Monday, February 26, 2007


Rough night for Atlanta. The Hawks shot 51.5% from the floor, and they still only managed to tie Dallas' top four scorers––Nowitzki, Terry, Howard, and Stackhouse combined for 87 points on 36/57 (63%) shooting. Each of the four scored at least 19 and hit more than half his shots. There were only 49 rebounds the entire game (which means there weren't a lot of missed shots), and Dallas outscored Atlanta every quarter.

Oh--and according to, the Mavericks' 3rd 12-game winning streak of the season sets an NBA record.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rollin’ Along

I didn't get to watch the Denver game, but on a night when both 'Melo and Iverson had nice lines offensively (34 and 26 points on combined 22/41 shooting), Dallas still won by 20 to log 19 consecutive home wins. And Dirk (31/11/8) toyed with a triple-double again, which is always nice to see. (He had more assists than all the team's guards put together, which isn't so nice to see.)

It'll be interesting to see if Dallas still loses ground in the Hollinger Ranking to San Antonio, who beat Seattle by 31. But I don't think anyone in their right mind would rather be San Antonio than Dallas at this point.

Some updated figures for the Mavericks' season:
  • Three win streaks of at least 11 games.
  • Four win streaks of at least 8 games.
  • Average win streak: 7.7 games.
  • Average streak after any given game: 4.7 wins. (To put that in perspective, the Spurs' best win streak this year is 5 games.)
  • If Dallas had lost twice as many games as they have, they would be 37-18, a half game behind San Antonio with the third best record in the NBA.
  • To match their best record in team history (60-22), Dallas needs to close out the season 14-13.
  • Current pace: 69-13.
I'm always terrified of presuming anything for the rest of the season, but it's like someone online (can't remember who) wrote recently: this is a dream season, so it's probably worth celebrating when things are this good.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Well, at least he's mentally tough...

OK, so Wade is legitimately scrapped for tonight's game.

On the one hand, a dislocated shoulder is a legitimate injury, I have to admit. I'm sure he really should be resting tonight.

On the other hand, a *wheelchair*?! The news story says that's how Wade got to the locker room from the bench.

Just to put this in perspective, a middle-aged guy at my church here in Boston dislocated his shoulder while skiing a couple of weeks ago. Not only did he not wait and call for a paramedic, but he popped the shoulder back into socket by himself and kept skiing for the rest of the day. Turns out he was out with a friend he didn't get to see very often, and he wasn't going to let the injury ruin his day.

Now, it was an unwise move by the fellow from my church, and it'll probably slow the healing of his arm, so I'm not sure saying Wade should have kept playing last night. But a wheelchair? I hope Bill Walton's working the game tonight––I want to hear what he has to say about this.

A self-respecting man can leave the court on a stretcher. He can be helped off with his arms around people on either side if he's got a bad leg injury. But no self-respecting man (and world-class athlete at that) can ever go from the bench to the locker room in a wheelchair. Especially not with a shoulder injury.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Resting on Regular-Season Laurels

Jeremy (my brother) asked me to look up how teams with the best record in the NBA have fared historically in the playoffs, and the results are pretty encouraging for Dallas. I focused on the 26 seasons the Mavericks have been a team. (When two teams tied for the best record, I followed the one that went the farthest in the playoffs.)

Of those 26 teams:
  • 14 won the championship
  • 2 lost in the nba finals
  • 8 lost in the conference finals
  • 1 lost in the second round
  • And, in the ultimate shame, the '93-'94 Seattle Supersonics finished 63-19 and lost to Denver (42-40) in the first round.
Now, since the best regular-season team only wins the championship a little over half the time, it appears that simply having the best record (relative to the rest of the league) doesn't mean much. However, when you look at how many wins the top team has, there ends up being a pretty strong correlation between regular-season wins and championships.

