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Those Steamrolling Mavericks

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/13/2007

Should we just forget the postseason and hand the NBA trophy now to the Dallas Mavericks? Of course not. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen. Injuries. Playoff upsets. A loss of focus. Dissension. After all, one year ago at this time the Detroit Pistons were steamrolling through the NBA and there was talk of handing them the title.

Even the Piston PLAYERS were talking about how great they were, yet in the end they didn’t even make the NBA Finals. With that said, a better case can be made for these remarkable Mavericks. Here’s a list of the best 6 best starts in NBA history after 60 games:

1995-96 Bulls – 54-6

1996-97 Bulls – 53-7

1966-67 76ers – 52-8

1982-83 76ers – 51-9

1971-72 Lakers – 51-9

2006-07 Mavericks – 51-9

This Mavericks team is in select company. Those Chicago teams under Michael Jordan were juggernauts. The two Philadelphia teams had MVPs Wilt Chamberlain and then Moses Malone dominating the low post. That 1972 Lakers team won 33 games in a row, still a record. One another point: Every one of those teams went on to win the NBA title that season.

Dallas has a lot going for it. The Mavs average 100 ppg, 9th in the NBA, and allow 92 ppg, third-best defensively. Their 38% shooting from three-point land is fourth, while their free throw shooting (80%) is second. Avery Johnson is focused, hard driving and a very good coach. He knows how to teach defense and has shown a talent for making astute adjustments in a game and in a series. They made it to the NBA Finals last year in just his first full season as a head coach.

This team is deep, talented, with stars and role players. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry each received lucrative contracts from the Mavericks during the off-season even though Nowitzki and Howard still had years remaining on their deals. Sixth-man Jerry Stackhouse, a former star, is happy in his role – and productive.

Dallas has been an underdog 5 times and won three of those straight up. They are also an astounding 21-6 on the road! Their rebound differential of +4 per game is second best in the league (behind Utah) and they are 8th in blocked shots.

I know it’s early to talk about the playoffs, but note that the last four times the Mavericks played the Spurs and Suns they are 4-0 SU/3-1 ATS. Three of those games they were a dog, even winning 95-92 at San Antonio, and 119-112 at Phoenix. If you like to play totals, note that the UNDER was 3-1 in those meetings. That’s something to keep in mind when the playoffs roll around, as defense often steps up in the postseason.

Perhaps the only real question regarding the Mavericks is how will they play in close playoff games? That collapse against Miami in the Finals is still a cloud hanging over their head, losing three of the last four games by 3, 1, and 2 points. But until someone shows otherwise, the Mavs are in select historical company and the team to beat.

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