Mavericks’ D Better Than Championship Season?
Through the first 14 games of the 2011-2012 season, the answer is yes.
After losing defensive stalwarts Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson via free agency this offseason, the general consensus around the league was that the Dallas Mavericks were taking a step back as a team – especially on the defensive end of the floor.
In holding teams to under 90 points in nine out of 14 games to start to the season, the Mavs have provided a resounding yes to the question of whether or not they could still be a top defensive team in this league. Over the last three games in particular, Dallas has been especially stingy – allowing less than 80 points per in each contest.
“On defense we’re doing a good job of holding each other accountable and we feel like we can always do better of not letting the other team get in a flow,” Mavericks’ guard Vince Carter said. “We know every time we step out on the court everybody wants to play the world champs and beat the world champs so we really have to motivate each other, stay on top of each other and it’s really helping out there.”
One key factor in the Mavs’ renewed defensive intensity is the depth Dallas acquired this offseason, which has played a hefty role in this team staying rested and fresh on the defensive end. The additions of the aforementioned Carter, Delonte West and Lamar Odom have given the Mavs the flexibility to not overexert key players with strenuous minutes so far this season.
In fact, the Mavericks have just one player logging over 30 minutes per game to start the year – Dirk Nowitzki at 30.3 a contest.
“We’re placing our major emphasis on energy, defense and rebounding,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “The guys are responding. Nobody is playing long minutes. Everyone goes out there and plays hard to exhaustion and then we get somebody else in.
Some would argue that the lack of much of a training camp in this shortened season results in lower scoring league wide. While it is a fact that scoring is down around the NBA, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Dallas is still among the best in this 30 team league in defense.
Statistically, the Mavs have allowed the third fewest points per game in the NBA this season (88.5) and opponents have shot just 42.5 percent against the Dallas D, good for sixth best in the league. Not only can the Mavs contest with the best of them but also force opponents into mistakes. As of Tuesday, Dallas ranked second in the NBA with an average of 10.4 steals per contest.
To put these numbers in perspective, during last season’s championship run Dallas was 23rd in the NBA in steals, 10th in points against and eighth in field goal percentage allowed.
Another misconception is to believe that the recent upswing in defensive efficiency is due to the poor quality of Dallas’ opposition over the last few games. In the NBA, it doesn’t matter who it is, if you hold a team to a franchise-record low 60 points like Dallas did this past Saturday against the Sacramento Kings, it’s something to hang your hat on.
Just two days later, Monday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks broke Kobe Bryant’s four game streak of 40 point games by holding the former MVP to a season low 14 points on 7-22 shooting. Even in a losing effort, Dallas held L.A. to it’s lowest scoring game of the season at just 73 total points.
“It’s what we’re hanging our hat on so far this season,” Jason Terry said. “It was our key to success last year and guys have bought into the system and it’s paid off.”
If Dallas can keep up this elite level of play on the defensive end, a second straight trip to the NBA Finals is a realistic possibility.