On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

 —  March 4, 2005

Last time these two met it was a fast-forward on TiVo evening — the Lakers were down 13 in the first quarter and the Maverick’s shot 59% (eFG%) for the game. That tells you all you need to know.

Since that Jan. 5 meeting, the Mavericks have been playing better and better, the Lakers have lost four and a row (and have not lost five in a row since 1994, back when Vlade led the team in scoring). The handful of smart writers at ESPN.com are talking about Dallas. The Mavs are beating teams like Miami, Phoenix and Seattle.

Dirk and his new haircut are getting MVP talk, and they should. He has a PER of 26.38, fifth best in the NBA. He’s fourth in the league in points per 40 minutes at 27.2, with a healthy 1.14 points per shot attempt. He leads the league in +/- (adjusted for 48 minutes) at +19, suggesting he is the most valuable player to his own team in the league. His defense is not great (an opponents PER of 16.3) but it has improved each of the last two years. Heck, he’s even got his own advice column.

Dallas has the fourth most efficient offense in the NBA, averaging 106.8 points per 100 possessions (as an update, the Lakers are seventh at 104.5). They still like to move the ball quickly, taking 42% of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (compared to 37% for the Lakers). As a team, they are shooting 49.1% eFG% on the season, seventh best in the league.

But the days of the all offense, no defense Mavericks are gone. They are ninth in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 101 points per 100 possessions. Teams are shooting 47.3% eFG% against them this season.

Last time these two met, Mavs point guard Jason Terry torched Chucky Atkins for 28 points. One break for the Lakers is that Eric Dampier remains out, and with him out the Mavs have been out rebounded significantly the past two games. The Lakers need a big game inside to take advantage of that. Yes, I’m looking at you Chris Mihm. I’m also looking forward to the Odom/Nowitzki matchup tonight.

If the Lakers lose this game, they fall out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. If that’s not motivation to play the defense that was missing on the East Coast road swing than things are worse for this team than I think they are. And I don’t think their good.