The Mavericks awoke Wednesday in Houston with a 10-4 record. One win shy of a tie for the best record in the West.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
It does until you rewind through the four losses.
None of them were inflicted by teams with a winning record as of Wednesday morning. All of them have to be classified as excruciating.
Washington at home on opening night. New Orleans on the road in overtime after clanking three straight free throws in crunch time when just one make could have prevented OT. San Antonio on the road . . . with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in street clothes.
Yet you'd have to say that Tuesday night's nightmarish finish in a 110-103 loss to Golden State was the worst of the four. The Warriors dressed only six players -- and had to leave coach Don Nelson in Oakland because of Nelson's bout with pneumonia -- and still managed to reel off 24 of the game's final 31 points.
Not how the Mavs were planning to start a dreaded stretch of four games in five nights.
They can't complain about the injury absences of Shawn Marion, Josh Howard and Erick Dampier or the second-half loss of Quinton Ross to a bad back when the other team only has one healthy sub. Nor can they try to convince themselves that this had anything to do with the old Warriors hex that humbled the 67-win Mavs in 2007 playoffs. Not with Nelson more than a thousand miles away and given that Monta Ellis was the only active Warrior who played in that series.
Dampier would have certainly given the Mavs some badly needed rim protection as opposed to the complete lack of defensive presence inside they had without him. But this was a deserved smack in the face for a team that has been consistently underwhelming and flat at American Airlines Center. The Mavs' supposed stature in the West doesn't mean much if they don't start play harder at home.
You've probably heard coach Rick Carlisle's view by now: "We've had too many of these games at home where we lost focus. We've been able to win the majority of them, but tonight we left too much to chance in the last six minutes."
Even after an 18-point home win over Houston featured a huge first-half deficit. The Mavs only pulled out a win over Utah on the strength of the second-greatest fourth quarter in NBA history: Dirk Nowitzki's 29-point detonation.
Their home schedule so far has been super soft, but the list of convincing Mavs performances at the AAC goes one deep ... and that came against a Toronto team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. A team that's not exactly synonymous with rugged D.
Maybe the Mavs can (and will) rebound on the road again. If there's any solace for Dallas, it's that the recent five-game win streak began with three straight roadies (Minnesota, Detroit and Milwaukee) right after the humbling defeat to short-handed San Antonio on Nov. 11.
But a sendoff like this one does make you wonder what might happen at home when more good teams start coming to town.
Some further statistical perspective on just how excruciating Tuesday's sendoff was for Dallas:
Golden State, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was just the third team since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77 to play six players in a game.
Elias says it was the first time since 1952 that a team used only six players and won a regular-season game. The last team to do it was the Baltimore Bullets on Feb. 10, 1952, in an 82-77 victory over the Fort Wayne Pistons. The Bullets actually only used five players that night: Don Barksdale, Frank Kudelka, Stan Miasek, Dave Minor and Kevin O'Shea had no subs.
It was the first time Golden State had three players go the full 48 in . . . 45 years. Almost 45 years to the day, actually. Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers and Nate Thurmond played every second for the Warriors on Nov. 25, 1964, with Wilt rumbling for 37 points and 32 rebounds in a 122-118 loss to Boston.