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Dallas Mavericks Update: Week 6
The Dallas Mavericks are in a dead heat with their arch rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, midway through the sixth week of the 2011-2012 lockout season. At 14-9, things could be better for the defending champions. However, they could also be a lot worse. Dallas started the season slow and its leader, the German "Ultimate Weapon" named Dirk Nowitzki started even slower, evidently suffering from a form of lockout hangover. On the season, Dirk is averaging just 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists on 43% shooting, all easily career lows except for his rookie season. Dirk's PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is also at his lowest (17.7) since his second season in 1999. To put his season in perspective, Dirk normally has a PER of well over 22, and quite often it reaches 24 or higher. Presently, Dirk's former NBA Finals rival Miami Heat Lebron James has a PER of 33.3, and Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant are tied for 2nd with 26.5 each. With Dirk's numbers so low, how are the Mavericks still tied for 1st in their division and also tied for a four seed in the playoffs?

Seeing as the Mavericks are still regarded as being a top tier team in the NBA despite a slow start (and a surge coming on only during the past two weeks), what is it that has kept the Mavericks from sinking? One could point to Lamar Odom, a supposedly "big" acquisition for the team prior to the start of the season. However, Odom 's presence has hardly been a factor. He averages 8 points and 4.7 rebounds on an atrocious 35% shooting. That's not it. What about the veteran presence of Jason Kidd, stabilizing the offense and calling effective plays? Considering that the team has played 23 games and Kidd has only played in 16, that's probably not the reason, either. Jason Terry's veteran presence seems strong this year. He is averaging 15 points and nearly 4 assists off the bench while hitting over 2 triples a game. With that, he's likely a finalist (again) for the Sixth Man of the Year award. But that's the same ol' Jet - he does this every year.

Also, as a team, the Mavericks are not executing as effectively offensively as they have in the past. This year the Mavericks are shooting a miserable 44% from the field as a team and only 31% of their three pointers, averaging only 6.87 of those a game. In each of the past two years, the Mavs have averaged 47.5% shooting and 46% shooting from the floor respectively and 36.5% and 37% from three-point land respectively. So, they are not hitting more shots that count more statistically (three points vs. two). That's not it. One final analysis shows that it's on the opposite end of the floor where the Mavericks are doing most of their damage.

Defensively, the Mavericks get it done when it counts. They are 10th in the league at forcing turnovers and 10th in the league at grabbing defensive rebounds. In fact, they are 2nd in the league in total number of rebounds, showing that the Mavericks are great at hustling to end opponents' possessions. As a team, mostly led by Jason Kidd or Jason Terry, Coach Carlisle values a slow, defensive, grind-it-out pace. The team ranks 17th in scoring but 6th in total Defensive Rating. To recap, despite Dirk Nowitzki's early season struggles, the defending champs have more grit than meets the eye, scoring buckets when it counts just as they did in the 4th quarter this past week when San Antonio nearly upset the Mavs in Dallas.

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