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Rick Carlisle nailed it

DALLAS, Texas - Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle chooses his words carefully, and when he popped after his team lost on Wednesday night with some choice language there was a reason.

The Mavs lost 117-115 against a James Harden-less Houston Rockets in Dallas on Wednesday night, and after the game Carlisle said: "I don't know how many times they blew by us, but I'm glad we started fouling (Rockets center Dwight) Howard because I was starting to get the chills over there from all of the blow-bys. It saved our guys the embarrassment of getting blown by two or three times in a row."

Rick-CarlisleOn Thursday after the Mavs practiced, I asked Carlisle if that was a calculated, or spontaneous, comment.

"Calculated?" he asked and paused as he shot me a look.

"Yes - were you trying to send a message to your players?" I asked.

Carlisle said: "They know the deal. They know we were poor. We have to do better. I take responsibility because it's my team. I have to get these guys getting the ball better."

Not playing good defense is not acceptable to Rick Carlisle, but his team is doing that because they do not have good defensive players.

Guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis, both offseason free agent signees, have never been considered strong at the perimeter. Calderon because the ability is lacking, and Ellis because most of his energy is spent scoring. And it really does not help there is no scary rim protecter to deter dribble penetration. That was a flaw in this team from Day 1, which they have compensated for by ranking seventh in the NBA in scoring.

"We have to do a better job with our stance. Moving our feet. Getting our body positioned right, and our help," Carlisle said. "Early help guys have to show more help. When players in this league see big gaps, they put their head down and drive it and look for the official to blow the whistle."

The Mavs are giving up 102.7 points per game, 24th in the NBA. Opponents are shooting .464 against the Mavs, 26th in the league. It's a perfect recipe for the eighth seed in the West, and some nasty comments from the head coach.

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Whether it's Ellis turning the ball over, Dalembert's disappearing act, Dirk sitting on the bench for too much of the game, or lack of leadership at crunch time; this team has demonstrated that it's not going to do much this year as presently constructed. Sure, they may limp into the playoffs at the 7 or 8 spot, but they'll get slaughtered by Portland, OKC, or San Antonio that are clearly better teams. If they could acquire a defensive-minded center before the trade deadline February 20, they might be able turn things around, but it's looking increasingly like they're just going to let the deadline pass in order to keep their powder dry for yet another run at a big name free agent this summer.

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