With one-seventh of the season already played, the Dallas Mavericks are arguably the most surprising team in the NBA this season.
No one picked the Mavericks to be a factor in the Western Conference this season. But more than three weeks into the season, the Mavericks are seeded third in the Western Conference behind the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.
Losing to New Orleans in New Orleans was a tough loss for us. I thought that loss actually brought us together.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki
Despite losing three starters from last season — Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo — to free agency, the Mavericks are 8-4 and one game off last year’s 12-game record of 9-3.
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And that’s even though starters Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews are still working their way back from injuries, and starting center JaVale McGee has yet to play due to a stress fracture in his leg.
The Mavericks will carry a five-game winning streak into their game against the Utah Jazz (6-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at American Airlines Center. The streak started following a 120-105 loss in New Orleans on Nov. 10. The Pelicans were 0-6 at the time and are currently 1-11.
That loss came although Pelicans star Anthony Davis sat out the entire second half with a bruised right hip.
“Losing to New Orleans in New Orleans was a tough loss for us against a team that hadn’t even won a game, and against a team that lost Anthony Davis in the second half,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “So we were extremely frustrated.
“I thought that loss actually brought us together. I thought we played extremely hard the next night against the [Los Angeles] Clippers.”
The Mavericks beat the Clippers 118-108.
When we keep our turnovers low, our offense is tough to guard.
Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons
Since then, the wins have kept on coming. That includes a sweep of three games on the road against Houston, Philadelphia and Boston.
“We have such a balanced attack, we’re being more solid defensively, and we’re not gambling on defense,” Parsons said. “When we keep our turnovers low, our offense is tough to guard.
“As long as we’re not getting stagnant moving the ball, we’re going to play unselfish. I’m still waiting on the night when we all hit shots, but we can win games even when we’re not.”
The Mavericks, who have turned the ball over just 13 times per game, recently won the past three games in a period where they played four games in five days. They beat Boston 106-102 Wednesday night after falling behind by 18 points.
“We’ve done what we needed to do to win games,” Williams said. “We’ve closed out games and we’ve stayed pretty consistent. I still feel like we can play better on both ends of the floor, but we’ve been winning.”
Zaza Pachulia, the backup center who is starting until McGee gets in game condition, has six double-doubles.
“He gets his body on all the big guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He gets a lot of rebounds, he makes good decisions. He’s been one of our real key guys.”
We’re a bunch of veterans who have no ego, and whoever scores, scores. We want to share the ball and play off each other.
Dwight Powell, the third-string center, is also making contributions.
“Powell has worked extremely hard,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that has great energy, goes hard all the time, and he’s got skills. We’ve really needed him this year and he’s stepped up and he’s played well. He’s really an important guy for us.”
Nowitzki noted that the players are driven by the team concept, not by their individual statistics.
“We’re a bunch of veterans who have no ego, and whoever scores, scores,” Nowitzki said. “We want to share the ball and play off each other.”
The Dallas Mavericks’ records through 12 games since Rick Carlisle became the franchise’s head coach in 2008: