Game 53: Mavs vs. Spurs

Felton Spins In For Floater

Raymond Felton spins past defender then makes the floater layup.

ESPN ranks Dirk Nowitzki the 17th-best player in NBA history

ESPN has ranked Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki the 17th-best player in NBA history.

The site has been ranking the top-100 players in league history over the course of the last few weeks, following a period during which they ranked the top-10 at every position. Last month, the site ranked him the third-best power forward ever, behind only Karl Malone (second) and Tim Duncan. Now we know where he stands among the giants of the game at every position, at least in the eyes of those in Bristol.

As accolades go, this surely means more to us than it does to Nowitzki, but it’s still cool to see his name mentioned among the unquestioned all-time greats of the game. The German himself often sums it up perfectly, expressing his own personal disbelief that a gangly kid from Wurzburg could ever accomplish what he’s accomplished in his 18-year career. Only five players ever have scored more career points than Nowitzki, and he’s widely considered the greatest European player in NBA history. He also has 13 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA selections, and a regular season and Finals MVP to his name.

“All he’s done is revolutionize the power forward position as Europe’s greatest-ever import and the sweetest-shooting big man we’ve ever seen,” ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote of the German earlier this month.

Nowitzki finished directly ahead of fellow power forward and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Rounding out the players ranked behind him in the top-20 are Utah Jazz Hall of Fame point guard and all-time assists and steals leader John Stockton (19th) and San Antonio Spurs Hall of Fame center and one-time league MVP David Robinson.

The voting was based on both peak performance and career value. While it’s difficult to identify one extended stretch of Nowitzki’s career as a true “peak,” given that he averaged at least 21 points a game for 12 straight seasons, arguably his strongest period came between the 2004-05 season and the 2006-07 season. During that run, he averaged 25.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, was on a Finals team and a 67-win team, won an MVP, and led the league in win shares per 48 minutes all three seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.

His career value isn’t even in question, but in case you were wondering he’s seventh all-time in career win shares. He’s also one of just three players with at least 100 playoff appearances to average 25 points and 10 rebounds, joined only by Hakeem Olajuwon and Elgin Baylor, per Basketball-Reference. His 2011 playoff run, during which he averaged 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, is considered one of the greatest individual runs to a championship in league history.

A few of Nowitzki’s former teammates also made the list, including Vince Carter (69), Jason Kidd (35), and Steve Nash (30). Alex English (62) and Dennis Rodman (64), each of whom played one season in Dallas, appeared on the list as well.

The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Heat

Final: Heat 93, Mavs 90

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Despite shooting only 37.5 percent in the second quarter, Dallas still scored 1.087 points per possession. To put that into context, the league average for PPP hovers around 1.02, meaning the Mavs actually had an above-average showing despite shooting a low clip. Dallas did so by shooting seven free throws, grabbing five offensive rebounds, and turning it over just twice in the frame. It’s proof that even if the shots aren’t falling, an offense can still generate points efficiently by doing everything else right — creating extra chances, getting to the line, and taking care of the ball. Making shots is obviously pretty important, but there’s a lot more to basketball than just that.

Dirk Nowitzki reached the 25-point plateau for the seventh time this season. Dallas is now 6-1 in those games.

Notebook

  • Something happened at halftime. After a 2-of-7 start from the field in the first half for Nowitzki, he hit five of his seven attempts in the third quarter alone. We’ve seen it about a million times by now, but there’s still something pretty incredible about watching Nowitzki ignite, especially following a stretch of cold shooting. It’s almost like at halftime he changed the difficulty setting back to Rookie mode, where it seems like he’s stayed his entire career. When his jumper is falling, he still makes the game look so easy, and that was the case in the third quarter. He ended up with 28 points to lead the team. The Mavs rode their pony hard tonight and, as always, he didn’t let them down.

  • With both Deron Williams and Devin Harris out due to injury, some serious playing time was available, and Justin Anderson was on the receiving end. The rookie intercepted a pass in the second quarter and took it the length of the floor for a dunk. During one sequence in the fourth quarter, he chased down Justise Winslow in the halfcourt and blocked his shot at the rim, and on the other end he nailed a corner three-pointer to bring the Mavs to within one point. He finished with five points, seven rebounds and two vicious block in 22 minutes, the second-most of his career. Rick Carlisle suggested Harris could miss more games following this one, meaning those same minutes could again be available to Anderson moving forward. The rookie certainly helped his own case tonight, making a few hustle plays and appearing comfortable on both ends of the floor.

