Crunch-time benching 'definitely strange' to Mavs' Chandler Parsons

DALLAS -- Coach Rick Carlisle took the blame for the Dallas Mavericks' loss Wednesday because of a poor decision he made in crunch time.

Carlisle regretted not calling a timeout on the Mavs' final possession in a 93-90 loss to the Miami Heat. The game ended with Raymond Felton jacking up a contested 3-pointer after he couldn't get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki on a couple of pick-and-pops.

"It was obviously a bad decision on my part," Carlisle said. "The way it went, I should have taken a timeout and set something else up."

Felton, the only Dallas player to touch the ball on the possession, also accepted blame for the failure in the final seconds. He noted that he knew the Mavs had a timeout and said he should have used it when he glanced at the clock with six seconds left after he couldn't get the red-hot Nowitzki the ball.

That, however, isn't the late-game decision that will be a hot topic of discussion on Dallas sports radio Thursday. Nor is it the crunch-time call that could have ramifications on the rest of the Mavs' season and beyond.

In terms of the big picture, benching Chandler Parsons down the stretch is a much bigger deal than not calling a timeout on the final sequence.

Serving as a crunch-time spectator caught Parsons by surprise, given that he's billed as a foundation piece for the Mavs and had been in the midst of the best statistical stretch of his career, having busted out of a funk following a difficult rehab from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee.

Parsons, who can opt out of the final season of his three-year, $46 million deal this summer, sat out from the 6:05 mark of the fourth quarter until he checked in as a defensive substitution for Nowitzki with 17.9 seconds left.

Carlisle's explanation for opting to play Felton over Parsons during crunch time was simple: Parsons struggled the rest of the game after a scorching start. Parsons hit his first three shots but missed nine of his last 10. He had all 12 of his points, five of his seven rebounds and two of his three assists in the first quarter.

"Look, Chandler had a rough two or three quarters, but he'll bounce back," said Carlisle, who added that he felt the Mavs needed playmaking and quickness, making Felton a better option than Parsons.

Parsons, who had averaged an extremely efficient 22.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in the previous nine games, was disappointed that his coach didn't have enough confidence in him to give him the crunch-time benefit of the doubt that stars around the league are afforded.

"It's definitely strange to me, especially after how I've been playing," Parsons told ESPN.com. "It's definitely different, but every game calls for something different. You can't have it every night. There's going to be off nights, but I feel like I've played well enough to be in at the end of games."

Felton was also ice cold entering crunch time, having gone 0-of-7 from the field up until that point. However, the veteran guard's performance down the stretch was a major reason the Mavs had a chance to tie it on the final possession, as Felton had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the fourth quarter before missing the last shot.

Carlisle values plus-minus, a statistic that certainly didn't shed a favorable light on Parsons' performance against the Heat. He was a team-worst minus-17 in his 32 minutes.

Parsons' poor plus-minus in a Jan. 24 loss to the Houston Rockets, when he was minus-30 despite scoring 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, led to a minor conflict between the player and coach.

"There's a lot more to the game than just putting the ball in the basket, obviously," Carlisle said that night. "If a guy scores 31 points and we're minus-30, I've got to coach him better in other areas. I think it's pretty clear, because if you're scoring that many points, there must be other holes that we've got to fill."

Parsons didn't appreciate the comments, feeling that he was called out by his coach after playing well with other circumstances leading to the Mavs being outscored by so much with him on the floor. Carlisle and Parsons discussed the issue the next day and moved on.

They surely will have another discussion Thursday.

"I feel like I've earned my position on this team to play every night," said Parsons, who is minus-26 despite his offensive brilliance in the last 10 games, the worst on the team during that stretch. "I didn't shoot the ball very well tonight, but I thought I rebounded well and defended pretty well. Ray made some plays there in the fourth quarter, but nobody really shot the ball too well.

"I'm the player, he's the coach. Obviously, I want to be in there at the end of the game, but he makes the substitutions."

Carlisle, who has repeatedly attempted to downplay expectations for Parsons this season because of his health issues, has no problem with Parsons' desire to be on the floor with the game on the line. However, the coach made it clear that unconditional clutch-playing time is not part of the deal for Parsons at this point.

"The best players should always want to play in crunch time," Carlisle told ESPN.com well after the players had left the American Airlines Center. "The reality is that until Chandler is fully recovered there are gonna be some struggles. He has to continue to work hard, and I have to continue to keep working with him to push through."

And, whether he likes it or not, Parsons apparently has to earn crunch-time minutes on a night-to-night basis.