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Mavericks can't find motivation, basket

DALLAS -- It goes down as a victory for the Toronto Raptors, but credit human nature for the assist.

The Mavericks were coming off an emotional win Monday in Oklahoma City and were well aware that the Interstate 35 rival San Antonio Spurs will arrive at the American Airlines Center for a much-anticipated Western Conference showdown Thursday night. Oh, yeah, and the 10-20 Raptors came to town Tuesday night.

Make that the 11-20 Raptors, who didn’t trail for the final 47 minutes while handing the sleepwalking Mavs only their sixth loss of the season, 84-76.

“These are the most dangerous teams,” said Shawn Marion, who had 12 points and five rebounds while filling in for Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. “They come in and they’re not doing good and have one of the worst records in the league. These are the teams that are the hardest to get up for. It’s that much harder when you go up there and miss a few shots and they hit a few shots. It’s an uphill climb for the rest of the game.”

Added center Tyson Chandler, the Mavs’ usual source of energy who turned in a ho-hum three-point, six-rebound, no-block performance: “I definitely felt like we were a little lax, a little slow getting back, slow to loose balls.”

Coach Rick Carlisle gave the Raptors all the credit and accepted no excuses. Nor should he have. This was simply an unacceptable performance, even without Nowitzki, especially considering the fact that the Raptors were missing their leading scorer, leading assists man and other contributors.

However, to paraphrase the profane cliché uttered by Marion, excrement happens. You just hope it doesn’t happen too often during an 82-game schedule.

The Mavs started off poorly, matching their season low for points in a quarter by spotting the Raptors a 23-13 lead after the first. And they finished on a bad note, putting up only 17 points in the fourth quarter, including six in the final 7:41.

There were a few spurts of typical Mavs basketball mixed in, but not nearly enough to beat even a bad Eastern Conference team at home.

“We made runs, but we could never get anything consistently established,” Carlisle said. “I think that’s a credit to how well they played, and we just weren’t good enough.”

We could analyze how much the Mavs missed Nowitzki on offense. After all, they did manage a season-low scoring total. But we’ll wait until Wednesday to do that.

Like the Mavs, we’re just struggling to find a fair amount of motivation tonight.