Sunday, April 8, 2007

There is nothing left for us here

Here’s a depressing fact: the last time Dallas beat a top-tier team (50-win pace or better) was at Utah on January 9. That’s not entirely their fault, since they’ve only played two games since then against that level of team with that team’s full lineup on the court (both against Phoenix), but Dallas did lose both. So you could say that, aside from an uncanny consistency in beating mediocre and bad teams, Dallas hasn’t shown us all that much in the past three months.

What’s more, with Dallas winning at Portland tonight, their magic number (Dallas wins plus Phoenix losses) for clinching the west is at one. That means the rest of the season should be true coasting. To put it in concrete terms, Maurice Ager played 25 minutes tonight against Portland; Dirk played 26.

And even if the upcoming games against San Antonio and Utah will matter to those teams, they won’t matter much to Dallas. Look for Dirk, Howard, and Terry to average a handful of minutes, and look for pressure to fade away. If Dallas wins against those teams, it still won’t be because they needed to. Whatever happens from here on out, it isn’t likely to tell us anything about the team.

Watching the way the Mavericks have played lately, with narrow victories over Sacramento, New York, and Milwaukee, plus last night’s loss to the Nuggets––and all of it with Dirk’s stats slipping––it’s hard to know what kind of Dallas team will show up for the playoffs. So as fans who want to take the pulse of our team daily, we pretty much have to wait until April 21 before we get any new data. For me, it’ll be a long two weeks.

It seems to me, the playoffs are going to be an entirely new season for this team. Momentum, unless they win their last 8 in a row, probably isn’t going to be a factor, which suggests Dallas will have to play themselves back into team form during their first-series round, hopefully against the Clippers rather than the Warriors.

The goods news is, this is the same personnel that are now 63–13, so if you’re looking for a group capable of getting their act together, this is the one. They’re still angry about last years playoffs, they’re still the group (most of them) that won game 7 on the road against the Spurs in last year’s playoffs, and they’ve still got Dirk and his career playoff averages of 25.7 points (currently on the top-10 all-time list) and 11.1 rebounds.


scoots said...

I always enjoy comments like this one from “Joshua” on the Hollinger Rankings.

I'm a die hard Cleveland fan, but come on now, LeBron will NEVER be a champion until he makes his free throws.

Yeah, neither will Tim Duncan. Or Shaquille O'Neal. Or Wilt Chamberlain.

scoots said...

I love it that the Mavericks are playing terrible relative to their season as a whole...and that means they've only won 11 of 15 (73.3%), which is their W-L since the end of their franchise-record seventeen-game winning streak.

73.3% is better than the overall winning percentage of any team in the league this year except for the Suns. Better than San Antonio, and far better than Detroit.

In fact, 73.3% is a season-long pace to win 60 games, which of course would have matched Dallas' franchise record any time before this season.

I still don't feel great about how Dallas has played lately, and watching the Denver loss was really frustrating, but I do like the idea of Avery having a couple of low-pressure weeks to figure out what's going on. And at least Dallas isn't exactly on a high they can crash from.

micah said...

Any thoughts on this 3 team race for the 8th seed. Golden State scares me a little. But I can't imagine any of the three (probably with sub 500 records) will give us too much trouble.

scoots said...

Yeah, I'd pull for the Clippers or Hornets, for sure. Golden State is just trouble––even though it’s exceedingly unlikely they would beat Dallas, you hate to risk getting blown out a game or two, which would both prolong the series and be discouraging for the team.

And, of course, don’t forget the '92-'93 Supersonics, who won 63 games and lost in the first round to the 42-40 Nuggets.

But also don't forget that every team in the last 30 years to win at least 65 regular-season games has gone on to win the championship.

Dallas is sitting at 64 wins.

scoots said...

Wow: Dirk, Stackhouse, and Dampier aren’t even going to Minnesota for tonight’s game. I guess we shouldn’t look for the record to get gaudier.