The Stats:

The top regular-season teams that failed to win the championship ranged from 58 to 64 wins, averaging 62.08 wins. The top teams that went on to win the championship, on the other hand, ranged from 60 to 72 wins, averaging 64.85. Teams that had the best record in the NBA but won 63 or fewer games only went on to win the title in 6 of 17 cases; but no one in the past 26 seasons who has won at least 65 games in the regular season has failed to win the championship.

If you check records all the way back to the founding of the NBA, 10 of the 11 teams to win at least 65 games have won the championship. ('67-'68 was the first season with 82 games, so before that it was pretty tough to win 60.) The only loser was the '72-'73 Celtics, who lost to the Knicks (57-25) in the conference finals.

So while winning more games than everyone else doesn't seem to guarantee anything, winning lots and lots of games appears to mean quite a lot. Apparently you can win 63 on a fluke, but not 65. If Dallas can manage 66-67 wins this year, there's little doubt they should take the championship.

Incidentally, of those seven Mavs-era teams that won at least 65 games, six also had their top player receive the regular-season MVP (and, in each case, the finals MVP as well): Moses Malone for Philly in '82-'83, Bird for Boston in '85-'86, Magic for LA in '86-'87, Jordan for Chicago in '91-'92 and '95-'96, and Shaq for LA in '99-'00. The one exception was '96-'97, when the Bulls won 69 games but Karl Malone was named MVP after averaging 27.4 points on 55% FG, 9.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, plus was named to the NBA all-defensive first team while leading Utah to a 64-18 record.

So, if Dallas gets to 66 wins (and beats Phoenix by at least a couple), history also suggests that Dirk takes home the regular-season MVP.

A few other facts about the finals:
  • The last three teams with the best regular-season record have all lost in the conference finals.
  • Teams that topped the league at least once without ever winning a championship in the Mavs era include Portland, Phoenix (twice), Seattle, and Indiana. All four of these teams also reached the finals at least once––although curiously, Portland, Seattle, and Indiana each only reached the finals in a different year, when they didn't have the best record.
  • From 1993-1994 thru 2002-2003 every NBA championship team had either Robert Horry or Steve Kerr on the roster (from Wikipedia).
  • In the past seven years, the only team to win the NBA championship whose coach hadn't already won an NBA championship was Larry Brown –– and he had won an NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988.
  • In the past eight years, either Shaq or Duncan has made it to the finals every season. Their respective teams won the championship every time except 2004, when the Pistons beat the Lakers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

All Star Snooze

Well, usually I try to write something with a little bit of substance (if a sports blog can have substance), but the only thing on this weekend was the All-Star game, so I'll write about that instead.

How about this: Dirk, KG, and Duncan as a starting front line. I would wager that's the best three power forwards to take the court at the same time since Bird, Barkley, and Malone played on the USA Dream Team in 1992 (although Chuck Daly might not have ever played those three simultaneously). And . . . D'Antoni played them 16, 15, and 14 minutes, making them three of the four least-used players on the West squad.

Incidentally, Mike D'Antoni's first substitution? Shawn Marion for Dirk Nowitzki, four minutes into the game. I wonder if Dirk stared D'Antoni down as he walked to the bench. If it was me, I'd have been furious.

Not that any of that's surprising, or even wrong. Neither Dirk nor Duncan is particular well-suited for All-Star games –– they're all substance and no style, and there were plenty of other guys on the court who had both. They showed a clip of Duncan and Parker on the bench, where Parker asked, "Did my alley-oop pass surprise you?" Duncan answered, "No, I just can't jump."

Needless to say, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion thrived in this game, combining for 47 points and 17 rebounds on 23/37 shooting. For all the griping about Phoenix getting more All-Stars than Dallas, Amare and Shawn are the kind of guys that this game's all about. Maybe Howard will be some day. Dirk, though he really has to be put on the team for the sake of the game's credibility, doesn't quite fit in.

Overall, the game was pretty dull for a Mavericks fan, and I'm guessing it will continue to be for a long time. It's unlikely Dirk will ever take an MVP, unless he just happens to hit every shot some year.

