Some week the Mavs had, huh? Dallas was so good during the past three games, in fact, that it really isn’t fair to single out any one player. Between Monta Ellis scoring like always, Rajon Rondo hitting five treys in Boston, and Tyson Chandler grabbing 12 boards per game, the Mavs had a complete week top-to-bottom. That’s how you go 3-0.
Credit, then, goes to the entire team. For that reason, this week’s “Player” of the Week isn’t a player at all. Rick Carlisle earned it, after all. He’s been money for years, but this past week was one of his finest.
|Mavs’ Week in Numbers|
|114.0 PPG||51.6 FG%||48.5 3PT% (led NBA)||58.0 eFG%||119.1 Offensive Rating||93.7 Defensive Rating||2.59 AST/TO Ratio|
At the root of the Mavs’ success this week and in the games before since the Rondo trade is Carlisle’s ability to manage his rotation in ways that allow the team to operate at full capacity even when his better players are sitting down. Dallas used nine different five-man groups this past week, a very high number for such a small number of games, and only three had a negative net rating (the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions). One of those lineups is the one he plays at ends of blowouts, when the objective isn’t to score as much as it is to run the clock out.
Above are the four best lineups used this week by net rating. Notice who’s missing in each lineup.
1. No Monta Ellis, no Chandler Parsons
2. No Dirk Nowitzki, no Rajon Rondo
3. No Tyson Chandler, no Ellis, no Parsons
4. Starting lineup
Each of those three groups ranked ahead of the Mavs’ starters. Granted, each of them played much less than the starting unit, but the point remains that the Mavs’ bench hasn’t experienced as significant a drop-off as perhaps anticipated following the Rondo trade, in which Dallas sent away two top reserves and one starter. Some of that is due to Charlie Villanueva, some due to Richard Jefferson, some due to Devin Harris, and you could go on.
Dirk and Rondo are typically the first two players off the floor for the Mavs in a normal game, an astonishing thing when taking into account Rondo is the starting point guard and Dirk is the primary floor spacer in that unit. Chandler exits not long after. Carlisle trusts his reserves, no matter who they are, and they’ve all delivered. Harris, for example, has acted as a bridge between Ellis and Rondo, two players who have needed the ball to be effective throughout their career. However, neither Rondo nor Ellis seem to have any problems with seeing the ball less than usual since that deal, and Harris has performed brilliantly defensively, especially next to Rondo. Changing their personal playing style is easier because the Mavs have been winning games, of course — Dallas has won six of eight since the deal and, most recently, five straight.
Give that credit to Carlisle. With or without starters on the floor, the Mavericks have been playing at an elite level. Since the Rondo trade on Dec. 20, Dallas ranks eighth in the NBA in offensive rating at 109.8 points per 100 possessions and seventh in defensive rating at 99.6 points per 100. For reference, nine of the last 10 NBA champions have finished top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating, and the only exception (the 2009-10 Lakers) finished 11th in offense and fourth on D. Essentially, finishing in or near the top-10 in both categories is a prerequisite for winning a championship, and Dallas has played at and maintained that level of ball for the first two weeks of the Rondo Era.
Meanwhile, Dallas remains atop the league in offensive rating at 112.7 points per 100 possessions, which would tie the ’09-’10 Phoenix Suns for the best offense since at least the 1995-96 NBA season. NBA.com’s database doesn’t go back any further than that. Basketball-Reference’s does, however, and although the site uses a slightly different method to calculate a possession, this Dallas offense would finish ninth-best in league history. All the while, the defense has climbed up to 17th in the league after dropping into the 20s before the trade. Basically, Dallas has more or less sustained a league-leading offense while improving defensively, a scary proposition for the rest of the league. And, even excluding Rondo from the equation, only three currently active Mavs were on the team last season! Non-Rondos are still getting used to each other, let alone the team’s new star point guard. Once this team figures it out, watch out.
That task — figuring it out — ultimately rests on Carlisle’s shoulders. He’s demonstrated in the past that he’s able to devise gameplans that maximize his teams’ abilities. This is the same as any other season, only this year his team’s ceiling is maybe higher than any other he’s ever coached. That’s a lot of pressure, sure, but so far who could complain about the results?
STAT OF THE WEEK – 58
Dirk shot 58.3 percent from the field in the win against Cleveland. Dallas is now 10-2 this season when Nowitzki hits at least 58 percent on FGs, per Basketball-Reference, and the Mavs are 193-51 all-time in such contests. Not bad.
Nowitzki is on pace to shoot 58 percent or better in 29 games this season, which would be a career-high. His current best is 27, which he accomplished in 2010-11. That year is memorable for other reasons, of course. He did it 20 times during his MVP season in 2006-07, and otherwise has done it 18 times twice and 17 times four times.
Dirk got off to a ridiculously hot start to this campaign before his percentages dipped through December. However, his overall numbers are on the upswing after hitting at least 58 percent in three of his last six outings. I suspect once he gets more used to playing with Rondo, he’ll have many more of these games, although how teams will approach Dallas defensively will have a lot to do with that. Some teams have doubled Dirk relentlessly since the Rondo deal while others have left him open pretty regularly, though obviously that isn’t by design.
It’ll be interesting to follow throughout January and beyond. It goes without saying Dallas would like to see him hit 58 percent or better. History shows Dallas would be pretty successful if that happens too much more.