Why sit Mavs' best defenders down stretch?

SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks had turned the corner, leading by 10 points with 7:45 to play, and all they needed to do was reach the finish line. Instead, they stumbled, falling flat as they surrendered a 15-0 run and ultimately lost their opportunity to steal Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Much will be made of Dallas finishing 1-of-13 from the field, but the Mavs didn't have enough defense down the stretch to stop the Spurs. After Dallas built its 10-point lead, San Antonio went 7-of-12 from the field.

"Closing games is more about getting stops than shot-making," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after Sunday's 90-85 loss. "If you build a lead, you've got to close it with defense."

They had to close it with defense, but their best defensive options, Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert, didn't log a single second of playing time in the fourth quarter.

Marion declined to comment on sitting out the entire fourth quarter, but Dalembert voiced his opinion about the situation.

"It is very frustrating," Dalembert said. "We'll just learn from it. We have to learn quickly."

The Mavs had good looks to finish out the game. The execution was solid, but they didn't get the desired result. Hindsight is clearly 20-20, and Carlisle made his choice to go with offense over defense.

"That's a judgment call," Carlisle said. "And at that point, we had a good rhythm going offensively. Then we just got in a situation where we needed to score, so I elected to stay with that group.

"And I'll look at that. That may be something I've got to reevaluate for Game 2."

Ultimately, Carlisle played only six players in the fourth quarter. He went without those two defensive starters as well as Jose Calderon. The point guard might have helped with a timely bucket, but the bigger issue was clearly on the other end of the floor.

When Tim Duncan was defended by Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright or DeJuan Blair, Duncan went 9-of-11 from the floor. When he was defended by Dalembert or Marion, Duncan went 2-of-6 from the floor. Nowitzki guarded six of Duncan’s shots, giving up five made field goals. Dalembert guarded five of Duncan’s shots, giving up only two made field goals.

Duncan went 4-of-5 from the field in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of San Antonio’s 25 points in the fourth quarter.

Shot-making comes and goes, so having defensive options on the court might be able to help stem the tide.

If Carlisle really believes he has to help his guys finish better, Marion and/or Dalembert have to be options down the stretch.