Anyone want to weigh in on whether it was an injustice (if there can be such a thing as an "injustice" in an All-Star game) for D'Antoni to give so few minutes to 3 of his starters?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Wise Man Knows the Difference, Right?

I wonder if Dirk is still trying to figure out who he is as a player. Tonight in the first quarter, he botched two entry passes to the post, one to Diop and another to Dampier. It was reminiscent of last year's finals, when he got the huge assist to Dampier at the end of game 5 but got a turnover trying the same thing at the end of game 6. I suspect it's no coincidence that this happened the first game after Dirk's 8-assist performance on Tuesday.

Both passes were almost on target, but both were into traffic to players who (1) aren't exactly offensive virtuosos and (2) weren't open. Players like Dirk typically, it seems to me, get their assists (3-4 per game) by passing out of double teams, or off the dribble, to open jump-shooters and slashers. Occasionally a power forward like Larry Bird or Chris Webber can do something a little fancier and thread holes in the lane, but it's my impression that's not ever going to be Dirk's game. Dirk may or may not agree with that.

Tonight's game was weird. With two teams ranked 1 and 4 on Hollinger's list, you'd expect a good matchup. And it started out beautifully –– back and forth, everyone making their open shots. But then it just turned ugly.

By the start of the fourth quarter, it looked like Dallas was headed for about 75 points, but then Dirk kind of went nuts and scored 12 points in the first six minutes of the fourth, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers to give Dallas a 72-69 lead....and then he disappeared offensively for the rest of the game. In the last 6 minutes, the Mavericks managed just 6 free throws and one wide-open jump shot. McGrady hung around a little longer, hitting a 3-pointer with about three minutes left to tally 15 points in the fourth...and then Houston managed one point the rest of the game.

Ring up the win. Nine in a row, 44-9 record, 68-win pace with 29 to go.

Getting Ugly

Steve Nash continues to do more for his MVP chances by not playing than he possibly could by playing, as the Suns got blown out tonight by Seattle (20-32, second to last in the West). Seattle outscored the Suns in every quarter, which is always a sign of a real drubbing. In reality, the loss doesn't say all that much about Nash, since Boris Diaw and Kurt Thomas were both out as well, but it does expose the well-publicized weakness of the Suns' bench.

I suppose, somewhere, Mark Cuban is laughing, as Jason Terry has missed all of 4 games in the past 2 1/2 seasons since Dallas let Nash walk. Good sportsmanship says we should hope Nash heals up soon so the Suns can give the Mavericks an honest fight for the West, but then it's hard to be a good sport when your team has never won a championship. In any event, the Suns have to live with a 3-game losing streak that puts them 4 games behind Dallas.

Has there ever been a team that was more relieved to see the all-star break arrive?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Going Streaking

Moving on to other things. A few facts:

The Mavericks have had a tendency toward streaks this year. So far, they've had winning streaks of 13, 12, 8, 7, 1, and 1, which means that once they've won a game, on average they're going to win 7 in a row before they stop. Six times so far, they've won 6 games in a row. If the Mavericks look at the standings after any given game this season, on average they've won 4.3 in a row.

Dallas's overall record is better than any other team's home record. The last home game Dallas lost was Dec. 7; since then, they've only lost 3 games (all on the road, obviously) in almost 10 weeks.

Of Dallas's 9 losses, 7 came in two short stints: 4 losses in a seven-day span from Nov. 2-8, and 3 losses in an eight-day span from Dec. 4-11. Hopefully they won't hit one of those weeks in playoffs again this year.

Of course, as I write, Dallas is trailing Milwaukee (19-32, last place in the Central) by 13 at the half.

Monday, February 12, 2007

For the Record

The finals last year ended like they did, the team that played better apparently won, and you can certainly make a strong case that the Mavericks didn't deserve to win and that Dwyane Wade did.

