The tiniest particulars can lead a surprisingly strong and powerful NBA team to an upsetting loss. Punctilious things like whether or not the basketball falls into the net or the empty space after a trey, or if a player launches a second too late or too soon for an alley-oop and ends up slamming the glass inside of the rim. However, in the case of the Dallas Mavericks’ 102-98 loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Friday evening, it wasn’t as something meager as luck or bad timing, it was something much larger: Rebounding.
“We needed to be tougher,” Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle mused after the game regarding his team’s rebounding struggles. “We need to be more hit-first. The first quarter was our undoing: We got outscored 30-21. Really, the rest of the game was pretty even. I thought their shot-making, our inability to make key stops – they got two or three threes, they got some tip-ins – it just set the wrong tone for the game.”
The Mavericks trailed the Bulls at the end of the first 12 ticks due to Derrick Rose’s insufferable ability to hit net from all angles of the floor, while Carlisle switched to three-guards with J.J. Barea, Rondo, and Devin Harris during the second, a favorable move that looked to breathe life into the dumpster fire offense. Dallas would come within three (54-51) at halftime.
And that’s when things got… well, they got strange. In this edition of “Well, That Was F**king Awkward…” tensions rose off the court as members of the sports media were eager to understand some of Carlisle’s last minute decisions in the fourth quarter, two things specifically: Why rookie Dwight Powell, who was obtained during the Rajon Rondo trade with the Boston Celtics, was suddenly given a hefty minutes package and why Rondo was benched during the last crucial minutes of the game.
“He played over 21 minutes and had zero rebounds,” Carlisle said of Powell’s performance, or rather lack there-of. “We had some guys who played quite a few minutes that didn’t get enough rebounds. We’ve got to help Tyson (Chandler). Dirk (Nowitzki) got seven, Tyson got 12. We needed our perimeter guys to get more involved in it.
“They outrebounded us,” Monta Ellis said softly in the tension filled locker room following the game. “Wing guys got to do a better job helping out our bigs. They had two bigs in there that attacked the basket and then Gipson coming off the bench and being active so we’ve got to come in and help our big guys more.”
However, it was one particular question that caused the gruffness of Carlisle to surface: ESPNDallas.com’s journalist, Tim MacMahon, wished to understand the nature of the coach’s thought process and why he decided to bench Rondo during the last 5:11 in the fourth. Carlisle peered at MacMahon, a known favorite of the Dallas press who attends every game and practice, as he channeled Russell Westbrook and sharply gave his answer: “Coach’s decision.”
But what about the differential philosophy from what he did with the point guard during Monday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies? “It’s just a coach’s decision. Today is Friday. That was Monday. That’s where it is. If you want to make it a blowup story, be my guest. Go talk to him. It’s a coach’s decision.”
Carlisle sighed and addressed Rondo’s overall play of the evening. “We didn’t really have anybody who played great,” he pointed out. “It’s just a coach’s decision down the stretch – not an easy one, but it’s just a coach’s decision.”
In the locker room, Rondo decided to follow in this coach’s footsteps when asked how he felt about Carlisle’s decision to sit him regardless of the fact that he’s known for coming through during crunch time. “It’s the coach’s decision,” he said in a low tone. “Coach made the decision and it’s as simple as that. I’ve been in this game a long time. No, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve liked what Coach Carlisle has done for me this year and I don’t have any regrets.”
The Mavericks look to expunge the memory of this loss on Sunday when they head to New Orleans to face the Pelicans.