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Who are These Guys? Mavs Edition

If Josh Howard is still wondering, this is what ball do. One minute, you’re falling so fast in Marc Stein’s power rankings that you’re making one of those Wile E. Coyote dust clouds, the next minute you look stacked.

The Mavs did what, when Dirk score 6 and 10 in consecutive games? They’ve held teams to how little over the last 6? Brandan Wright dunked over the mooooooon?

Sure, you’ll say, it ain’t been against good opponents with the exception of the Thunder. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

I’m visiting my folks in Dallas. Since I’m a PhD student in ancient religions I usually end up turning whatever room I’m staying in into a den of occult languages so dead the Scorpion King is like wtf, man (actually, I’ve detected several of them in the Mummy/Scorpion King franchise. Neither here nor there.).

Before the game last night, my dad wandered into this cave, braving the pile of pants on the floor (Mount Pants) and said, you know, used to be with the Mavericks you could turn on the last five minutes of the game, it’d be close, and you’d get the good part. Now….

His gesture said that basically every game this season has been over by halftime, but also that with the exception of the first three and the Spurs game, it means the Mavs have been taking care of business in a way they haven’t before. And he’s right. This ain’t the same old Mavs. And that’s good news, though it makes for worse TV.

I loved the same old Mavs. They always got those last five points. You know how many games last season were decided by less than 10? 62. And of those 20 that did, 10 were before Butler got injured.

34 games last year were decided by 6 or less. Considering it happened exactly three times in the 12 games that Dirk was injured, that’s a massive number. Between Jan 22nd and March 31st, a span in which the Mavs went 26-6, it happened 18 times.

Your Mavs have played exactly one game this season that was within 9 points (which they were one crazy Kevin Durant shot from winning) and two games within 10.

Yeah, they’re bad teams. They were bad teams last year. You know what happened last season against Detroit, Toronto and New Orleans? One 98-95 victory, one 99-96 lost, one 88-84 win, one 84-76 loss (without Dirk) , one 103-89loss (with Dirk scoring 32 points), one 114-96 win, one 93-92 loss, and finally one 121-89 win, the day before they started the playoffs.

The Mavs, in their 5 wins, have had halftime leads of 50-46, 54-47, 49-41, 52-41, and 52-38. They’ve won those games by 13, 13, 9, 15, 14.. They’ve won every game they led at halftime and in every case but one, they’ve increased their lead. In that one, they tied it, and it was 14 points anyway.

I mean, let’s not get crazy. Detroit and New Orleans, who now have no Chris Paul, may be the worst teams I’ve ever seen. But once upon a time the Mavs would still make a game out of it (that they would, to their credit, probably eventually win), and that’s worth mentioning. So what gives?

Well. First a small sample size. But second is one thing we expected—an overwhelmingly diverse, talented offense, even more so than last year—and something we didn’t. A bizarrely good defense, so far. I don’t entirely trust it—just because the Mavs couldn’t play good defense all game against the Detroits of the world without Tyson Chandler, and now can, doesn’t mean they can against the Heats of the world—but it’s a fact that after those first three games of the season, Mavs opponents are averaging 88.7 and that includes the losses to the Spurs and Wolves.

So here we are. Technically, the Mavs are 17th in points scored per game (93.5), 27th in rebounds per (39.8) and 12th in points allowed (94.5). If you dump the first three games and the Spurs game (six games in eight nights? Come on) , they’re averaging 95.8, allowing 85.2 and grabbing…well they’re still not grabbing enough rebounds (40, and that’s with 52 against Phoenix).

No point in comparing that to other teams, who have just as much reason to disqualify a couple of games in this crazy season, but basketball is a cumulative contest only in wins not stats, so the important thing is how you’re playing now. And it’s better. A lot better.

Is there? Nah. I still don’t like those shooting percentages (37.7% against the Wolves, 41.8% against the Suns, over 45% twice and over 50% once. Ten teams are averaging over 45% a game. Ten teams.). Lamar Odom still hasn’t found his place, and Dirk has teetered between brilliant (90% shooting last night) and worse than he’s been in years (6 and 10 in consecutive games).

Again, too, most good teams have done well against bad teams over the years, and that’s why the Mavs exist mostly to make John Hollinger crazy (if we haven’t cost dear John a raise or two, we probably should have). So, this is more a welcome to how basketball usually looks than a sign of incipient dominance.

There’s a lot to like, though. And we’re going to learn a lot tonight against the Celtics, the first good team they’ve played since they started looking good.

So let’s go get ‘em, eh?

P.S. I've attached a fan confidence poll, which is the first time I've done that, so lemme hear it. How you feelin', Mavs nation? What's a fanbase like you doing in a place like this?

Can I freshen your beverage?