DALLAS — Omar the Barber missed out on a big night of tips. The Dallas Mavericks’ beards will keep growing, and perhaps if they’re fortunate enough to play for .500 again in the final 10 games of the season, they won’t broadcast plans to hold a locker-room shaving party afterward.
Not that the Indiana Pacers needed additional motivation beyond the East’s No. 2 seed being up for grabs to get up for Thursday’s 103-78 smacking of the Mavs, but they pounced on it anyway.
“That was the message coach [Frank Vogel] said to us coming in,” Pacers forward David West said. “Another day for them to do it. It wasn’t going to be tonight.”
It was 41-41 at halftime and the Mavs’ sweaty, scraggly beards that should have had time-elapsed cameras trained on them since their late January inception, were 24 minutes from finally getting out from under them.
“Personally, whatever gimmick they have to do to rally themselves is fine,” center Roy Hibbert said in one breath after delivering 16 points 11 rebounds. In the next breath he said, “We wanted to shut that [expletive] down.”
The Mavs’ beard story has gained a lot of traction recently because of the team’s hot streak, riding Dirk Nowitzki‘s improved play to the cusp of the eighth and final playoff spot. That goal seemed a long shot back when Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Chris Kaman and others took O.J. Mayo‘s unity idea to heart — no shaving until .500.
So close to breaking even after Tuesday’s riveting overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers, a giddy Mayo, who scored the improbable lefty scoop through a double-team to force OT, said innocently postgame that he’s ready to shave. Mayo’s barber, Omar — popular with other members of the team, too — would be at the American Airlines Center and ready to get to work.
Nowitzki, who dresses in the locker stall next to Mayo, had said the other night that he preferred not to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. After Thursday’s whipping, his hobo-like beard creeping a good half-inch down his neck, Nowitzki was more perturbed at the Mavs’ failure to move up the standings than missing out on a shave until at least Tuesday (when Dallas visits the Lakers).
“Knowing the Lakers lost now, we had an opportunity to cut into their lead,” Nowitzki said. “And it sucks. It sucks.”
Shave talk or not, Nowitzki said the Pacers — who held the Rockets and Mavs on back-to-back nights to 91 and 78 points, and both to under 40 percent shooting — simply beat Dallas every which way in the second half. Indiana’s stubborn defense held Dallas to 37 second-half points as the Pacers outrebounded the Mavs 55-34.
“I said I didn’t want to jinx it so I didn’t really talk about it much. It is what it is,” Nowitzki said. “They play well. They come in here and beat us. A team like that, obviously, blatantly brings out our weaknesses, that’s why they won. I don’t care if they didn’t want us to shave or not, but they’re a better team.”
Dallas (35-37) isn’t dead yet, not with the Lakers’ walking wounded being just 1 1/2 games ahead in eighth and unpredictable Utah a game ahead in ninth with 10 games to go.
But realistically, Thursday might have been the Mavs’ best shot at .500. The defensive fury of the Chicago Bulls arrives for a Saturday afternoon game before a four-game road trip starting with the Lakers. Then comes a back-to-back at Denver and Sacramento and finally, Portland.
The beards will grow even though Carter said the purpose of the pact, to define a clear goal and bring the team together, had served its purpose and is now becoming overblown in the media. He said Mayo’s comments about bringing Omar the Barber to the game were taken out of context.
Mayo didn’t stick around long enough to discuss it after scoring seven points on 3-for-10 shooting in the loss.
“We only have 10 games left. I’m not going to shave now,” Nowitzki said. “We were like six or seven games under .500, had a common goal; just keep pushing see what happens. We have a tough game Saturday against a very good team that just beat Miami. Then we have a tough road trip against some good teams. We’ve just got to ride it out and see what happens.”
West has had his share of physical battles with Nowitzki over the years going back to the 2008 playoffs when West played for New Orleans. After Nowitzki tagged him with an elbow, the two went toe-to-toe and West gave Nowitzki’s clean-shaven face a little tap.
They had a brief flare-up as well Thursday night jostling for position. West said he couldn’t really describe Nowitzki’s matted mass of facial and neck hair.
“I don’t know,” West said. “It was hairy, I know that.”
West then offered his support to Nowitzki and the Mavs in their quest to reach .500. The Pacers have twice done their part to prevent such success with two blowout wins in the season series.
“Hopefully they can get going and get rid of it,” West said. “None of them look good.”
Omar the Barber is on call.