The dirty truth: These Dallas Mavericks are mediocre

DALLAS -- Looking for a silver lining after one of the most miserable losses of the Mavericks’ season? Well, the last time Dallas blew a big lead in a loss to the Trail Blazers, it served as a springboard for the Mavs’ first NBA championship.

That’s about the only way a reasonable mind could stretch the truth and say that these Mavs resemble a title contender.

Screw stretching the truth after the Mavs let a 15-point lead slip away in Friday night’s 99-97 overtime loss to the lottery-bound Blazers. Let’s keep it real: The Mavericks are a mediocre team at the moment.

Actually, they’ve been a mediocre team for more than two months. Mark Cuban can talk about the lockout-compressed season producing “dirty data” all he wants, but win-loss records don’t lie.

And Dallas has been the definition of mediocre for more than half the season. Never mind the stumbling start of the season. The Mavs recovered from that, but they boarded the plane to Memphis as a .500 team (17-17) since Feb. 1.

“We’ve got to keep going,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know that it’s time for amateur psychologist analysis. It’s time for everybody to get in gear.”

No need to get bogged down in the details of this dreadful loss to a Portland squad that has an 8-19 road record and is realistically playing for nothing but pride. Analyzing how the Trail Blazers outscored the Mavs by a 30-10 margin in the third quarter -- when freakin’ Raymond Felton had 16 of his season-high 30 points -- is kind of trivial. So is discussing how Dallas’ closers failed in crunch time – Dirk Nowitzki had a terrible turnover with 22 seconds remaining and Jason Terry gave a bone-headed foul 40 feet from the hoop with 3.7 seconds left to allow Portland to set up the game-winning play -- after staging its own comeback.

After LaMarcus Aldridge's buzzer-beater beat the Mavs, just put this one near the top of the pile of disappointing losses by the defending champs.

“Ain’t no use in sitting here and harping on it,” Shawn Marion said. “It’s been that way mostly all year.”

If these weren’t the defending NBA champions, what remains from the team that stunned the basketball world last summer, we’d be digging the 2011-12 Mavs’ grave. They have to be given some benefit of the doubt after proving all the one-and-done predictions so wrong last seasons, but the list of reasons to believe they have realistic hopes of repeating is really short.

Let’s see ... They’ve still got Dirk. And this is still a top-six defensive team statistically. And, well, maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle again?

Sorry, but it’s hard to believe that. Especially after watching this 1-2 homestand, when they got lit up by Randy Foye and Raymond Felton. Man, the Mavs better hope they don’t run into a disappointing lottery pick-turned-journeyman in the playoffs.

That’s assuming they make the playoffs, which can’t be considered a sure thing with just a two-game lead (and the tiebreaker) over the ninth-place Utah Jazz and 10 games to go.

Yet hope remains, at least in the Mavs’ locker room, that this team can get healthy and make a run.

“It’s been a tough ride, but we knew with so many games in so many days that injuries were going to be a part of the season, especially with an older team,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been tough having some guys in and out. Hopefully we can get everybody healthy here at last, make a push and get some momentum going towards the playoffs.”

They’re counting on gray-haired, 39-year-old point guard Jason Kidd to recover from a strained right groin and perform like he did last postseason. They’re crossing their fingers that Lamar Odom can contribute during the playoffs after rarely showing a pulse since his broken-hearted arrival from Los Angeles.

We could go on and on, but let’s just say the list of things that have to go exactly right for the Mavs to repeat is a heck of a lot longer than the reasons to believe.

“No concern at all,” Terry said. “I know if we’re healthy and intact that we’re as dangerous as any other team in the West.”

Jet and the Mavs backed up his crazy brand of confidence last summer, so you can’t just dismiss Dallas altogether.

Reasonable minds, however, are back in believe-it-when-they-see-it mode with the Mavericks.