For Dallas Mavericks, Strong Starts are Paving the Way for Solid Finishes

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - NOVEMBER 11: Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots a layup against George Hill #3 and Richard Jefferson #24 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game at AT&T Center on November 11, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Over the past few seasons, the Dallas Mavericks have been historically slow starters.

In 2006, they dropped their first four before going 67-11 to finish the season. In 2008, the Mavs started out 2-7, and ended up a six seed only by good fortune on the last day of the season.

This year, after dropping the opener, the Mavericks have kept up a torrid pace. They dropped two roadies—an OT battle to the Hornets (with Dirk Nowizki having fouled out in the fourth), and a game against the nicked-up Spurs.

The Mavs are currently 10-3.  Not a bad way to start the season, especially since Maverick teams of late have had trouble putting away bad teams.

Last season, a single game separated the number two through five seeds in the Western Conference. Let that sink in. A single game. A single game meant the difference between home court advantage in the first round and beyond, to no home court advantage.

The Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, and Portland Trailblazers all finished with 54-28 records, while the Houston Rockets finished at 53-29.

You think the Rockets weren't regretting the game-winning tip-in by Danny Granger on Nov. 26, 2008, where they lost to the Pacers by one? One more made field goal, and they could have been the second seed in the West.

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That very same night, Marcus Camby missed a three-pointer at the buzzer at the Staples Center, and the Clippers fell short to the Denver Nuggets, 105-106. If that shot, or any other shot had gone in for the Clippers, it could have been the Rockets with home court advantage.

In a West that has become increasingly competitive over the past few years, every game counts.

Which is why the Mavericks hot start could make a huge difference down the road, when every win is important.

But it's not just the big picture for the Mavericks, because just as they are winning games they should be winning right now, they're also starting strong at the micro level, by jumping on good teams when they should be.

Too many times last season, the Mavericks went cold from the field and fell behind to bad teams—like the Minnesota Timberwolves game last year.

Now, since the Mavericks finished 50-32 and the T-Wolves finished at 24-58, you would think the Mavericks should have handled the Wolves easily.

But the Mavericks found themselves down by 29 points, and were forced to create a franchise-best comeback to pull out the win. While a win is always a win, it's not a good sign when you have to pull out such a historic effort to beat such a crappy team.

And the Mavs won that. What about the losses to the Clippers (by nine), the Nets (by 24), the Grizzlies (by 20), the Kings (by seven), the Thunder (by nine, Thunder didn't have Kevin Durant or Jeff Green) or the Warriors (by nine).

Hold on, my blood pressure is rising exponentially as I remember those. Give me a minute...

Okay, I'm back. Those were the games where the Mavericks fell behind and couldn't crawl out of their hole within their allotted 48 minutes.

This season, I've seen the Mavericks in the opposite position. They're the ones putting the other teams in the hole.

When they were playing the Bucks the other night, the Mavs jumped out to a double digit lead, and while Milwaukee came back, it was the Bucks who had to spend their effort getting back into the game.

Same with the game against the Sacramento Kings Friday night. The Mavericks were able to jump out to a 7-0 lead, then they gave up eight straight points, answered by rattling off nine straight points.

While the lead bounced back and forth for the next quarter and a half, the Mavericks were able to always stay within four points, and they would lead by as much as six.

Ideally, you would want to be blowing out the Kevin Martin-less Kings, but it's better than having the positions reversed, which they did a lot last year.

And remember, the Mavericks are doing all of this without shooting the ball particularly well, which is something that has plagued them for the last few seasons.

The Dallas Mavericks are showing us this season that by starting strong, you can finish strong, at least on the micro level, on a game-to-game basis.

We know they've started strong on the macro level, when it comes to the season-long picture. And if things continue they way they are going, they must just be finishing the season on a strong note well.

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