The Dallas Mavericks couldn't hold on against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night after Chris Paul injured his shoulder midway through the third quarter, and Dirk Nowitzki wasn't too pleased about it:
"I don't think we're a playoff team," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon.
Nowitzki was reasonably upset after the 119-112 loss to the Clippers, where Los Angeles rallied for a 30-point fourth quarter without their $107 million franchise player. Former Maverick Darren Collison scored 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting as Dallas couldn't stop the Clippers late.
The Western Conference playoff race has Dallas slated in the eighth and final playoff spot below the Phoenix Suns. Minnesota, New Orleans, Denver and Memphis are all within five games of the Mavericks, and could challenge for the playoffs should Dallas slip.
Rick Carlisle's team is 6-4 since Dec. 14, which isn't exactly a call to panic. Execution seems more to be the issue for Dallas, who rely on their three-point shooting to keep them in games. That's not an unheard of strategy -- Portland is executing it to perfection this year -- but in three of their last five losses, the Mavericks have shot worse than 30 percent from downtown.
And in each of those five games, Monta Ellis has come dangerously close to having more shots than points in every one of them. That's a pretty standard indication of inefficient offensive play.
The problem certainly doesn't lie with Nowitzki. He is making 48 percent from the field over the last 10 games and in losses he's been even better, shooting 50 percent including 42 percent on three-pointers.
Dallas has a tough first half of January coming up, including games against conference rivals San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, and Los Angeles Lakers. They will need to stabilize their erratic play if they want to keep Minnesota and New Orleans from taking their spot in the Western Conference playoffs.