DALLAS -- Coach Rick Carlisle called out center Samuel Dalembert, blaming the big man's early foul trouble on a lack of discipline.
Dalembert didn't see it that way, blaming the referees for cheap whistles and noting that he finished the game with only three fouls.
Dalembert played only 12 minutes in Wednesday night's loss to the Houston Rockets. He was pulled after picking up two fouls less than two minutes into the game and didn't play in the fourth quarter despite the Mavs desperately needing a rim-protecting presence to try to make up for their miserable perimeter defense.
"He had a couple of touch fouls in the first two minutes," Carlisle said. "He's got to avoid that. He's just got to avoid that. It takes discipline, and he's got to be more disciplined than that. That's the nice answer."
What's the not-so-nice version?
"That's private," Carlisle said.
Dalembert, on the other hand, claims one of the officials admitted to him that whistles shouldn't have been blown on his early fouls. He believed he was playing physical defense within the rules.
"I'm a defender," Dalembert said. "I've been playing defense for a long time. For some reason, two of those fouls wasn't fouls. Even the referee come up after that and looked at it and reviewed it and said it wasn't a foul. I don't know any better way to go. In the past, I played the same way and they never called those things.
"Things like this happen in the game. And I still finished the game with three fouls."
In other words, it was a coach's decision to limit Dalembert to 12 minutes on a night that the Mavs gave up 56 points in the paint.
"I've got six fouls," Dalembert said. "We've got to play through it. Some games are going to be like that.
"If I have to use all six, I'll use all six. I would love the opportunity to use all six, especially the kind of game like that. Things happen."
Numbers don't matter for Dirk: This was only the third regular-season game in Dirk Nowitzki's 16-year career in which he scored at least 38 points and grabbed at least 17 rebounds.
But Nowitzki, who was 13-of-21 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free throw line, didn't care about his beautiful line in the box score.
"I always said numbers don't mean anything in a loss," said Nowitzki, whose four fellow starters combined for 22 points and 14 rebounds. "It really means nothing. We should have found a way to win this one."
The bitter end: The Mavs would have won if Jose Calderon, one of the NBA's premier perimeter marksman, hit a wide-open 3-pointer on the final possession.
But Calderon's shot bounced off the front rim. He managed to grab the long rebound but missed a rushed, running desperation 3-point attempt.
"The first one was a good look," said Calderon, who was 2-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-7 from 3-point range in the loss to the Rockets. "They double-teamed Dirk and I was able to shoot it, but I couldn't make it. It happens sometimes."
The Mavs ran a high pick-and-roll with Calderon and Nowitzki and got the switch they wanted. With Jeremy Lin guarding Nowitzki, Dallas' go-to guy got the ball with his back to the basket at the elbow.
"That's what we've done a million times," Nowitzki said. "Then [Donatas] Motiejunas bumped right back and double-teamed me. I made the right play, I thought. The pass wasn't great, but we still had enough time to even swing it or drive it or do whatever, but Jose decided to pull it. We know he's our best 3-point shooter all year and I guess we live with the look."