Supposedly smarter Mavs melted down mentally

This Mavericks team was supposed to be so much smarter.

“Basketball IQ” was a summer buzz phrase for the Dallas front office. The Mavs were determined to make significant upgrades in that department after atrocious late-game decision-making cost them several games in last season’s .500 campaign.

The Mavs are a much better team this season, but they still blow big leads with the worst of them. And they put on a stunning display of basketball stupidity in Wednesday night’s loss while allowing the Los Angeles Clippers to rally from a 17-point deficit in the final 4:36.

“We made some really bad mental mistakes and gave them a chance, and they took advantage of it,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “It’s as hard a lesson as you’re going to learn in this league.”

The players who made these mental mistakes shouldn’t need such lessons at this point. These are veterans who have logged tens of thousands of minutes and made tens of millions of dollars during their NBA careers.

In his 16th NBA season, Vince Carter should know better than to get a technical foul for barking at Blake Griffin with 3:59 remaining. That back-and-forth had been building up all night, but Carter is usually a consummate pro and should have been the cooler head.

Perhaps 12-year veteran center Samuel Dalembert can make a case that his flagrant foul against Griffin committed 38 seconds later was an iffy call. But the big man didn’t help matters by standing over Griffin and barking like Muhammad Ali after shoving the Clippers star to the ground while fighting for position. It ended up being a six-point possession.

There’s no excuse for Dirk Nowitzki, a 16-year veteran who was as frustrated as anyone with the Mavs’ low basketball IQ last season, fouling a 3-point shooter in a clutch situation. But that’s exactly what happened to send Jamal Crawford to the line with 1:10 remaining and the Mavs clinging to a six-point lead.

Then Monta Ellis, a nine-year veteran, took the kind of shot that made him one of the league’s most criticized players during his Milwaukee tenure. After the Mavs were given a gift of a new shot clock while protecting a four-point lead in the final minute, their possession consisted of Ellis dribbling seven times and jacking up a jumper with both feet on the 3-point line.

Ellis is a poor jump-shooter, especially off the dribble, and he hoisted the longest possible pull-up 2-point attempt. And there were 16 seconds on the shot clock when he took it. There might not be a dumber shot attempted in the NBA this season.

There might not be a dumber four-minute stretch in the NBA this season than this Mavs’ meltdown. This is the sort of stupidity they thought they fixed this summer.