By rallying from down 18 points — including 14 to start the fourth quarter — on their way to beating the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks sent a statement to the league: this team is not the same as last year’s squad.
That statement refers to a few different aspects of the 2013-14 Mavericks. First of all, the offense this year is in a completely different league compared to last year. Last year’s overall scoring numbers were actually decent, but this season’s team just looks so much more deadly, like a team that opponents actually have to be a bit scared of.
For starters, it seems clear that Dirk Nowitzki is as healthy as he’s been in a couple of years. Part of his resurgent scoring can be attributed to the playmaking skills of Monta Ellis, but even without that Dirk is moving better than he did at any point last year. He’s utilizing his classic post moves and fadeaways to great effect, and he has found a rhythm that he seemed to be lacking in the past two seasons.
Not only that, but the Mavericks have that complementary go-to scorer in Ellis that they have so sorely missed in Jason Terry‘s absence. In fact, if Ellis keeps producing the way he has been to start the season he should have no trouble making his first All-Star appearance and may pass Dirk as the team’s primary offensive option at this rate.
The Mavericks have proven this year that it is no easy feat to come into Dallas and walk away with a win, since no team has managed to succeed there yet. Even when it seemed like the Rockets were well in control of the game the Mavericks found a way to come back and send Houston away with a loss.
Most importantly, this is a team that can win close games and finish down the stretch. They can clamp down on defense when it matters, and above all they have an actual identity and game plan on the offensive end to close out games. The ball will be in Ellis’ hands, and he’ll look to get the ball to Dirk. He may end up taking the shot himself or dishing the ball to another player, but having a set game plan at the end of games will go a long way toward improving the team’s record in close games.
In the end it was just one game early in the season. However, by beating one of the teams that is supposed to be better than them, the Mavericks showed that perhaps they have the talent to hang around with the big dogs of the league.