged up on him inside. The Wiz don’t defend the 3 well, so Dallas made 14 of them – but the Wizards had 14 – their season-high.
Maybe Wall is going to go nuts when you’re missing Williams, but helpers JJ Barea (21 points, 13 in the fourth quarter) and Ray Felton (10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds) have numbers that say they more than picked up the slack. Dallas fell behind early, allowed Washington an absurd 39-point third quarter as the Wizards built a 21-point lead, and then valiantly made a comeback that stalled only when Nowitzki’s 3-point buzzer-beater try was online but only reached the front of the rim.
“It looked right on line,” said Dirk. “But the way it felt, I knew it was going to be a little short.”
“Short” indeed, and if you are looking for culpability, Carlisle is volunteering to be your man.
“I blame myself,” Carlisle said. “I’ve got to get these guys better prepared to play. We’re not where we need to be. This league is not easy, and this is a difficult period that we’re going through right now.”
But the “period” was set up to be easier than this, and the Mavs botched an opportunity to get their “trickle charge” from a very natural, genuine and inspirational place. This was the 11th “Seats For Soldiers” event…and this failure marks just the second Mavericks loss in that time.