Hey, Three Wins In a Row is Something.
A three-game win streak? Who of the doubters out there thought that this Mavericks team could rattle off three wins in a row?
Can't be too many of you, can there? This team hasn't had a streak like this since early in the season.
And yet, here we are, and the Mavericks are back over .500 as they head to Boston tonight to play the Celtics and former Mav Jason Terry, who Mark Cuban would like to hire to a front office position when he retires.
It helps that the teams Dallas played over this recent three-game span are the Suns, the Rockets and the Kings. These are, make no mistake, teams that the Mavericks should beat. None of them are particularly good. This is especially true of Phoenix and Sacramento.
Phoenix is giving up 103.1 points per game and have a defensive efficiency rating (the number of points a team gives up in 100 possessions) of 106.7. Both of these numbers are towards the very bottom of the NBA. Houston has Linsanity, James Harden and his beard, Omer Asik (the fourth leading rebounder in the league) and Chandler Parsons leading their charge, but it seems as though they're barreling head-first into windmills at times. As for the Kings, Dallas has had their number for some time. The Mavericks, with their 119-96 trouncing of the Kings on Monday night, have now beaten Sactown 17 consecutive times at home in the regular season. And this most recent Mavs-King games wasn't pretty, either.
The Kings, more than any other team in the NBA, have issues — and these aren't solely related to DeMarcus Cousins' nut punch of O.J. Mayo the other night. They are just a bad offensive team and even more suspect on defense. Dallas' offense ran rip-shot through the Kings with a run of 31-3 and, later, an 11-4 burst to close out the third quarter when the Kings were looking to crawl back into the game. But the Kings were finished after that point.
Listen: Sacramento has ownership problems that I could go into at length, as I have multiple times before, but Tom Ziller over at SB Nation sums up their dysfunction best. Basically, they're in a bad spot.
The Mavs' situation, thankfully, isn't nearly that bad. Actually, their situation is pretty decent at the moment, with particular thanks to Mayo. The Juiceman dropped 40 points on the Rockets, 10 of which came in the last three minutes of the game. It was the second time in his career that he has scored 40 points. The previous time he hit that mark was on November 1, 2009 during his second season in the NBA.
Of course, Mayo has had his issues this season. At this point, his 40-point outburst on the road is an outlier, but don't call Malcolm Gladwell just yet. Mayo is averaging just 17.8 points on the road. And it's been on the road where the Mavericks have suffered seven of their 10 losses. In losses, he's averaging only 16 points on 40.7 percent shooting.
In other words: As Mayo goes, the Mavs go.
And, while Mayo has been the offensive punch that the Mavericks have needed in the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, the team is slowly adjusting to fit its pieces around him into a functioning on-court presence.
Derek Fisher, who has been and will continue to be torched by younger, quicker guards, has played serviceable minutes. Though, as Andy Tobolowsky pointed out earlier in the week on Mavs Moneyball, Fisher's time with the Mavs offers an extremely small sample size, the results haven't been terrible. Rick Carlisle seems to like pairing Fisher with the faster — and at times turnover prone — Darren Collison at the end of games. Along with Mayo, the Mavs have rolled out this three-guard lineup a few times now down the stretch. This translates into a faster pace and Dallas is currently second in the NBA with a pace factor of 94.7, behind only the Rockets, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Recently, Brandan Wright has been seen on the court, too, having apparently being taken out of Carlisle's doghouse for the time being. In his last three games (he's started the most recent two), Wright has averaged 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Obviously, getting more boards from Wright would be ideal — they're the reason he has received his share of DNP-CDs this season — but his offensive presence coupled with his athleticism are why he has remained in the NBA despite injury issues plaguing his early career.
Shawn Marion is expected to rejoin the Mavericks soon, too , after having been out the previous two games with a strained groin. It may be a game-time decision whether he will play against the Celtics. With Marion's impending return, Jared Cunningham was sent down to the D-League to play on the Texas Legends, where he will see much more playing time than with the Mavericks
Regardless, with this Mavericks team, small sample sizes should not be taken too seriously. The Mavs have proved that they can beat the sub-.500 teams in the league.
I seem to finish off each of my posts with similar sentiments, but that is what you can expect: Over a quarter of the way through the season, the Mavericks are solidly lodged in the middle of the pack. Certain players have shown flashes of brilliance we can all revel in — especially when a friend is a Rockets' fan — but a sustained effort each night has failed to surface.
So, for now, let's enjoy the small successes.
Photo via the NBA's official Mavericks page.