However, since Dwyane called Dirk out this week concerning his leadership at the end of the big games, I thought I'd look up the record of what actually happened. (You can look at the game log here, though note the running tally for the score on that page is wrong.) Wade is correct that Dirk didn't play well late in game 6, although I think the loss had a lot more to do with Howard and Terry combining to shoot 12 of 41 (29.3%) from the field for the game. I don't know how many teams can overcome two of their top three scorers performing that poorly, but Dallas almost did. Dirk, incidentally, finished game 6 with 29 points [on 10/22 FG, 8/8 FT] and 15 rebounds.

But whatever you think of his performance there, I would argue that anyone wanting to criticize Dirk for supposedly failing to show up in the finals should remember what happened in the last seven minutes of game 5. The series was tied at 2-2, and the teams were playing the last game in Miami. Dirk didn't have a great game overall, but here's how the end of the game shook out:

Late 4th Quarter

1:39 Wade 17-footer (Heat up 89-88)
1:25 Dirk hits 1 of 2 FT (tie 89)
1:07 Wade 15-footer (Heat up 91-89)
0:49 Dirk 14-footer (tie 91-91)
0:33 Wade misses
0:10 Dampier dunk (Dirk assists) (Mavs up 93-91)
0:02 Wade 9-footer (tie 93-93)
0:00 Terry misses

OK, this was the pivotal (I hate that word, but it's correct here) game of the series, and you get big-time performances from both Nowitzki and Wade late in the fourth quarter. Dirk misses a free throw, Wade misses a jump shot, but other than that it's a classic back-and-forth, and they're both brilliant.


The overtime wasn't as spectacular. Wade went 1/3 from the field and 2/2 from the line with 1 rebound, while Dirk went 1/2 from the field with 2 boards. However, the shot Wade made was early in the overtime period, followed by two misses. Dirk missed his first shot, but the shot he made was a fall-away over Shaq with 9 seconds left and his team trailing by one. That was a huge shot, and Dirk nailed it; his team needed him, and he got the bucket. Then, Wade came down and took a bad shot on a drive but got the foul call.

I really can't help pointing out that the foul call was *hugely* questionable, especially since Wade (1) had already pushed off a couple of Mavs players on the play, and (2) was out of control and taking a bad shot when the foul was called. Yeah, these things happen; I'm just saying the drive itself wasn't exactly clutch on Wade's part.

Then, while Josh Howard was busy accidentally wasting Dallas's last time-out, Wade made both free throws (which, of course, was clutch) for the win.

Now, I don't really know about the call; these things can go either way. But what I saw when I watched that game was Dirk making big play after big play for his team. And in light of how game 5 ended, I think Wade should have a little bit of humility, realizing that his team would have lost that game if one official hadn't blown the whistle on that last play.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

You Never Know

Dallas's win over Houston last night (17 straight at home), coupled with Phoenix's home loss to Atalanta, gives Dallas a two-game lead, normally not a big margin in the NBA.

However, over the last 46 games, the Mavericks are 41-5 (89.1%). If they keeping winning at that rate, Phoenix will have to win 18 in a row to catch up. Of course, that would also put Dallas on pace to win 70 games, so maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up just yet.

Still Not Happy

Dwyane Wade's comments about Dirk the other day have stirred up old feelings for me –– it astonished me that I can still feel anger about the hurt that Wade put on the Mavericks in the Finals last year.

On another blog of mine, I wrote up a bit of a rant that you can read here

I shouldn't bring this up, but I will since Wade publicly called Dirk's "leadership" (apparently interpreted as "ability to win") into question. Here's something I wrote, out of frustration, to my brother last summer:
I know once it's over you're supposed to admit that the best team won, and I know the Mavericks should have been able to pull off a victory in game 6 at home if they were really going to deserve the championship. But the more I think about it, I'm pretty sure that's a bunch of crap. Every time I think about game 5 (which has been a lot –– sadly, it kept me awake last night), I just get angrier and angrier.

