NEW ORLEANS -- Frustrated after watching his team bungle a 10-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter and then spit up a seven-point lead with 1:13 to go courtesy of multiple errors, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle pulled no punches, and perhaps even dropped one on his club below the belt.
"Yeah," the coach reiterated, "soft."
That description touched a nerve in an otherwise quiet Mavs locker room, which was likely Carlisle's intent after a second loss in three games in which Dallas blew double-digit, second-half leads.
"I wouldn't go that far," said center Tyson Chandler, who returned from a sprained right ankle and recorded his 17th double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. His only blemish was clanking two free throws with 17.7 seconds left that kept the Mavericks' margin at two, 92-90.
"Who said that?" Jason Terry said, scoffing at the accusation after he had an off night -- rare for him of late -- with 10 points. "I'm not soft, not me. I don't know where that comes from, but we ain't soft. We have to see how he meant soft in that aspect, but I know he wasn't talking to me personally or any of my teammates because I don't think none of these guys are soft."
What chafed Carlisle was a rebounding total that had the Mavs on the wrong end, 44-31, and a devastating 24-11 deficit in the second half that included no offensive boards, meaning no second possessions, not a single tip-in or tip-out. Although Chandler secured 13 rebounds, the other nine who played totaled 18.
"I think we've just got to be tougher," Carlisle said quietly. "Got to be tougher."
Carlisle didn't think his team played tough enough in a third highly physical matchup with the Hornets every time it extended the lead -- to 70-60 after three quarters; to 76-65 with 8:22 to play; to 82-73 with 4:35 to go; to 89-81 with 2:26 left; and finally to 92-85 with 1:13 to go.
"When you have a seven-point lead with 1:13 to go, you've got to finish it off by making the plays," Carlisle said. "Credit them for making plays, and we did not."
Terry took exception to the foul call on Jack, who started in place of Paul and finished with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
"I don't know if Jarrett Jack gets that call," Terry said. "We know Kevin Durant does. You know Kobe may get it. But I don't know about Jarrett Jack. That's just my personal opinion. So we've got to live with it, take it on the chin and go ahead and get ready to get this next one."
Kidd, who struggled for three points on 0-of-7 shooting with seven assists, wasn't as dismayed by the call as Terry.
"I felt that he was going to shoot the 3 ... He did a good job of drawing the foul," Kidd said. "As a defender you don't think you fouled, but they called it and it was a smart foul on his part."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.