Jean-Jacques Taylor -- Game 4 proves Mavs need drastic change
DALLAS — When the Mavs lose this series to New Orleans — Game 5 seems like a pretty sure bet to me — their status as an elite team will officially end.
As it should.
Then Mark Cuban can spend the off-season blowing up this team that has a penchant for quitting. Did you forget its 25-point loss to Golden State in the final game of the first-round loss last season?
Perhaps Cuban will fire Avery Johnson. Maybe he’ll deal Josh Howard. Or Jason Terry.
All we really know is that after watching the Mavs play without passion and urgency in a pathetic, 97-84 loss to New Orleans, it’s pretty obvious substantial changes must be made.
This team, which choked away a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals just two years ago, seems as far away from winning a title as it did in the early ‘90s. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
These days, the Mavs bear no resemblance to a championship contender.
Dallas is 3-11 in its last 14 playoff games with seven of those losses by double-digits. The Mavs have lost eight straight road playoff games.
The Mavs won 50 games for the eighth straight season, but we all know this team is on the decline. It struggled to make the playoffs this season and will do the same next year.
That eight-year streak of making the playoffs, second only to San Antonio’s 11-year streak, will end in 2009. Just to show you how good the Mavs have been, Detroit owns the NBA’s next longest streak with five consecutive playoff appearances.
Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Avery — if he’s still around — have to fix this team, which lacks mental toughness and has become a collection of ill-fitting parts.
The bench is non-existent. Actually, it has become a two-man bench comprised of Brandon Bass and Devean George because Jerry Stackhouse has been woefully ineffective. His mind is willing, but the body can’t do the job.
And aside from Dirk Nowitzki, Avery has no idea who’s going to produce on a given night.
Is Howard going to score 30 or 15? Is Stackhouse going to score 12 or zero? Is Terry going to hit five 3-pointers or one?
That would drive any coach crazy.
For the record, Terry was good with 20 points, while holding Chris Paul to 16 points and eight assists, but Howard produced only six points on 3-of-16 shooting.
That’s not nearly good enough. Avery, though, failed to help himself.
At the start of the third quarter, Avery allowed David West to dominate Erick Dampier.
West scored 10 of the Hornets’ first 12 points as New Orleans turned a 48-44 halftime lead into a 61-51 lead with 8:45 left in the third quarter before Johnson finally called a timeout and replaced Dampier with Brandon Bass.
Dampier can’t handle West, who either hits the 18-foot jumper or drives past the center when he moves out on the perimeter. It’s a move, New Orleans coach Byron Scott said before the game the Hornets would exploit.
Kidd, anointed a savior for the season when he arrived in February, was a non-factor with three points, three assists and four rebounds. He didn’t shoot, as usual, and didn’t impact the offense with his passing.
If Avery can’t figure out how to get the most out of him for whatever reason, then Cuban needs to find another coach. Or get rid of Kidd.
It’s not that complicated.
There are no positives to take from the Mavs’ performance. Will you be surprised when they lose by 20 in New Orleans? Of course not.
Jean-Jacques Taylor writes for the Dallas Morning News. His column is distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.