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Mavs' O.J. Mayo leaves door open

BOSTON -- Rick Carlisle thought of the colorful man who coached him when he broke into the NBA with the Boston Celtics when asked if the Dallas Mavericks missed Jason Terry.

"As the great K.C. Jones would say, does a bear [poop] in the woods?" Carlisle cracked before Wednesday night's game at the TD Garden.

There's comfort in having a closer like Terry on your roster. Terry had an off night in his first meeting with the Mavs while wearing that green No. 4, but there weren't many better clutch players than "Jet" during his time in Dallas.

Maybe O.J. Mayo can develop into that kind of cold-blooded crunch-time scorer.

If that's the case, perhaps Mayo will look back on the Mavs' 117-115 double-overtime loss to Terry's Celtics as a valuable bump in the road of his learning process as a closer.

Mayo finished with a team-high 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but his nine turnovers were the number he focused on after the Mavs' three-game winning streak got snapped. And Mayo's mind was on the big shots he missed, not the buckets he got to fall.

"I just want to take the big shots," said Mayo, who embraces the responsibility after being a complementary player in Memphis the last two seasons. "When you have the ball, you have to make plays for your teammates or get a good shot."

The Dirk-less Mavs' go-to guy had plenty of opportunities to put his team in position to win. Mayo kept coming up short.

He missed a free throw that would have given the Mavs the lead with 52.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Boston's Rajon Rondo stole the ball from him with 8.9 ticks on the clock.

Mayo forced the second OT with a driving layup and opened the extra-extra period by slashing to the hoop for another score. Nothing else went right for Mayo until hitting a meaningless buzzer-beating 3.

In a span of five possessions, Mayo committed a turnover and missed three shots -- a lefty layup, a wide-open 3-pointer he admitted he wasn't ready to take and a forced 3.

You could make the excuse that Mayo ran out of gas while racking up 52 minutes, but he doesn't want to hear that.

"Shoot, I wish we could keep playing until we win," Mayo said. "I wasn't tired at all."

That kind of competitiveness encourages the Mavs that Mayo can become a Jet-like closer. So does his talent and skills, which were on full display just a few days earlier, when Mayo scored 16 of his career-high-tying 40 points in the fourth quarter to slam the door in a win over the Rockets.

"The characteristics are, you've got to be strong-willed yet you've got to have discipline, you've got to have the ability to create but also make others better," Carlisle said. "I think he'll get better in all those areas, and I think he's showing signs of being very good in a lot of those right now."

It's all part of Mayo's evolution as a closer. (Which, by the way, will be expedited when he has the luxury of co-starring with crunch-time monster Dirk Nowitzki like Terry did during his eight seasons in Dallas.)

"This is all new for him," said Vince Carter, who served as his teams' closer for most of his career and is now mentoring Mayo. "It's just that every situation that he's being put in or seeing now is a learning process, and we're expecting him to learn on the fly. …

"When you play against good teams, the goal is going to be to stop the leading scorer. I say, 'Well, that's going to be you. The attention is on you. What do you do about it?' He'll be fine. Let me say this, he's just a competitor. All these things bother him, which is a good thing. He wants to succeed."

That's why Mayo picked Carter's brain about how he could have been better in crunch time before he even hit the showers in Boston.

That's why Mayo couldn't wait to get on the team's charter flight to Toronto, where he could bust out the film and review his mistakes.

Closers aren't necessarily born. They can be made.

The Mavs lost a finished product when they let Terry go this summer. That process is just beginning for Mayo.