While being competitive and losing close games like the Mavericks have done four times in a row now is far preferable to the 30-point blowouts they were suffering 10 days ago, the frustration level continues to grow.

Working hard and getting no payoff is getting old fast.

"Words can't even express it right now," said Shawn Marion after the 99-93 setback to the Clippers Wednesday night. "This is painful to be losing like this when we're so close. When we get right there, we usually do something to mess it up. We played a solid game."

The Mavericks had chances even after they lost their 10-point lead by sleepwalking through the final 90 seconds of the third quarter and falling behind by seven with under five minutes to play.

They cut it to three, then two and were still only down 97-93 when Darren Collison got a terrific open 3-pointer from the corner. When that one missed with 1:35 to play, the Clippers got two tough offensive rebounds by former Maverick Caron Butler to sseal the deal.