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Friday, February 10, 2006

Mavericks Burn Heat

The Dallas Mavericks annihilated the Miami Heat 112-76 in the first game of TNT's Thursday doubleheader. As Dallas took a 70-45 lead in the third quarter on an uncontested Dirk Nowitzki layup, TNT commentator Doug Collins observed, "I don't like what I see from Miami...I've never seen a Miami team concede." Blowouts happen even to great teams in the course of the 82 game NBA season (the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that set a record by going 72-10 lost 104-72 to the Knicks on March 10--you can look it up) but there is no denying that this Miami team looks old, slow and tired. Miami has not shown that it can beat good teams, particularly on the road. Shaquille O'Neal had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Dwyane Wade contributed 16 points and eight assists. No other Heat player scored in double figures. Miami's plan to buy a championship by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, James Posey and Jason Williams to play with rising star Dwyane Wade is looking like a fading dream. As George Clinton might say, their future is behind them.

Dallas' future, to paraphrase a different artist, is so bright that the Mavs might have to wear shades. Nowitzki led Dallas with 27 points and Jason Terry had a strong performance--16 points on 6-10 field goal shooting, seven assists and no turnovers. Dallas has now won 13 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season and one victory short of the franchise record. TNT's Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith have belittled the Mavericks all year, but look at the standings: the Mavs are 39-10, a half game ahead of San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference and only two losses behind the Detroit Pistons (40-8) for the best record in the NBA. That means that the Mavericks are absolutely legitimate title contenders. Avery Johnson has done a tremendous job, reaching 50 wins faster than any coach in NBA history.

By the way, Detroit would have to go 30-4 to win 70 games, so can we have a moratorium on talk that the Pistons have any chance to do this? For one thing, 70 is a nice round number, but it is not even the record: the aforementioned '96 Bulls won 72 games, showed that it wasn't a fluke by winning the championship and then followed that up with 69 wins (tying the old record) and another title in '97 (62 wins and a three-peat came in '98, followed by Jerry Krause's wrecking ball; the Bulls have not won 72 games in any two consecutive seasons since then, a streak that will end with four more Chicago wins this season). Add that up and that's 141-23 in a two year stretch and 203-43 during the Bulls' second three-peat; that Bulls squad is the most focused, committed team that I have seen in any sport and it will be a long time before an NBA team seriously threatens the 72 win mark. The best NBA team often wins 60-62 games, but the extra 10-12 wins to get to 72 came by triumphing during the dog days of the season and by not giving in to fatigue on the road after playing four games in five nights; the Jordan-Pippen-Rodman Bulls are the only team that I've ever seen treat those games like the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:26 AM

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