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The Myth Of The Mavs' Pace Weakness

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A myth that was first debunked back in June by David Lord at the Dallasbasketball.com boards and myself on my site has reared its head again: Dallas does not play well against faster paced teams. A more accurate conclusion is that the Mavericks have had trouble with Golden State, not faster-paced teams in general.

The data is skewed by two things: The April games where the Mavs rested their starters before the playoffs and the Golden State Warriors, a team which Dallas has had trouble with for over two years. David Lord took out the April games and Golden State and came up with the following: Against the top ten paced teams, the Mavs were 21-4. Against teams ranked 11-20 in pace they were 20-2, and against the bottom third teams in pace, the Mavs were 20-3.

The Mavs are marginally worse against the top ten paced teams. In fact, the difference in winning percentage between the top ten paced teams and bottom ten paced teams is .03. That's not exactly conclusive evidence. The difference could be any number of reasons other than pace, including pure chance.

Now you could exclaim, "Wait, you can't exclude Golden State! They are one of the examples of the Mav's weakness with a fast pace! Just look at the playoffs as an example!" Tim McMahon over at the Dallas Morning News Mavs blog makes this point, saying that the Mavs should have played the Warriors at the Mav's pace: "My initial reaction after reading this was that the Mavs should be trying to figure out ways to slow down the Suns and Warriors of the world instead of trying to beat them at their own game." Well, that's exactly what the Mavs did.

Over at 82games.com you can see that for the Dallas-Golden State series, the pace was 93 posssessions per game. For the season, the Mavericks were one of the slowest teams in the league with an average of 89 possessions per game. Contrast this with the Golden State Warriors, whose season average pace was 99 possessions per game. It's obvious that over the length of the series the pace was closer to the Mavericks' preferred pace than the Warriors'.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. Over at the the basketball statistics board at SonicsCentral, one of the posters analyzed how the pace of the games affected the outcomes, and the results were astonishing. In the games that were slower in pace, Golden State was more efficient on offense than Dallas. In the games that were faster in pace, Dallas was more efficient on offense than Golden State:

What's odd is that you'd expect Golden State's Eff to be higher in the faster paced games, and Dallas to have a higher Eff in the slower paced games. However, the opposite is in fact turning out to be the case... Besides noting that it's obviously a very small sample size, I'm genuinely flummoxed by this.

Flummoxed, indeed. So we have the two following conclusions: The pace of the Dallas-Golden State series was played significantly slower than Golden State's preferred style and, while faster, was still closer to Dallas's preferred pace. Additionally, when the pace of the games increased, Golden State's offense became worse.

Along with Lord's elegant analysis, this puts a rather large hole in the theory that Dallas struggles against faster-paced teams. It also certainly implies that the difficulty Dallas has with Golden State wasn't so much with their offensive system or ability to run, but much more with the Warriors' specific player match-ups with the Mavericks.