  • Chandler Parsons was electric in the first half, scoring 12 points, grabbing six boards, and dishing out three assists. He scored nine of Dallas’ first 11 points of the game all in the first four minutes, attacking the basket in the halfcourt and pulling up for a three-pointer in transition.

  • Raymond Felton was instrumental in getting the Mavericks back into the game after trailing at one point in the fourth quarter 82-75. Felton scored eight of his nine points in the final frame, mostly coming off rim attacks. He’s been big late in games for the Mavericks for most of this season, and he continued it in this one.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (28-24) play the San Antonio Spurs (40-8) Friday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. Central.

  • Mark Cuban joins ownership group in new Pro Futsal League

    FRISCO, TX – Mark Cuban has purchased a principal ownership stake in the Professional Futsal League. The PFL’s decision to partner with Cuban illustrates the league’s commitment to provide fans, communities, and partners with the highest quality sports and entertainment experience.

    Cuban is an American businessman, investor, film producer, author, television personality and philanthropist. He is the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures, and the chairman of the HDTV cable network AXS TV. He is perhaps most famous for his position as “shark” investor on the ABC television series Shark Tank.

    “I couldn’t be more excited about partnering with and investing in the PFL,” says Cuban. “Futsal is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and it’s time to make it even bigger in the U.S. market. We are ready to introduce the best global brands and the world’s best players to our growing fan base and I’m thrilled to be part of the PFL.”

    As FIFA’s only officially approved version of 5-a-side soccer, futsal is currently played in 198 of the 207 FIFA member associations across the globe with an estimated 30 million participants playing worldwide. It is currently supported by professional leagues on every continent except North America. Almost every global soccer star from Pelé to Leo Messi has credited futsal for being vital to their development. Many global powers including FC Barcelona from Spain’s La Liga already feature professional futsal teams in addition to their renowned soccer programs.

    “On behalf of the PFL team; Brian Dick, Michael Hitchcock, Keith Tozer, Rob Andrews and Christie Nelson, I would like to express how excited we are to have Mark on board” said Donnie Nelson, co-owner of the PFL. “His vision and history of success in the arenas of sports, business and entertainment is truly unprecedented. Welcome to the PFL family Mark, the future is bright!”

    The Professional Futsal League will begin play in 2017. For information about the PFL and franchise ownership opportunities, visit professionalfutsal.com.

    Game 52: Mavs vs. Heat

    Dirk Gets Inside

    Dirk Nowitzki steps through the double team and makes the left-hand lay.

    Behind the Box Score: Games 42-51

    This last stretch saw the Mavericks play 10 games in 16 days and came at the end of a month in which Dallas played 19 in 32. January was a physically and mentally demanding month, and the fact that more than half of those games came against playoff teams only added to the challenge.

    But Dallas now plays three of its next four games at home before a lengthy All-Star break which should give every player a chance to rest and recharge heading into what is quite literally the home stretch — coming out of the break, Dallas plays nine of 11 games at American Airlines Center. While the Mavericks still have plenty of difficult games remaining on the schedule, many of those games will come at home, and with more days in between games.

    Before we get there, though, let’s take a look back at some of the major trends which have developed in the last 10 games.

    Chandler Parsons at the 4

    The Mavs’ budding star has spent more and more time at the power forward spot lately, and it’s already paid dividends. The 6-foot-10 Parsons has a speed and quickness advantage over most power forwards in the NBA without giving up much size or strength, even when it comes to rebounding, which has been one of Rick Carlisle’s biggest concerns with the move.

    Dirk Nowitzki missed two of the last 10 games for rest and another due to a knee effusion, which gave Parsons even more exposure to the 4 spot. In those 10 games, the Mavericks have scored 1.142 points per possession in 181 minutes with Parsons on the floor and both Nowitzki and Charlie Villanueva — Dallas’ two primary power forwards — off the floor, per nbawowy. In that time, the Mavs have a 53.9 effective field goal percentage and 57.4 true shooting percentage, indications that the offense has thrived in those opportunities. On an individual level, Parsons has 64.8 eFG and 67.9 TS percentages in those situations, scoring 1.46 points per possession. Moreover, he’s turned it over just four times in 344 possessions and has assisted 8.8 percent of his teammates’ made shots while he’s on the floor. In fact, the Mavs’ four best lineups by net rating in the last 10 games all include Parsons at power forward.

