Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle declined to expound on his reasoning for benching guard Jason Terry for the last seven minutes of Thursday's fourth quarter and, in particular, the final 15 seconds when Dallas had a chance to tie or win the game.
Rodrigue Beaubois took Terry's typical spot and missed two game-tying attempts, a 6-foot floater with 5.6 seconds to go and then an open 18-foot jumper off an inbounds play that originated with 2.5 seconds remaining.
The Phoenix Suns rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit and held on for the 96-94 victory, handing the Mavs their fifth consecutive road loss and their fifth loss in seven games in this nine-game stretch in 12 days. It was the second time during this stint that Carlisle has benched Terry down the stretch of a close game. Carlisle also sat him down last Friday in the loss at New Orleans.
After Thursday's game, Carlisle was asked why he did not re-insert Terry into the game in the final 15 seconds with the game hanging in the balance. Carlisle said, "Coach's decision, coach's decision," and he declined to answer other questions about Terry.
Carlisle, who last week used his weekly radio platform to elaborate on the Lamar Odom situation by making some strong statements, did not go deeper into his decision to not use one of the game's most clutch performers in the waning moments against the Suns.
"I'm going to stick with that and I'm going to do it for a couple of reasons," Carlisle said, referring to his postgame answer of "coach's decision." "The first reason is that we're not a big drama team and we haven't been and we're going to continue in that vein. The decision into who plays when, a lot of times those can be difficult decisions, but the thing that I've learned time and time again being in this job a long time is that you've got to stick with (the decision) and you've got to accept them, and win or lose you've got to move on and understand that the consequences of decisions are the consequences of decisions and the rewards of other decisions are the rewards.
"The only thing I would say to further kind of finish this thought is that Vince (Carter) had a game going, I like how Roddy played during the game even though he didn't have a great shooting night; I like his quickness in that situation because he can create space and, hey, sometimes the ball doesn't go in the basket, you lose and then you've got to accept it and move on."
Dallas moves on to the middle game of its lone back-to-back-to-back Friday night at the Sacramento Kings.
The Mavs have been criticized in recent games for poor execution in crunch time, a departure from last season's championship formula. Dallas has played 15 games decided by five or fewer points, tied for the most in the league. Their nine losses in those games are also tied for the most in the league. No team won more close games last season than Dallas.
Terry, who is in his eighth season with the Mavs and the final year of his contract, was 3-of-7 from the floor, missing all three of his 3-point attempts, with six points in a season-low 20 minutes against the Suns.
Carlisle removed Terry from the game during a timeout following a thunderous putback slam dunk by Terry's man, Shannon Brown, as Terry looked on.
"You know how I feel when I'm not on the court at the end of the game," Terry said. "I can't check myself in and out of the game. What I think doesn't matter."
After a home loss to New Jersey coming out of the All-Star break, Terry openly complained that he didn't get the ball during a final-possession sequence. On Monday, in a 95-91 loss at Oklahoma City, Terry was in position twice to take the lead or tie, but missed a contested jumper on the first possession and on the second he got in trouble driving along the baseline, gave it up, got it back and missed a rushed jumper at the buzzer.
On his Friday radio program, Carlisle didn't recognize a rift between him and Terry, a player he has counted on in late-game situations countless times during his three-plus seasons coaching the Mavs.
"I love Jason Terry, believe me, and I can tell you this, all the years that I've been here, and now this my 10th year in coaching, these are guys that aren't about drama, they're about winning and that's been the consistent theme," Carlisle said. "And right now when your belief system is being a little bit tested with some of the events that have gone on and some of the struggles at the end of games, we've just got to stay steadfast."
The Mavs will try to snap a road skid that dates to Feb. 17 without starting center Brendan Haywood, who will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. It again leaves Dallas extremely shorthanded in the middle because Brandan Wright is not on the trip due to a concussion.
Carlisle said he's hopeful that Wright, who sustained the concussion a week ago at New Orleans, can begin physical activity when the team reconvenes for practice in Dallas on Monday.
On another injury front, guard Delonte West, out since Feb. 15 when he broke his right ring finger, will be evaluated early next week and is getting closer to making a return, Carlisle said. How close remains uncertain. West had surgery a few days after the injury to have stabilizing pins inserted into the finger. He can't return to any basketball activities until the pins are removed.
"He's going to be evaluated Monday when he gets back," Carlisle said about West, who is traveling with the team. "If things are doing well, there's a possibility he can get the pins out and if it needs another week or whatever before we look at another set of X-rays or whatever it is, then it will have to be another week. We'll keep our fingers crossed on that one and go from there."