LAS VEGAS -- Playing four days in four days took the legs completely out of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the COX Pavilion.
In an exercise in patience and perseverance, the Mavs couldn't overcome fatigue and the loss of some key players as they fell to the No. 2-seeded Chicago Bulls, 94-87, in the consoltation bracket of the Las Vegas Summer League. Thus, the Mavs finished summer league play with a disappointing 2-4 record and are on their way back to the Metroplex.
One night after blowing a 10-point lead with three minutes to go in losing to the No. 1-seeded Golden State Warriors, 79-76, the Mavs raced out to a 10-point lead on the Bulls (35-25) with 5:43 remaining in the first half. But the Mavs failed -- again -- to find another gear in hopes of sustaining that lead.
"You're never going to play a back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and these guys gave everything they could, and I told them that after the game,'' Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said. "We appreciate all the effort they gave me the last two weeks.
"You could see it -- guys were a little tired. So we tried to shorten the rotations and get them in six minutes, get them out six minutes to try to save their legs. They fought to the end.''
The Mavs played without their two top veterans, Jae Crowder and Bernard James. Crowder sprained his left ankle in the first period of Thursday's loss to the Warriors, and James missed the last five games of the summer league -- one because of an illness and four for personal reasons.
"It was hard not having Jae and Bernard -- leadership and toughness and things like that,'' Mathis said. "But again, the guys gave everything they could.
"It''s tough, but that's what the NBA is all about, also. During the season you're going to lose guys for different various reasons, and that's why we tell everybody on the bench, 'Hey, you've got to stay ready in this league, because at any night you could be thrown into the starting lineup because coaches want to keep their guys coming off the bench the same.' ''
Justin Dentmon led the Mavs with 23 points after converting 7-of-16 shots, including all three of his three-pointers. Josh Akognon rebounded from Thursday's disasterous five-point, 1-of-14 shooting against the Warriors to pour in 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
The game was stopped for five minutes in the third quarter when the roof was leaking due a sudden wild downpour that took Las Vegas by storm. The Mavs were up 48-46 at the time.
After the court was wiped up -- most of the rain was in front of the Mavs' bench -- the game continued and the Bulls took control of the game.
"I didn't know what was going on,'' Mathis said. "I thought they were going to call the game for a minute.
"I actually would have enjoyed that -- we were up two at the time. But it was just a little halt in play, I guess.''
Battling fatigue, the Mavs just didn't have anything left when play resumed and when the game mattered most.
"I definitely got out of it that it's definitely a grind playing four back-to-back games, and just coming out here and playing with a lot of tenacity and a lot of aggressiveness I think was a big key for me,'' forward Jackie Carmichael said. "You definitely see what kind of an NBA schedule is like -- playing against top tier guys -- it's a grind.''
Carmichael, who had seven points and four rebounds, found out how much of a grind the game is without players like Crowder
"Jae just brings that energy and he brings that hustle and you really need that on a team,'' Carmichael said. "I really tried to fulfill that role as much as possible, but those are big shoes to fill.''
The Mavs got hammered on the boards, 46-30, and wound up shooting 43.7 percent from the field. Dallas did protect the ball, though, as it turned it over only eight times, which led to 15 points for the Bulls.
"I wanted to end on a good note,'' Dentmon said. "We lost, but everybody got a chance to play and got a chance to feel what it is to be on the front stage of an NBA team.''
That was certainly true for Gal Mekel, a rookie free agent point guard from Israel who signed a three-year, $2.3 million contract with the Mavs earleir this month. Mekel struggled against the Bulls as he finished with just four points and seven assists, and was only 1-of-5 from the field.
"I was dead in the end,'' Mekel said. "It was tough today, especially after we lost (Thursday).
"We really tried hard to bring energy, and it's not easy. But for me, I think, it was a great week -- the first time getting to know the NBA game.''
For the Mavs, they found out the hard way how tough it is playing four games in four days when energy is a preminum.
-- Dwain Price
Follow me on Twitter