Outpaced by the Pacers

The look on Rick Carlisle‘s face toward the end of last night’s game against the Pacers said it all. With the game safely out of reach, he had emptied out his bench and put a lineup on the court that consisted of Jeremy Evans, Charlie Villanueva, JaVale McGee, Justin Anderson, and J.J. Barea. On a possession that began with just under four minutes left to play, these five mismatched players showed just how much they weren’t comfortable with each other. The end result was a shot clock violation that seemed to surprise the whole team, as Anderson caught the ball inside with almost no time left and decided to force an awkward pass back out to Barea instead of doing what the rules dictated he had to do.

It wasn’t a pretty possession, and I had to laugh at Carlisle’s obvious disgust. Then again, when you put players out there that never see the court and expect them to just instantly gel, you’re being a little unreasonable. The Mavericks’ coach may well be a skilled tactician, but he sucks at keeping his more intriguing options off the bench in a good playing rhythm. Even if the guys at the end of the bench don’t get a ton of minutes, is it really asking that much that they at least play however minutes they do get consistently?

The ragtag group on the floor at the end of the game only underscored how lopsided this contest had become. Simply put, the Pacers were the better team last night. I’ll take that one step further and suggest that the reason they were the better team last night is because they are the better team, period. By the time Anderson hit the floor to showcase his usual parade of questionable decisions and rushed bricks, an entire lineup of Michael Jordan in his prime couldn’t have made a difference. That’s how much better the Pacers were last night, especially down the stretch.

The final margin says it all: 26 points. Even the 76ers would grimace at that amount of separation. How did it happen, you ask? It was a pretty simple recipe: Indiana shot the ball better (48.3 percent), protected the ball better (just eight turnovers), dominated the paint (46 points), and killed the Mavericks in transition, scoring a ridiculous 20 fast break points.

You can’t get too down on Dallas, however, as this is just what the Pacers do. With the league’s seventh best offense and fifth best defense, they’re about as legitimate of a contender the league has to offer this year, and it wasn’t realistic to expect a middling, slow team like the Mavs to come out and steal one from them in their house. Still, after staying right with them in the first half, fans had a right to hope for better than a 62-34 margin in the final two quarters.

What can we take away from this embarrassing blowout that only the most determined Mavericks fans stuck around to finish (I’m a proud member of that select group)? Well, Devin Harris is injured again, and this time it’s actually concerning since he’s finally starting to shoot the ball well and his smothering defense continues to be a factor. He won’t be playing tomorrow against Memphis, and it remains to be seen when he will be able to play again. Dirk Nowitzki continued his piss-poor shooting, hitting on just six of his 16 shots, and as usual, the rest of the team followed suit. The Mavs’ 36.7 percent shooting was nearly as bad as the 36 percent showing they had against the Hawks a week ago. Paul George is really good. C.J. Miles had the kind of game that makes me want to kick him off the All-Dallas team I formed several posts back.

Since I should probably find a bright spot before closing this out so as not to seem overly negative, here it is: Raymond Felton. Felton is slowly making me a believer that he’s a real player, even if I hate the three-guard lineup Carlisle uses him in to start games. In a game where no one in blue could shoot, Felton went 6-for-12, including hitting 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Wait, I have more. Zaza Pachulia hasn’t been getting to the line as much lately or scoring as frequently, but his rebounding isn’t letting up, and that’s a huge plus. The big Georgian pulled down another 14 rebounds last night, including six on the offensive end.

It may be hard to find the positives after a game like this one, but I’m not worried about it. Any fan who expected a team like the Mavericks to keep up with a team like the Pacers — on the road, no less — is crazier than Metta World Peace.

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