This might be the best thing that could happen to the Mavericks.

Nobody believes in them now.

Less than a week after most of the basketball world figured they had grown up faster than anybody could imagine and were ready to take on the world – or at least quickly dispatch the Los Angeles Clippers – this happens.

National media members are dismissing them. Locals aren’t much more optimistic.

Even Charles Barkley has issued one of his infamous “guarantees” that the Mavericks are finished.

That may not be a bad thing, by the way, given the Chuckster’s past performances on guaranteeing things.

But the point is that people for the most part have given up on the Mavericks regaining any sort of foothold in this first-round series against the Clippers. Hard to believe the best-of-seven match is tied 2-2.

The way everybody’s talking, it’s almost like the Mavericks already have one foot on the beach.

“All that external noise is just that,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday’s practice in Los Angeles. “This time of year, I try not to look too much at the papers and the Internet. You can get distracted.

“The playoffs are difficult. You got to treat every day as a one-game day. You can’t look too far ahead of that. And the process of putting ourselves in a better position to compete at a level we need to compete at (is critical) – more like the first couple games. The second couple of games, they’ve been the aggressors. And we’ve got to change that.”

And then, he boiled it down.

“Overall, we’ve got to play a better game of basketball.”

That involves a crisper offense with better ball movement than they had in the two home games. It requires better floor balance. It absolutely must include getting a handle Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Carlisle called the losses at American Airlines Center “a very difficult two games defensively – and we got to do better.”

The ball movement has been easy to quantify. In the two wins at Staples Center, they averaged 23.5 assists. In the two losses at AAC, they averaged 16. The ball simply has not moved as well, which might have something to do with the defensive alterations the Clippers made.

And then there’s the Clippers’ stars. Leonard has averaged 33 points per game, shooting 62.7 percent and 47.6 percent from 3-point range. George has averaged 25 points.

While Luka Dončić has averaged 33.3 points, the Mavericks have not gotten enough consistent support from anybody else.

“I think Kawhi Leonard had 18 points in transition in Game 4, so they were playing significantly faster,” Carlisle said. “So our offense needs to be more mindful of being in the correct positions when the shot goes up.

“And we just got to sit down and guard better. Their two star players are really attacking. And their support guys are very, very good. It’s a big challenge.”

Lue’s view: The Clippers got back into the series with their Game 3 win at American Airlines Center and built that momentum into a take-charge attitude in Game 4.

They were able to get out and run and their defense found new teeth.

But coach Tyronn Lue said Tuesday that the Clippers are well aware that the series is tied at 2-2 and has been rendered into a best-of-three.

“One game, one play can change a series,” Lue said. “If we play our defense the right way and cut down on our mistakes and they miss some shots, miss some threes, we can get out in transition and score.

“But we got to be ready to be in attack mode for 48 minutes on both sides of the basketball. And bring the physicality on defense on switches and on offense, keep attacking the paint and sharing the basketball.”

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News