    Lineup Minutes Played Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
    Williams, Felton, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 27 121.0 80.7 40.3
    Barea, Williams, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 16 137.6 113.9 37.0
    Williams, Harris, Matthews, Parsons, Pachulia 19 113.9 87.3 26.5
    Barea, Williams, Matthews, Parsons, Mejri 13 130.3 112.6 17.7

    None of this is to say the Mavericks are better without Nowitzki and Villanueva, or playing Parsons strictly at the 4 and not at small forward. It simply gives the Mavericks a different option Carlisle can tap in various situations throughout a game, especially if the matchup favors Parsons and Dallas. And as long as Parsons continues the run he’s been on — averaging 21.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last nine games on 54.3 percent shooting and 52.8 percent from deep — the Mavs might as well continue to ride the hot hand.

    mejri

    Salah the Sensation

    Salah Mejri earned an opportunity to play heavy minutes and even start a couple games in recent weeks after Zaza Pachulia sat out due to injury. Mejri impressed against Oklahoma City early in January and then again against the same club a week later, blocking both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the span of just a few minutes. Mejri started the next game in Houston and recorded a double-double, and overall he averaged 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds during this 10-game stretch.

    After playing for years overseas, most recently with Spanish club Real Madrid, Mejri is a pro basketball veteran despite this being his first season in the Association. His experience means the moment isn’t too big for him, and that goes a long way toward explaining why he’s been able to make such an impact even in high-leverage moments like the closing minutes of the Thunder game on Jan. 22.

    Mejri Races Back For The Block

    Salah Mejri chases down James Harden for the block on the layup attempt.

    Mejri brings a bit of a combination of what Pachulia and JaVale McGee offer individually. He’s got the finishing ability and athleticism to remind you of McGee, while playing with the touch and skill reminiscent of Pachulia. Defensively, he’s got McGee’s shot-blocking instincts but Pachulia’s workmanlike attitude. Among the three-headed monster that is the Mavs’ center rotation, Mejri is perhaps the most intriguing, if only because we’ve seen what he can do in flashes but not necessarily over an extended period of time. It will be interesting to see how Carlisle manages the minutes moving forward, although it should be noted Mejri missed last night’s game in Atlanta after tweaking his knee.

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    Clutch dominance in last 10 games

    The Mavs’ crunch-time success this season has been well-chronicled, but they performed even better in the clutch — defined as anytime in the last five minutes or overtime when the score is within five points either way — in the last few weeks than what we’ve been used to.

    Kobe Shows Respect For Dirk’s Game-Winner

    Dirk Nowitzki buries the game-winning jumper and gets congratulated by Kobe Bryant.

    Since Jan. 17, the Mavericks have played 27 clutch minutes across five games. The Mavs have a 127.7 offensive rating and 69.0 defensive rating in those situations, and their 58.7 net rating leads the NBA during that time. So, too, does their 4.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

    For the season, Dallas’ 123.6 offensive rating in the clutch leads the NBA and its 26.8 net rating is second-best in all of basketball, behind only Golden State. Given the Mavericks have played more clutch minutes (136) than every team except the Bulls, those efficiency stats are significant. Dallas is 17-11 in games when clutch minutes have been played. Only Houston and Memphis have more wins (18 each) in those circumstances. The ability to close out tight games can only help the Mavericks come playoff time, when every possession’s importance is magnified and the lights shine brightest. This is a team full of players unafraid of the moment, beginning with Nowitzki and Deron Williams, who have been two of the best clutch performers all season.

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    Other dribbles…

  • After missing three games with an injury, Zaza Pachulia returned back to the lineup last Friday against Brooklyn. In the three games since his return, he’s averaging 9.7 points and 13.3 rebounds. It’s safe to say Pachulia is the best rebounder on this team, and considering his athletic ability relative to some of the other leading glass-eaters in the league, Pachulia might do more with less than any other NBA player. He’s so crafty and uses his body so well. It’s very easy to not even notice some of the contributions he makes to this team — a screen here or there, bothering an opponent, or grabbing a board — but the best way to realize just how valuable a player can be is to see his team play without him. Pachulia was missed in those three games, and the Mavs are happy now to have him back.

