DALLAS -- One pregame theme in Dallas before Friday's Blazers-at-Mavs meeting was the level of dysfunction in other NBA cities, and the Mavs' lack of blemishes in that department.
"I guess my perspective is it makes me realize how fortunate we are here to have very stable ownership and great stability with star players like Dirk (Nowitzki) and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We haven't gone through things like (the Dwight Howard drama in Orlando). Dirk was a free agent two years ago and he was only interested in being here, and that's what makes him special and makes our situation special. That's what I take from that situation is it just makes me more grateful for what we've had here."
The Dallas Mavericks are special in regard to their decade-plus of excellence and their 2010-11 NBA title. And Carlisle wasn't pushing the meme, but rather, just dutifully answering the question. But this year's Mavs are not without their soap-operatic plots, from Jason Terry's ill-advised "show me the money" speeches to Lamar Odom's "CSI"-worthy odyssey to the ugliest blemish of all, performances like the one that resulted in this 99-97 OT loss to the have-not Blazers.
"This is a game we should have won," said Shawn Marion. "We didn't put them away when we had the chance."
"A heartbreaker," Nowitzki added.
There are endless bizarre turns in this condensed season. Dwight Howard's love-hate relationship with Orlando and his backstabbing of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is just the most recent. The Blazers are on the list, too, with dismissed coach Nate McMillan having been replaced by the team's former video coordinator, the 33-year-old Kaleb Canales.
But the Mavs, immune to any of this? They gained an early 15-point lead. Then they got outscored 30-10 in the third quarter. Then they rallied to take it to overtime before gagging on a host of possessions. And suddenly the 31-25 Mavs are stuck in sixth place in the West, one game back of Memphis and looking over their shoulders at the likes of Denver, Houston and Utah.
"I know if we're healthy and intact," said Terry, "we just as dangerous as any other team in the West."
That's accurate but as unstable as "if's" usually are. The "if's" can lean Dallas' way on Saturday when on the second night of a back-to-back, the Mavs are at Memphis. Worth noting in this almost nonsensical campaign is the fact that Dallas this year despite age and injuries is 12-6 on the second night of b-2-b's which doesn't explain how the heck there are a putrid 5-14 on the first nights of b-2-2's.
Among the concerns going forward: The Mavs heavy-lifters poured minutes into this loss. Against a Blazers team that some observers think is tanking the season in order to aid its lottery odds, Dallas required a whopping 43 minutes from Dirk Nowitzki, and 42 from Marion, and 37 from Terry. There was some help from the spectacular dunking of Brandan Wright and from the steadying hand of Delonte West (playing hurt in place of a sidelined Jason Kidd). And center Brendan Haywood did his best to challenge Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Mavs hoping to avoid double-teaming Aldridge so no other Blazers could hurt them. Raymond Felton scored 30, so that strategy didn't exactly pan out.
And Aldridge did 25 points (and 12 rebounds) worth of damage, points that included the game-winning turnaround jumper to beat the overtime buzzer.
We're going to LaMarcus," said Canales, who did so repeatedly with the DFW native. "LaMarcus hit a big shot. Big-time player, big-time shot."
Meanwhile, Nowitzki a fellow All-Star to whom Aldridge is often compared -- led the Mavs with 23 points and 14 rebounds, but was responsible for the gaffe of the night. With 22 seconds left and the score tied, Dirk attempted a "touchdown pass" to Marion. If it's on target, Marion catches and dunks and Dallas has the lead.
"What happened was I got the rebound and really wanted to hold it for the last shot," Nowitzki explained. "(But) I looked up and (Marion) was just wide open. I tried to rush it to him and it just completely got away from me. It was just kind of like an instinct play. When you look up and see a guy open, you want to give him the ball. I just over-rushed it and completely overthrew it.
"It was just a brutal play," Nowitzki said.
Are the Mavs "different" less "brutal" -- than the soap-opera teams? It can be argued that that's a "big-picturesmall-picture" question. Is Dallas' record dating back to Feb. 1 big-picture enough? Because over the course of that span, the defending champs are now a .500 team.
"We've got to keep going," Carlisle said by way of addressing that fact. "I don't know that it's a time for amateur psychologist analysis. It's a time for everybody to get in gear."