The Mavs have been money when it’s mattered this season.
Dallas has played in “clutch” situations (final five minutes with a differential either way of five points or less) in 22 of the club’s 43 games this season for a total of 90 minutes. Only eight teams in the NBA have sweated it out for more minutes than the Mavericks this season, and none of them have performed better than Dallas in those situations.
In fact, not many teams in the league can make that claim, if any at all. The only team in the league with a higher net rating in clutch situations is the Golden State Warriors, currently first place in the Western Conference, but they’ve played just 31 clutch minutes all season, fewest in the NBA and 28 fewer than 29th-place Philadelphia. The Mavs’ 35.3 net rating is the envy of the league’s 28 other teams, and it’s a huge driving force behind the team’s record: Dallas is 16-6 in the 22 clutch games this season.
The Mavericks have won their close games not just with offense, but also with a healthy dosage of defense and rebounding, too, two areas which have been weak points for the team at earlier stages in the season. However, once push comes to shove, not many teams in the league have outperformed Dallas in any area of the game. Check out below where the Mavs rank in team clutch stats through Wednesday night.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of those numbers. Offensive, defensive, and net rating by now are fairly well-known and understood stats. For reference, 18 clubs in the NBA have offensive ratings higher than 100 in the clutch, and just nine have ratings higher than 110. Just three, though, are above 120: Golden State, Dallas, and the Atlanta Hawks. The Mavericks truly are in elite company, joining the two teams with the league’s best records.
Defensively, only 10 clubs have ratings below 100, and Dallas is one of just six teams to be below 93.Only two teams in the top-10 in defensive rating have played more clutch minutes than the Mavericks, as well, meaning Dallas has played quality ball in a high volume of high-stress minutes.
It’s difficult to measure, but part of the Mavs’ success in late-game situations, especially on the defensive end, must be due to Rick Carlisle’s tendency to give relatively light minutes to Dirk Nowitzki, Rajon Rondo, and Tyson Chandler throughout the first three quarters of games. Those three are all well-rested down the stretch of contests, which gives them each an extra burst when it’s needed most. That could also in part explain the Mavs’ elite defensive rebounding percentage, which is roughly five percentage points higher than the team’s season average. The Mavericks absolutely wipe the glass clean in the closing moments of close games (something we saw in Memphis Monday evening) and, as we all know, rebounding is the key to ending possessions.
Once they turn defense into offense, the Mavericks do a terrific job of not only finding the right shots, but just finding shots to begin with. Ends of games can get frantic, but the Mavs have turned it over on just 8.6 percent of their clutch possessions, fifth-best in basketball. Division rival Houston, for example, turns it over 19.6 times per 100 clutch possessions, second-worst in the league.
Dallas hangs on to the ball in clutch moments mostly because the team more often than not runs isolation looks for either Dirk or Monta Ellis, and neither player turns it over more than 7.1 times per 100 possessions. Nowitzki, especially, must wear glue on his hands in the closing moments — his 3.8 turnover ratio is lower than all but 19 players in the league who have appeared in more than 10 clutch games with a usage rate of 15.0 or higher. Of the 19 players ahead of him, only three have a usage rate higher than Nowitzki’s 27.8, and one of them, Kent Bazemore, has played a tick more than two total clutch minutes all season. Dirk simply refuses to give the ball up in crunch time, a hugely positive trait for the focal point of any late-game offense.
Both Ellis and Nowitzki are top-eight in clutch field goals made this season, as well. Check below to see the chart, and check out their percentages, as well.
|Player||Clutch MP||Clutch FGM||Clutch FG%||Clutch 3PM||Clutch 3P%||Clutch FTM||Clutch FT%|
That’s pretty special stuff. Not much else to say. Nowitzki’s volume of field goals made, as well, is particularly noteworthy. He’s hit 21 clutch field goals in just 70 clutch minutes, fewest of any player in the top-10 in clutch FGM.
What we’re seeing develop is a team which gains leads late in games and holds on to them at all costs, while typically adding to the lead as time goes on, as well. The Mavs have two productive closers down the stretch playing next to a point guard in Rajon Rondo who knows how to facilitate, a center who can defend the rim and rebound better than just about anyone (Chandler is fourth in total clutch rebounds), and a wing in Chandler Parsons who shouldn’t be left out of this, either: Parsons boasts a 45.0/38.5/83.3 clutch slash line this season, which is nothing to scoff at.
This is a club designed to win close games, and that’s what really matters come playoff time. So far, it’s been mission accomplished for the Mavericks this season.