3-pointer: Mavs' guards come up small on big stage

DALLAS – Mark Cuban has insisted since their arrival this summer that he’s looking for reasons to commit to Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo as the backcourt of the Mavericks’ future.

The film from Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers certainly won’t help make a case for locking up the 25-year-old guards to long-term deals this offseason.

Frankly, Mayo and Collison got dominated by a pair of future Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant was brilliant, lighting up the Mavs for 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Steve Nash made the Mavs pay when they did double Bryant, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers during a 20-point performance.

Mayo and Collison, on the other hand, combined for only 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting and six assists.

“It was a tough one for our backcourt today in a big game like that on a big stage,” said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 30 points and 13 rebounds were wasted by the Mavs.

Mayo, the Mavs’ leading scorer this season, had more turnovers (three) than buckets (2-of-9 from the floor) and allowed his frustration to get the best of him when he picked up a critical technical foul with 3:04 remaining. Mayo, who missed a contested 3 that could have tied the game with 4.9 seconds remaining, uncharacteristically avoided the media after the loss.

Collison, whose improvement has been a major reason the Mavs won 12 of 18 games entering Sunday, was only 3-of-11 from the floor. He sat all but 2:04 of the fourth quarter, when coach Rick Carlisle opted to play 37-year-old journeyman Mike James at point guard.

“You wish all our games could be perfect and we all play well,” Collison said. “But this (wasn’t) one of those games. We understand that. We’re taking it hard right now. We just got to continue to get better.”

The message from veterans such as Nowitzki and Vince Carter: The young guards have to learn from this loss and get over it immediately.

“Stay with it,” Carter said. “You’re going to have ups and downs. That’s just the way it goes.

“They know and understand their importance to this team. They’ve done great things for us. Of course, you want everybody to have a great game each and every night. That’s just not going to happen. That’s not the way it goes. We’ve just got to fight through it.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ frustrating loss:

1. Kobe schools Crowder: Matchups don’t get much more lopsided than a second-round rookie defending the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history. Kobe Bryant vs. Jae Crowder went about as anticipated.

And that was despite smothering defense by Crowder.

Bryant’s 38-point performance was highlighted by hitting high degree-of-difficulty jumpers over Crowder on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. That spree featured with a 26-foot 3-pointer, a midrange jumper after several moves and a heat-check turnaround 20-footer.

“What could I have done to make him not hit that shot?” Crowder recalled thinking. “I’m giving him all I’ve got. He’s giving you multiple moves and hitting tough fadeaway shots, and it’s hard to guard that. At the same time, I’m trying to make it difficult before the shot goes up. I felt like I did, but he had it going.”

2. T’d off: Two technical fouls in the final 5:48 played a critical role in the four-point loss.

Nowitzki got hit with a technical after angrily punching the air in protest of a no-call with 5:48 remaining. He had missed a jumper on a possession that featured a lot of contact from Metta World Peace, whom Nowitzki accused of “having me in a bear hug” for much of the fourth quarter.

“I got fouled and on top of it they hit me with a T,” Nowitzki said, “so that was a tough sequence there.”

Mayo was called for a technical after expressing his displeasure with a foul called on him with 3:04 remaining. He felt he successfully challenged Bryant’s missed fast-break layup without fouling.

Coach Rick Carlisle understands his players’ frustration, but he doesn’t excuse their technical.

“We’ve got to avoid them. Simple as that,” Carlisle said. “Our guys know it. But those are things we’ll continue to talk about because we’re going to be in those positions again.”

3. Kaman contributes: Center Chris Kaman gave the Mavs eight quality minutes in his return after missing the previous 10 games with a concussion. He scored four points and grabbed four rebounds, and the Mavs outscored the Lakers by eight with Kaman on the floor.

“I just felt a little out of sorts in there,” said Kaman, who played most of his minutes matched up against Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter. “I felt like, what am I doing? I haven’t played in so long. It was kind of weird. But as it went on a little, I started feeling a little more comfortable.

“Just trying to get back in the flow is difficult. Guys almost forget about who you are and what you can do. I just feel like I was out there trying to get back through the motions in the swing of things and get more comfortable on the floor.”