HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — The excitement of Dirk Nowitzki‘s surprise season debut Sunday night at San Antonio was quickly subdued by the sharpshooting Spurs’ 38-point thrashing that was followed by Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle ripping his team for a “lack of competitiveness, selfishness and a lack of commitment to one another.”
The Spurs set a franchise record with 20 3-pointers, the most made by any team this season, and embarrassed Dallas 129-91 just three nights after the Miami Heat led the Mavs by 36 points in the third quarter. Carlisle’s team lost for the fifth time in six games and has dropped three in a row against top teams. At 12-16, Dallas is rapidly sliding down the Western Conference standings.
“It’s all disappointing and it’s something we can’t accept,” Carlisle told reporters after the game. “I’ve got to work harder at turning these guys into a team. At this point, you know, we don’t look like we’re very close, but we’re going to keep at it.”
Dallas next plays at Oklahoma City on Thursday. The Mavs had no answers for the Spurs, who led 100-66 after three quarters and by as many as 46. At one point during a second-half timeout, an incredulous Carlisle barked at his team huddled around him, “What the (expletive) are you doing?”
Carlisle promised there will be little down time for his club over the Christmas break.
“If you look at the stat sheet I think you can find pretty much everything,” Carlisle said. “It was dribble penetration, it was giving up 3s, it was not getting loose balls, it was failure to make any hard, physical plays. So look, we’re going lace ‘em up early tomorrow morning and go back at it. I’d love to give everybody two days off, but it ain’t happening. It ain’t happening.”
As for Nowitzki’s return, the 15-year veteran came off the bench in the first quarter. He made his first three shots of the first half, a transition dunk, a 3-pointer and a patented turnaround baseline jumper. The only shot he missed was his famous one-legged fallaway. He finished with eight points, six rebounds and a steal in 20 minutes.
However, in the six-plus minutes he played in the third quarter, he did not get a shot attempt, a clear indication that it is going to take some time for this new cast of players to find the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Nowitzki informed the team’s medical staff not long before the game that he was prepared to give it a go Sunday night, surprising even some close to the team. Last Wednesday, Nowitzki said he was targeting his return for after Christmas.
Carlisle said Nowitzki “felt ready to go.” Asked how he felt Nowitzki played in his first game since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19, Carlisle said, “Good, all things considered.”
But then frustration boiled over when Carlisle was asked if he thinks it will take time for Nowitzki and his teammates to get reacquainted on the court. Nowitzki played in only the preseason opener with a team that is completely re-cast with the exception of Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and a few other low-minute players.
“What do you mean back used to each other?” Carlisle snipped. “Who’s back used to each other?”
The reporter clarified that Nowitzki participated at the start of training camp and played in the preseason opener in Berlin, the first stop of its two-game tour of Europe.
“Well, that was light years ago in NBA terms. I don’t think any of us remember that,” Carlisle said. “I barely remember being in Berlin or wherever we were.”
Dallas again was plagued by turnovers. O.J. Mayo led the way with six after committing five in Memphis on Friday night. He also continued his scoring struggles for a third game, all Dallas losses, with just seven points on 3-for-8 shooting. He has just 25 points on 9-for-33 shooting over the last three games.
The Mavs gave up at least 100 points for the fifth time in the last seven games, with the Spurs’ 129 points, fueled by lights-out 3-point shooting, being a season-high surrendered. Danny Green led San Antonio with seven 3s on eight attempts and was 9-for-10 overall.
“They’re a great shooting team,” Carlisle said. “A team like that is very capable of making 20 3s if they’re not contested.”