A Look at the Mavericks
The Mavs are making a convincing case to defend their Western Conference Championship, shaking off a slow start to the season to amass a 28-8 record as we speak. The first time we played them (in November, their sixth game of the season) they were scoring well over 100 but were giving up a huge number of points themselves. They've corrected that since, tallying a more modest 98.5 points per game but only allowing 91.9, which is Spurs territory. Obviously that point spread marks them clearly among the league's elite teams. They are a decent shooting team but their key is that they are very, very good at sharing the ball. They only need a little daylight to get a clean shot away and their guys are experts at finding that daylight and giving the ball to people who see it. They shoot extremely well (and frequently) from the perimeter and as a result open up the lane for their slashers. With most teams you ask which kind of scoring you'd prefer to limit them to. With Dallas the only question is would you like to be done regular or extra crispy. Because they're a reasonably good offensive rebounding team and they almost never get their shots blocked (spreading that defense so helping is difficult) they're a very tough cover. And if you're thinking about fouling them to make up ground, forget it. They shoot 80% as a team.
The big individual names for the Mavs are Nowitzki, athletic swingman Josh Howard, and Jason Terry. Dirk is shooting near 50% for the season, which doesn't seem fair for a guy who goes outside as much as in. He's at 39% from the three-point arc and is averaging 24 points and almost 10 rebounds a game. Unfortunately he's also on a major tear this week, averaging more than 30 for his last three games. Josh Howard has really blossomed this year. He's shooting 47%, scoring 19.5 ppg, and averaging 7 rebounds too. He's a good offensive rebounder, especially for his size. Terry isn't quite the scoring machine he has been the last couple years but he still averages near 16 and his assists are up to 5 a game, which is actually better for the Mavericks. Point guard Devin Harris has become a fourth man of sorts, but you'd probably take him having a dominant game if it means the ball stays away from the other three.
The Mavs do have a couple theoretical weak spots. They allow a pretty good shooting percentage for an elite team. Basically they play defense as hard as they have to, which most nights isn't all that hard. You know they're playing enough though, with that record and all. They won't force a lot of turnovers intentionally, though they do bait you into some via their faster style of play. Their centers are having very disappointing years. Neither Dampier nor Diop are producing and lately Dampier's having trouble getting through a game without collecting fouls like candy. This forces the Mavs to play small ball. It's debatable whether that's actually better for the opponent though. If we had a dominant center I'd say it was an advantage but...well...you know. Also Jerry Stackhouse has been struggling recently after a return from an ankle injury. With nobody else on the Mavs bench doing diddly (Devean George 39% shooting, Greg Buckner 39%, Anthony Johnson 42%, Austin Croshere 27%, Desagana Diop 43%, Maurice Ager 28%, DJ Mbenga 23%, Jose Juan Barea 24%) that leaves the team pretty thin. If you could get past those Big 3 you might be able to make hay. It ain't that easy though...
Things I'd like to see:
1. The locker room ceiling fall on Nowitzki, Howard, and Terry, injuring them for one game. Otherwise I don't see a lot of options for stopping any of them, especially with our horrid defensive efforts lately. And trying to get a win by outscoring the Mavericks is like trying to beat Andre the Giant in a body-slamming contest. Even if he were asleep it just wouldn't happen. I'm not trying to be pessimistic here, just honest. If you can think of a way this team can beat the Mavericks right now I invite you to share in the comment section. As for me...I can't come up with a single one. I guess that's why I'm not a coach!