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A Very Nice Change With Avery

The Dallas Mavericks have quietly put together an impressive 11 game win streak while compiling an overall 37-10 record. Despite their recent success the Mavs remain a team under the radar and still find themselves under constant criticism from the media. However by looking at this Dallas team closely it is easy to see why these Mavs should not be overlooked.

The main difference between these Mavs and the Mavericks of the past is a word once considered taboo in Dallas, defense. Coach Avery Johnson has instilled a defensive mentality in his team and the Mavericks are buying into it. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the 11 game winning streak is the fact that no opponent has scored over 100 points. Overall the Mavs are holding their opponents to 44% from the field only 2% off their season goal of 42%. Furthermore the Mavs rank in the top 5 in the NBA in steals and blocks. It appears the Allas Mavericks have brought that missing D back to Dallas.

Another key competent to the Mavs recent run has been the emergence of Josh Howard. The Wake Forest alum has averaged 18 points over the last 11 games including five games where he has led the team in scoring. The versatile swingman is becoming the perfect offensive complement to perennial All-Star Dir Nowitzki and brings a much needed intensity to the defensive end off the court often shadowing the opponents? top scorers. Playing alongside defensive-minded Adrian Griffin has improved J-Ho?s defensive prowess and boosted his steals per game to 1.26. The swingman is making plenty of teams regret passing him up in 2003 NBA Draft.

Yet another crucial contributor to the winning streak is their remarkably deep bench. A bench led by Jerry Stackhouse has received a huge boost from recently demoted Erick Dampier. Since Dampier?s relegation to the bench Stack has averaged 14 points per game while Damp is pulling down an average of 9 boards a game. The recent rebirth of the $73 million man may be attributed to him being a top offensive weapon when he?s teamed with the second unit but his quick cohesion with Stackhouse may have more to do with it then anything. The two players, both capable of starting, have developed a good rapport on the court and are feeding off of each other. Stackhouse, a lethal scorer, has flourished using the big-bodied Dampier for screens and picks and has become a viable Sixth Man of the Year contender. Furthermore Stack, an underrated passer, has seen his number of assists jump to 3.18 per game as he has been able to feed Damp the ball down low for easy baskets. Combine this newly formed dynamic duo with Keith Van Horn and lightning quick Devin Harris and it?s easy to see why the Mavericks? bench has become one of the best in the league.

While there is no telling how dangerous this year?s squad is until the playoffs begin, it is encouraging to see the team gelling and gaining confidence at this point in the season. The upcoming week brings a horde of teams, including the LA Kobes, the Miami Heat , and the Denver Nuggets , that will make extending the streak extremely difficult. However if the Mavs continue to follow the formula that got them to this point, then the franchise record 14 straight victories may be in danger.


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