Saturday, March 3, 2007

Peaking early and middle . . . how about late?

Kind of quaint: glancing through an SI from January 29, they had this to say in their "Who's Hot" feature about Phoenix's play at the time:

“The sizzling Suns had won 29 of 31 –– that's 29 of 31––after thrashing the T-Wolves with a 46-point third quarter on Sunday.”

In case anyone has lost count, Dallas has now won 35 of 37.

Also, TNT pointed out something that's pretty encouraging during the Cavs game Thursday night. Here is Dallas' record by month so far this season:
  • November: 11–4 (7l.l%)
  • December: 13–3 (81.3%)
  • January: 14–2 (87.5%)
  • February: 10–0 (100%)
That means Dallas has improved every successive month of the season, with their monthly losses numbering 4, 3, 2, and then 0. Now, unfortunately Dallas can't keep improving in terms of percentage, although maybe if they lose to Orlando tonight we can count it as a February game (since it was a short month and had the all-star break) to make the pattern more consistent and give them something to shoot for.

Or they could just not lose any more games at all, in which case I don't guess anyone would care about the pattern all that much.

Either way, the constantly improving record bodes very well –– and suggests that people who worried about peaking too soon didn't anticipate how good the Mavericks could get. Of course, there's plenty of season left, and Dallas has some tough games in the next couple of weeks.

All in all, though, the constant improvement suggests that this year will be different than the Mavericks' break-out season in 2002-03. That year, they started out with a team-record 14 straight wins and had a gaudy record for most of the year. I don't have the exact figures, but in early March of 2003, I sent an email to a friend (JKnott) noting that Dallas' road winning percentage was 70%, which was equal to the next best team's (San Antonio's) overall winning percentage. (For what it's worth, right now Dallas' road winning percentage is 78%, which is better than any other team's overall record, and only a half game behind the next best home winning percentage [Phoenix's] in the league.)

Unfortunately, despite a great winning percentage––and a great point differential––early on, the '02–'03 team trailed off toward the end of the season and somehow made a team-record 60 wins feel extremely disappointing.

That year no one in the league really had much respect for the (Nash-led) Mavericks, and for good reasons––they were coached by Don Nelson, they were soft (except for Nick Van Exel), they lacked a presence at center (remember Raef LaFrentz?), they relied heavily on jump-shooting, and they didn't defend anyone. Sure, in the playoffs they hung 84 first-half points on Sacramento one game and then took San Antonio to six games in the western conference finals even though Dirk sat out the last two with an injured ankle. But they didn't really seem to have the goods, and we all feared constantly when the bottom would fall out.

This season that's still a possibility, but the feel now is quite different.

Incidentally, the cover story from that January 29 Sports Illustrated was about how Peyton Manning finally got his team to the Super Bowl. After that cover he got them the trophy as well. As it turns out, things change, teams improve, and some superstars just need time to learn how to get the job done.


scoots said...

Tonight's team-record 15th straight win (22nd straight at home) means 50 of 55 (90.1%) and 36 of 38 (94.7%).

Dirk continued his quest to prove he can show up big at the ends of games by scoring 11 in the fourth, including a sick off-balance jumper to seal the win with 8 seconds left. For the game, Dirk and Terry combined for 53 points and 22 assists on 21/35 (60%) shooting.

With the win over Orlando, Dallas is now 26–1 (96.3%) against the fourteen teams that are not (at this point) on pace to make the playoffs. That leaves them 24-8 (75%) against the sixteen teams that are on pace to make the playoffs. No one else but Phoenix has won at least 75% of their games overall.

Oh, and with the win tonight, I think Dallas lost some more ground on San Antonio as Hollinger's top team.

Ryan B said...

I guess the Mavs better not have anymore close games or they may find themselves third in the Hollinger rankings!

By the way, is anyone as impressed as I am by Dirk's assist numbers recently? If he keeps this up, how can he not be MVP?

Also, while the streak is impressive, what do you think about our team wearing down the last few weeks of the season since our starters play such heavy minutes? Is trying to keep the streak intact keeping us from resting our big guys? Or does it not really matter that much? I guess I'm just worried that Dirk/Howard/Terry will be tired come playoffs.

micah said...

Scott, look up those numbers...I'm too lazy. :) Last I remember, our guys aren't playing as much as Phoenix's guys. It's not been something I ever worried about. There have been times at the end of games when I wondered why some of our starters were still in though.