Heck, even the 2012 first round, when the Thunder got revenge by sweeping the Mavs’ championship leftovers, seem like an eternity ago.
Playoff basketball, period, seems ridiculously out of reach for these Mavs.
The Mavs made the short trip home with their tails between their legs after being on the wrong end of a 112-91 rout Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Never mind the embarrassment of being blown out by 20-plus points for an NBA-high ninth time this season. There are much more concerning numbers for the Mavs, such as being eight games under .500 at 20-28 and 5½ games out of eighth place in the West.
At this point, it’s hard to picture the Mavs even competing for a playoff berth. Their postseason streak seems destined to end at a dozen years, although there weren’t any white flags waving in the visitors’ locker room after the Mavs got their butts kicked to wrap up a 1-3 road trip.
“Crazier things have happened in this league,” Dirk Nowitzki said, trying his best to muster some optimism by noting that the Mavs had a home-intensive stretch of schedule coming up.
The problem is these Mavs, who have a ton of dry powder but too little talent, simply aren’t good enough. That’s evident from their 5-21 against teams who are .500 or better.
Dallas definitely isn’t good enough to compete against an angry Oklahoma City squad, which has won 10 of 11 games against the Mavs since the '11 West finals. The Thunder wasn’t happy with their loss Saturday to the Cleveland Cavaliers and vented that frustration by whipping the Mavs.
“A good team usually responds to losses like that,” said Nowitzki, who scored only 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting in his return after a two-game layoff due to a strained muscle in his right thigh. “I remember we used to be like that.”
It really wasn’t that long ago. It just feels that way as Dallas’ dismal season drags on.
The Mavs have lost a lot of heartbreakers this season. They’re 2-6 in games decided by three or fewer points, including losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors in the first half of this trip. They’re 1-8 in overtime games, including their previous two meetings with the Thunder.
“We’re not good enough to win those close games at home or on the road,” Nowitzki said. “It’s tough.”
Well, that wasn’t an issue in the massacre Monday night.
The details of this debacle in Bricktown are almost irrelevant. The Mavs melted down late in the first quarter and the game was over by halftime, when the Thunder held a 68-44 lead, scoring the most points in a half of any Mavs foe this season.
The Mavs’ turnovers fueled a 46-22 Oklahoma City run to close the half -- if a stretch of 14:08 can be described as a run. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put together a highlight reel during the second quarter, combining for 20 points, 7 assists and 3 steals as OKC outscored the Mavs by a 39-22 margin.
“When you put these guys in the open floor with catastrophic turnovers, they’re going to make it look bad,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think that was it more than anything, but obviously when you get down 30 in a game, you aren’t competing well enough. There’s no question about that.”
It’s not like the Mavs have the firepower to fight back from that big of a deficit against an elite team, especially with Vince Carter ill in the locker room and Chris Kaman nursing a concussion at home.
“When you dig yourself that much of a hole on the road, you ain’t coming back,” said forward Shawn Marion, who joins Nowitzki as the only men remaining on the Mavs’ roster who played a minute during their 2011 title run. “It’s hard to come back. At times, I’ve been on teams that were able to come back from a hole that big. That ain’t us right now.”
It was only 20 months ago that the Mavs rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation in this building. That overtime win in Game 4 was a signature moment during the Mavs’ march to the franchise’s lone title.
But that ain’t these Mavs.
They don’t have what it takes to pull off a huge comeback against a contender. And it’s hard to see these Mavs digging out of a huge hole with less than half of their season remaining.