Mar 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) dunks the ball against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter  at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 133-111. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY. ORG XMIT: USATSI-233482 ORIG FILE ID:  20160327_mta_hb4_036.JPG

Dallas loses to Sacramento, the central reason the Mavs are in trouble

The Dallas Mavericks had been losing a lot lately, but who could blame them?

The Mavericks faced a tough trip to Portland last Wednesday. They flew to Oakland to play the Golden State Warriors on Friday. They put up a decent fight, but the Warriors are the Warriors, and they still haven’t lost a game in Oracle Arena since the Paleozoic Era.

The previous week, the Mavericks lost to Cleveland and again to Golden State. Days earlier, they lost to Detroit and Indiana, a pair of teams likely to finish with both a winning record and a playoff ticket in their hands at the end of 82 games.

The Mavericks have had to deal with a rough stretch of their schedule, and that’s part of life in the NBA.

Naturally, a playoff team manages to take care of business against the lesser lights of the league, so when the Mavs made the very short commute from Oakland to Sacramento for a Sunday contest against the homestanding Kings, they had the kind of game they needed to win, should have won, and moreover, ought to have used as an occasion to play their best basketball.

Final score: Kings 133, Mavericks 111.

Dallas made Willie Cauley-Stein look like a next-level offensive threat — the less-heralded Kentucky product, playing in the large shadow of Karl-Anthony Towns, scored 21 points as part of a fun and freewheeling Easter Sunday for a Kings team that’s stuck in the middle of nowhere, with an organization in shambles and a coaching staff that’s almost certainly out the door at the end of the season.

That’s what the Mavericks did after losing to Golden State. That’s what the Mavericks did after absorbing difficult losses against quality competition for the better part of the previous three weeks.

What’s even more alarming — and depressing — for Mavs fans is that this loss to Sacramento is not an isolated incident. In fact, Dallas actually lost to the Kings earlier this month — yep, earlier in March! — at home. The 104-101 decision on March 3, coupled with this result on Easter Sunday, leaves Dallas with a 1-3 mark against the Kings this season.

Gee — if Dallas had gone 3-1 and not 1-3 versus Sacramento, it would have a winning record instead of the 35-38 mark which has Dirk Nowitzki’s team outside the top eight in the West. The Mavericks are well behind Portland for sixth, and are rapidly losing leverage in the chase for seventh, currently occupied by the Utah Jazz. The team the Mavericks are closest to, Houston, helpfully lost on Sunday to the Indiana Pacers, but even the bipolar Rockets — sometimes up, sometimes down — are faring better than the Mavericks, who have lost 10 of 12 ever since attaining a 33-28 mark at the end of February.

Rick Carlisle is one of the five best coaches in the league, so it’s quite a story when even he runs out of ideas to kick-start a team in a tailspin, right when it needs to at least be able to fend off the Sacramentos and Denvers of the NBA.

Dallas has nine games left in the season. The schedule is relatively favorable, though a Clippers-Jazz-Spurs closing stretch is imposing. Dallas badly needs to be great in its next six before those final three contests. Monday, the Mavericks face Denver.

It should be a win — not easy, but a win.

Based on Sunday in Sacramento, Dallas just doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. The Mavericks need to turn doubt into determination the next week and a half.

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.

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