Here's the thing. With some endings, you can talk about what might have been. You can say, "oh, maybe if the refs hadn't given Wade so many calls in game 3, they never would have pulled off the comback, or maybe if they hadn't called the totally bogus foul against Dirk which put Wade on the line near the end of game six (where it looked like the only contact was Wade throwing his elbow into Dirk's gut), then *maybe* those games would have turned out differently." I'm willing to admit that's a lousy attitude toward things –– they just happened like they did, and what might have been is useless and kind of pathetic.

But that's just what's not true with game 5: it most decidedly was *not* about what might have been. Dirk actually hit his game-winner, and Wade actually missed his. That's it –– the game should have been over, right there. Wade simply blew it on the last play; he almost got a foul called on himself by shoving Terry, then he drove off balance through the lane, and threw up a bad shot and missed. (I think there's pretty broad agreement out there that it was an atrocious call.) There were three Mavs in the lane, waiting for the rebound with 2 seconds. Game over, say that Wade didn't quite have what it took, or that the Mavs managed a defensive stop, or whatever.

That's what actually *happened*. Sure, he hit the 2 free throws they gave him, but the Mavs aren't allowed to guard those. It was a gift, not a play. When Dirk did have a say at the end of that game, he came up with a huge assist and a huge jumper. But as for the final outcome, the Mavs had no say at all. They won the game, and then the refs gave Wade the chace to take it away, for free. You can't deny the psychological impact that has on teams; I don't see the Heat winning game 6 if they lose game 5. At the very least there would be a game 7 in Dallas tonight. Personally, I think the team that won game 5 was almost guaranteed to win the series.

As well as Wade played, I refuse to say that he consistently came up big, while Dirk choked. In game 5 when it really mattered, it was Dirk who hit the big shot, where Dwyane missed. It's public record; we all watched it. That whistle doesn't blow, Mavs win.

It's just a travesty.

Now, looking back with some perspective, I need to admit something. Wade was amazing in last year's finals. I mean, here's a guy playing on a team that's totally outmatched, down two games to none, and then he just takes over the series. He scored 28 and 23 in the two Heat losses, and then he went for 42, 36, 43, and 36 in their four wins. Dirk's high for the series was 30.

I want to say, though, that as far as leadership goes, I don't like Wade's contention that Dirk's a bad leader because he played poorly (at least when compared with Wade, who put in one of the finest finals performances we'll see) and his team lost. In my opinion, if you want to know what kind of a leader Dirk is, you should watch him this season. He's responded by working incredibly hard and becoming an even better player than he was last season. In fact, in the 8 years following his rookie season, Dirk has improved in 7 of them. This year is only the second time he has failed to increase his scoring average, but overall he's playing the best ball of his career, shooting nearly 50% and finally starting to hit game-winners like he did against Phoenix on December 28.

I really wish he were cold-blooded like a Kobe or a Chauncey, but Mavericks fans should feel fortunate to have what he is instead: an incredibly talented, incredibly driven star who refuses to remain content with what he's done in the past, and who constantly works to improve his game (and his team) regardless of whether people respect him.

Quality Opponents

The Mavericks have lost 9 games this year, each to a different team. Seven of those losses are to 7 of the 8 other best teams in the league (Dallas hasn't lost to Phoenix). The only 3 losses in the east are against the 3 best teams in the east: Detroit, Washington, and Chicago. In the west, 4 of the losses are against the Spurs, Utah, Houston, and Lakers. The other two losses were against the Clippers (7th seed in the west) and the Warriors (23-27, and always a tough matchup for Dallas).

Granted, you don't want to lose whenever you play the best teams, but no one has beaten Dallas twice yet this season. Against those 7 best teams they've lost to, Dallas is still 8-7 on the season, plus they have the two wins against the Suns. So all in all, Dallas is 10-7 against the other best 8 teams in the NBA and 31-2 (93.9%) against the rest of the league.