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Reviewing the Mavs’ Winning Streak

Well, I’m glad that’s over. The Dallas Mavericks’ alarming 13-game winning streak came to an abrupt end on Saturday after a 128-94 thrashing by the Knicks (or should I say “David Lee and company”). While a run of that many games is certainly something worth league-wide appreciation, I’m of the ilk that it wasn’t all that special. Mr. Hollinger over at ESPN tends to agree with me, ranking the Mavericks only 14th in his most recent power rankings.

The schedule

The main reason I scoff at the manifest significance of the streak is the sheer lack of difficulty of the Mavs’ schedule over the span — like, my high school team probably could have won about half those games. Seriously, though, the final seven games of the streak were against sub-.500 opponents at the time (the Bobcats are now three games over .500 after an also-impressive six-game winning spurt, but they have lost to the Nets twice this year. Really.). Now, I don’t mean to discount Dallas’s quality wins over the Suns, Magic, Lakers, and Hawks, but if you throw in one quality team to replace one of the powderpuff squads, and that streak may have only been six or seven.

You got lucky, babe

The Mavericks were fairly fortunate during the streak, too. Teams and key players (read Kobe) underperformed, letting Dallas come away with wins it didn’t deserve. I remember reading that this was the longest winning streak in history in which a team never defeated an opponent by double digits — and I really don’t think that was a coincidence. Take, for instance, the Mavericks’ win over the Bobcats, 89-84, in Charlotte, where MJ’s team is an astonishing 24-8. Charlotte shot only 39 percent from the field (compared to its season average of 45 percent), and would have won if not for a paltry 31 points in the second half. Against the Lakers, Kobe had an off night, shooting 9-23, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol took only 17 shots combined (compared to their usual 23), and the team shot only 29 percent from deep. It’s another game the Mavericks won (101-96) that they should have lost. Don’t forget about an unimpressive three-point win over the 29th-best Timberwolves and an equally subpar nine-point victory over the Nets that had the Mavericks down 33-14 after the first period and and up by only two with under four minutes to play.

The Kidd is hot tonight

Dallas would never have been so successful during this 13-game stretch if not for the unusually shining performance of Mr. Jason Kidd. The dude outdid his season averages in most categories, notably: minutes (38 vs. 36), points (14 vs. 10), rebounds (7 vs. 5.5), assists (10.3 vs. 9.3), steals (2.4 vs. 1.9), and three-point percentage (44% vs. 42%). He even put up a line (19 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists) against the Hawks that was the only one of its kind (15+ points, 15+ rebounds, and 15+ assists) since Kidd last did it in 1996. Before that, the last guy to do it was some guy named Magic.

There you have it. Sure, the Mavericks are a great team and figure to be in the top three in the Western Conference. And I may just be a tad bitter with regard to the Mavericks’ recent success given that the Nets have their first-round pick in the draft this year. But truly, the streak wasn’t all that much to write home about. To prove they’re a truly elite team, they’ll have to show me when it counts, and not melt down like they have so many times in the past.

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Welcome

Welcome to Saving the Skyhook, my new blog about all the important news in the NBA.

What you’ll find here

Ideally, I’ll be posting my thoughts on the biggest issues the league’s facing on a daily basis. In many cases, I’ll be posting multiple times every day. Owing to my busy college schedule, weekday posts will typically be shorter reactions to the bigger headlines in the NBA for the day, while weekend posts will typically be lengthier features — analyses, predictions, rants, etc. — in response to the week that was. Once I really get going, I’ll start to implement some daily and weekly theme posts (similar to SportsCenter’s Top 10, for instance).

What’s with the name?

I’ve always loved the skyhook. In fact, when I step out on the court it’s my go-to scoring move, and I’m a 5’9″ white guy. Seriously, though, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the master of one of the most deadly offensive weapons in the league, and it’s one of the main reasons he’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. For some reason, though, no one uses it anymore. Players rely too much on physicality in the current game, abandoning the finesse of previous decades. Obviously there’s something great about watching Dwight Howard throw down a two-handed slam in the face of his defender, but he could improve his game and his reputation so much by consistently hitting the 10- to 15-foot skyhook. Well, it would make him pretty much unstoppable. So I’d love to see this shot make a resurgence into the NBA game, but I doubt it will ever happen. Maybe players feel emasculated by it — like how Shaq continually denies Rick Barry’s offers to teach him to shoot free throws underhand. Nevertheless, I’d put my style to the side to feature an indefensible shot. That’s just my two cents.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

Feel free to e-mail me at daniel.savitzky@gmail.com with any comments, suggestions or recommendations you might have, whether they be for links to include on the page, topics you’d like to see me write about, or a specific type of feature you’d like to see. I’m always open to your ideas. Thanks, and look out for my first true NBA-related posts in the coming days.