The Mavs are 14-11 and sit fifth in the loaded Western Conference. The most impressive part about their start, however, is that things are probably only going to get better for Dallas, as key players like Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews continue their recovery efforts, and new pieces Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia further familiarize themselves with each other and Rick Carlisle’s system.
Here’s what we know so far about the Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki is still a beast, Williams has turned into a heck of a closer, and Dallas plays much better defense than you probably thought. The eye test can tell you all of those things, and the numbers would back it up. But the numbers can tell you a bit more than that, as well. The Mavs have played 25 games, so now that we’re nearly one-third of the way through the regular season, things are starting to fall into place statistically. Early on in the season, one standout showing or one off night could dramatically affect what the numbers tell you about a team. But, over the course of several weeks, those things all even out for the most part across the league.
With that, here are the five biggest stat discrepancies in Mavs wins versus Mavs losses.
IN WINS: 54.7 2PA (51.6 2P%), 26.8 3PA (36.0 3P%)
IN LOSSES: 58.5 2PA (47.4 2P%), 27.9 3PA (29.0 3P%)
It goes without saying that, when the Mavs’ three-point shots are falling, the club is hard to beat. The same can be said for any team in basketball: Heading into Tuesday night’s games, teams had been shooting 38.2 percent from deep in wins this season versus just 31.8 percent in losses according to Basketball-Reference. The Mavs have fought through a few poor shooting nights this season, but they’ve made up for those with some sizzling evenings as well, including Wesley Matthews’ 10-trey performance against Washington earlier this month. Some nights your shots fall, and some nights they don’t.
What’s most surprising about those numbers is the Mavericks attempt more 2s in losses than in wins. Overall, the team collects more offensive rebounds in losses (10.6) than in wins (7.4), which could have something to do with it. Also, the pace of losses is just a bit higher (99.86) than wins (98.19), so there are more chances to put up shots. What this really does, though, is quell the notion that somehow shooting too many three-pointers can lead to losses. That might have been the case in the NBA of a bygone era, but that’s not true anymore. This league is more about shot-making than it’s ever been: If you can get open shots on the perimeter, you’ve got to take them. If you make ’em, you’ll win. If you don’t, you won’t.
Interestingly enough, the opponent’s three-point shooting doesn’t have much to do with the Mavs’ success, either. Opponents hit 34.4 percent from deep in Mavs losses versus 32.0 percent in Mavs wins. Where you really see a difference, however, is in two-point shooting. When Dallas reigns victorious, opponents are hitting just 46.0 percent of their 2s, as opposed to 52.5 percent when the Mavs fall. I’d suspect many of those extra makes come at the rim, but in some of those losses — the Washington game, for example — the opponent is so red-hot from the mid-range that it doesn’t matter what happens at the rim.
IN WINS: 12.9 committed, 15.8 forced
IN LOSSES: 14.5 committed, 13.1 forced
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you think back to some of the Mavs’ road losses this season (at Oklahoma City, at Memphis, at Sacramento) turnovers played a huge role, with the Mavs committing 16 or more giveaways in all three games. Dallas has lost just one game this season when it commits less than 10 turnovers. The real problem with giveaways is not only that they prevent the Mavs from getting points, but they also lead to easy points the other way.
Although the Mavericks have defended well in transition this season, opponents score 17.1 fast break points per game in Mavs losses, as opposed to just 13.9 per game in wins. You want to limit easy chances as much as possible, especially against teams with more collective athleticism than the Mavericks. Against OKC, for example, Russell Westbrook had several runaway dunks and layups. A player as fast and explosive as Westbrook is going to score almost every time you give him a running start. Dallas’ best defense is careful offense, and you’d essentially hear Rick Carlisle say the same thing.
IN WINS: 13.4 forced
IN LOSSES: 7.4 forced
Now we’re getting into some deeper stats that you can’t find on NBA.com. The Mavs analytics team tracks deflections, charges, and a few other defensive stats that you can’t find anywhere online. There’s been no greater indicator of success this season for the Mavericks than deflections, and it makes sense if you think about it. If you’re deflecting the ball, you’re either getting a steal or momentarily derailing your opponent’s possession, which usually means they’ll take a bad shot or eventually turn it over. On the other hand, if you’re not disrupting any plays, your opponent is going to get what it wants.
With 11 deflections against Phoenix, the Mavericks moved to a perfect 11-0 this season when they force more than 10 deflections on defense. There are no other major stats that correlate to victories as strongly as this one. When Dallas plays pesky defense, it wins every single time.
IN WINS: 111.0 on-court offensive rating
IN LOSSES: 99.0 on-court offensive rating
Yep, in an average Mavs win, the club scores 111.0 points per 100 possessions when the Big German is on the court. For reference, only the Warriors (112.9) have an offensive rating higher than 107.6 this season. So, when the Mavericks are winning games, it means they’re scoring almost as well as a 24-1 team.
In losses, meanwhile, Dallas hasn’t been able to figure out a way to score at a high level with Nowitzki in the game. Some of those games have been nights when Nowitzki himself is missing shots, while others have been due to strong defense by the opponent. But the moral of the story is when Dallas plays well with Nowitzki, the team is nearly unbeatable: Dallas is 10-4 this season when Dirk’s on-court offensive rating for the game is 100.0 or higher.
There are plenty of very talented players on this team, and every player is important. But, when it comes to wins and losses, there are four rotation players whose shooting splits vary dramatically depending on the outcome of the game — or, more accurately, the outcome of the game depends on their shooting percentages.
|Player||FG% In Wins||In Losses||Difference|
The differences are stark between wins and losses, especially with Parsons and Nowitzki, possibly the two most important offensive players on the roster. This isn’t to say that the team’s success doesn’t depend on Matthews or Williams — far from it, in fact — but it does show that if you check the box score after a Mavs win, you’ll probably see some gaudy shooting numbers by Parsons, Nowitzki, Powell, and Felton.