The Mavs’ age is showing this season. And no, that’s not a bad thing.
With an average age of 30.4, the Mavericks have the third-oldest team in the NBA. But with age comes veteran savvy, and the club has been flaunting it so far. Dallas is the second-best team in the NBA in the clutch this season, defined by the final five minutes of a game with the lead at 5 points or less either way. The Mavs have a 42.3 net rating in 37 clutch minutes, behind only the undefeated Golden State Warriors impressive 50.0 mark. It’s no surprise that leading the way is the offense, which has scored a blistering 134.8 points per 100 possessions in the clutch.
Pick a game, any game, and you’ll see how the Mavs have thrived when the lights shine brightest. Against Portland, for example, Dallas erased a 7-point deficit in the final few minutes, outscoring the Trail Blazers 21-8 in 8 clutch minutes. The club’s clutch net rating in the game: 100.2. That is absurd.
|Team||Clutch MP||Clutch Net Rating||Clutch Offensive Rating|
|Golden State Warriors||33||50.0||122.2|
Keying the late success is the team’s 3.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Led late in games by Deron Williams and Raymond Felton, two veteran point guards, Dallas is always able to generate a good, quality shot. Dirk Nowitzki has plenty to do with the team’s dominance late in contests, as well, as he leads the NBA in clutch field goal percentage among the 37 players with at least 15 attempts during that time frame (64.7 percent). But even a player as brilliant as the German can only rely on the guards to get him the ball in the spots he wants it. No matter who the scorer is (whether it’s Nowitzki, Williams, or someone else) it takes every individual player doing his job in the closing minutes in order to close a game out.
The Mavericks have performed well in general when Williams and Felton share the backcourt. The five-man lineup of Williams, Felton, Wesley Matthews, Nowitzki, and Zaza Pachulia remains the best in basketball by volume, posting a league-leading 28.3 net rating and obscene 126.6 offensive rating in 114 minutes. The next-closest lineup by net rating outscores its opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions. Against Portland, for example, that group outscored the Trail Blazers by 20 points while it was on the floor. It’s no coincidence, then, that the Mavericks are so good in the clutch. That group is usually in the game.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Mavs are only 6-3 in games when clutch minutes are played. In the two most recent losses, however — against Oklahoma City and San Antonio — the Mavs were in position to shoot for the lead late in the game on the road against two teams that will almost surely make the playoffs, and possibly even secure homecourt advantage in the first round. Those are games Dallas would obviously like to win, but the fact that the Mavericks were able to stay in those games speaks volumes about the team’s poise on the road. Just another case of the team showing its age.
Finding ways not only to produce points, but also to stop the opponent, is going to help the Mavericks all season long. The West is a beast of a conference, and the East appears vastly improved from last season to this one. Dallas figures to be in a lot of close contests the rest of the way, so if the team can continue performing at this level, there are a lot of wins to be had.