  • 2016-02-02 09_59_03-Standings - Official Website of the Dallas MavericksIt’s getting closer and closer to the moment when we’ll all start taking a daily look at the Western Conference standings. Right now, Dallas has actually found a small pocket of space in what’s otherwise an extremely tight West, trailing fifth-place Memphis by two games and leading seventh-place Houston by 2.5. The Rockets are in the midst of a 20-game stretch with 15 coming on the road. This is a good time for the Mavs to gain some separation from their in-state rivals.

    Beneath Houston, however, is where it really gets interesting. Currently, Portland and Utah are tied for eighth place, each 1.5 games behind Houston. Sacramento is 1.5 games back of those two, and both Denver and New Orleans are only 2. behind the Kings. All told, five teams are vying for the eighth seed, and the Rockets are in danger of making that a six-team race for two spots. The Mavs would do well to keep winning and avoid that pack, but with a stretch beginning tomorrow with 13-out-of-16 games at home, Dallas can maintain its lead and potentially even gain on Memphis and the fourth-place Clippers.

    No matter what happens, you know the West is going to be close and crazy down the stretch, because it always is. It might not take 50 wins just to make the playoffs this season, but it’s going to be dramatic as ever.

  • After jam-packed January, Mavs prep for another daunting stretch

    DALLAS — They concluded a season-high 18 games in the month of January with a 9-9 record. Now, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in another difficult stretch to begin February, playing five games in seven nights.

    The Mavericks (28-23) began the week victoriously, sprinting to a 91-78 home win Sunday over the Phoenix Suns. Falling to a 112-97 loss Monday night in Atlanta, the Mavericks then concluded a back-to-back on a sour note. The Mavs also completed a stretch of 19 games in 32 days, starting another daunting span this week. And while looking to bounce back Wednesday at home against the Miami Heat, the Mavs hope to display their resolve as a team before a back-to-back against Southwest Division rivals San Antonio and Memphis.

    “It’s a tough stretch and one of the tougher ones I’ve ever seen, but we’ve got to dust everything off,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle admitted following Monday’s loss. “We’ve got an off day (Tuesday), and then we’ve got four very difficult games before the break. We’re going to have to summon up the energy to push through all this.”

    Playing the last five games minus sixth man Devin Harris due to a sprained left great toe, the Mavericks have been forced to take the floor without one of their better perimeter defenders. The Mavs then saw starting point guard Deron Williams go down during the first half of Monday’s loss with a hip contusion, causing his availability to also be in question for Wednesday’s matchup.

    Meanwhile, the Mavericks will try to avenge a 106-82 road loss in Miami back on Jan. 1, hoping to rebound from Monday’s defeat with a better performance. But as 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki admits, it will take every available player on the roster performing at a high level in order for the Mavs to make it through another tough stretch entering the All-Star break.

    “I mean, we’re still in the middle of a tough stretch with five games in seven nights. We’ve got another one Wednesday, and it’s a tough one. And then we’ve got a late game against San Antonio and we go to Memphis, so we’re still in the midst of a brutal stretch,” Nowitzki said. “Then we have two days off and play Utah, and everybody can relax a little bit, get away and get some rest. But we just have to grind it out, especially with a few guys out. We’d love to have Devin’s speed on the perimeter, especially on defense, but we’ve just got to grind it out somehow without him. And D-Will went down (Monday), but whoever is available has got to play hard and play within the system.”

    No team in the league has played more games since Jan. 1 than the Mavericks’ 19. That was evident Monday night as the Mavs played through tired legs to shoot just 36.5 percent from the field in the loss to Atlanta. The Mavericks now hope a much-needed day off can revitalize their offensive attack against the Heat (27-21) after shooting just 36.4 percent in the first meeting between the two teams.

    “It’s hard. We’re a little tired, but that’s the NBA. You’ve just got to take it one game at a time,” reserve guard J.J. Barea explained. “And we’ve just got to forget about (Monday), get a good day off and then come back to play on Wednesday.”

    Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor Wednesday night, hosting the Miami Heat. Miami leads the season series 1-0 after a 106-82 home win on Jan. 1. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

    Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

    baylor

    Deron Williams (hip contusion) — day-to-day

    Devin Harris (left great toe sprain) — day-to-day