Dallas coach Rick Carlisle’s review of the 112-90 rout Wednesday at the hands of the Spurs: "San Antonio makes you pay. The third quarter was a demolition. We got out-competed.”
All those things are true of the night. All those things are now commonplace in this so-called rivalry. And, let’s face it: All those things are part of what makes up an 8-seed.
I see and share Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s disgruntlement. And I see and share your disgruntlement on DB.com Boards. I see the reflection on Dirk Nowitzki’s "we’re-not-a-playoff-team” remark and the idea that he needn’t bother to clarify … because however he meant it, the evaluation seems pretty accurate right now.
What Dirk meant at the time, after last Friday’s collapse in a home loss to the Clippers: "When we look bad, which is too often, we don’t look good.”
That’s not debatable. The part Dirk got wrong is this: When a team looks good some nights (winning three straight on the road earlier this month) … then looks bad other nights (losing four straight recent home games) … and then even looks Godawful on a Wednesday night in San Antonio in a "scheduled loss.” …
That’s what the eighth seed looks like.
So you ARE a playoff team. You’re just the butt-end entrant, the just-better-than-the-lotto representative, the first-round fodder for the No. 1 team in the conference.
Which would happen to be the Spurs, the in-state foe that has now defeated you in seven consecutive meetings, with margins including 38, 25, 17 and and here, 22 points — and an average margin of victory of 17 points.
If the Spurs keep doing what they are doing — a "machine,” as Vince Carter labeled them, even when somebody like Manu Ginobili (hamstring) sits out as he did here — they will be the 1 seed. If the Mavs keep doing exactly what they are doing even as they muddle about as a win-one-night/lose-the-next night squad, they will be the 8 seed.
Is this sinking in? The Mavs are the 8 seed. If the season ended today, they’d be the 8 seed. If the season proceeds exactly as it has, they’d be the 8 seed.
And folks, this is what the 8 seed in the West looks like.
You have a winning record. And maybe a largely entertaining way of getting there. You have a star who when he experiences an off-night (Dirk was 3-of-14 for eight points) leaves his team lost. When you are missing another standout (Shawn Marion, home nursing a shoulder) you ask other guys to step up and Jae Crowder gives you one rebound in 28 minutes and Wayne Ellington gives you nothing but five empty points.
(By the way: Let’s take ourselves back to training camp. Rolling into San Antonio on Jan. 8 with a starting lineup featuring Ellington and DeJuan Blair wasn’t exactly the plan, was it?)
While the Spurs are accomplishing terrific things (this was their seventh win of 20-plus points this year; the Bucks have seven wins total), the Mavs still have a chance to inch up and even have a chance to fulfill owner Mark Cuban’s hopeful prediction of "playoff noise.” They will put behind them the "demolition” third quarter when they allowed a 45-38 halftime deficit to become a 37-24 period. They will try to "coach-up” a group that hopefully is needled by Rick’s "we got out-competed" evaluation, the harshest dig a leader can take against a team.
They are 20-16 and can inch up. But maybe not too far from 8. Which is where they are. Which is what they are.