Overmatched Mavericks 'embarrassed' in opener against Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Maybe sending a lottery pick to Boston to put the finishing touches on the disastrous Rajon Rondo deal wouldn't have been so humiliating for the Dallas Mavericks.

It appears to be better than the alternative after the Mavs' miserable playoff opener.

It should come as a shock to nobody who is aware that a basketball is round that the Oklahoma City Thunder opened the series with a home victory. There is a major talent disparity between the West's third and sixth seeds even without the Mavs' medical issues.

However, the Mavs' absolute failure to compete was rather appalling in Saturday night's 108-70 rout, which set a franchise record for fewest points scored in a playoff game.

"We've just got to show pride," said face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki, whose 18 points made him the only Dallas player to score in double figures. "We obviously got embarrassed tonight."

It's a waste of time to wonder how the Mavs might be able to win their first playoff series since their 2011 championship parade. It's more likely that Mark Cuban wears a tuxedo to the next game.

Can the Mavs make this series remotely competitive? Can they at least show the kind of fight that it took for Dallas to avoid watching the first round from the couch?

To be blunt, it took a minor miracle for this mediocre team to even make the playoffs, much less claim the sixth seed. They sure looked destined for an early vacation on March 27, when the Mavs were blown out by a sorry Sacramento squad, dropping to three games under .500 with their 10th loss in 12 games.

The Mavs managed to respond with a season-best six-game winning streak, when rookie small forward Justin Anderson's addition to the starting lineup provided a spark, and guard J.J. Barea played the best basketball of his 10-year career.

Anderson spent most of Game 1 buried on the bench until the fourth quarter, when the only drama was whether the Mavs would avoid breaking the franchise record for the worst playoff loss. (Dallas rallied to preserve the place in franchise lore of the 43-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984.)

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle promised that he'd give Anderson a much more significant role in Game 2. He probably won't have much choice, considering Barea's status is in significant doubt after he aggravated a groin strain that caused him to miss two of the previous three games. He probably will spend Monday night in a suit alongside Chandler Parsons and David Lee, meaning the Mavs will be missing three of their six most productive players.

The best hope for the Mavs entering the series was that Carlisle could dominate the coaching battle against NBA rookie Billy Donovan. After all, Carlisle's sideline work during the 2011 title run ranks among the most impressive coaching performances in NBA history. And his wizardry allowed eighth-seeded Dallas to push the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round a couple of years ago, a series that Dallas had no business making competitive.

But Carlisle had as rough a series opener as most of the Mavs. His decision to go with a starting lineup the Mavs had never used before backfired, and things didn't get much better from there.

"I've got to get these guys better prepared to play," Carlisle said. "That's pretty clear. We had some struggles early, but we were not the team we've been the past two-and-a-half weeks, and I take a great deal of responsibility for that. I've got to do a better job getting them ready for Game 2."

The Mavs had two major concerns entering the series in addition to dealing with the dominant duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined for 47 points and 16 assists and were outscoring Dallas by themselves at one point in the third quarter. Dallas was dominated in both areas that were pregame focal points.

First of all, the game was all but over after the first quarter, when Oklahoma City jumped to a 26-11 lead and set a franchise playoff record for fewest points allowed in a quarter. The Thunder ranked second in the league in first-quarter plus-minus (plus-252), and the Mavs ranked last among playoff teams (minus-84). But that kind of dominance was even worse than the Mavs feared.

Second, the Mavs were manhandled on the glass. Oklahoma City had the NBA's best rebounding percentage (54.7) during the regular season, and the Mavs finished in the bottom five (48.5), but this thumping was much worse than those numbers foreshadowed. The Thunder won the rebounding battle by a 56-33 margin. It was 43-21 after three quarters.

Granted, the Mavs missed a lot of shots for the Thunder to rebound, making themselves at home near Bricktown with a field goal percentage of 29.8. All those misses sapped the Mavs' energy, according to Nowitzki and Carlisle, which is inexcusable for a veteran team that prides itself on mental toughness.

"We just went back in a shell a little bit," Nowitzki said. "It's disappointing. I guess the only positive I take out of this is it's only one game. If you lose by 2 or by 50 in the playoffs, it's only one game. We've got another crack to steal one here Monday night, but we've got to play harder and we've got to play better. It's as simple as that."