Can the Dallas Mavericks Win When it Matters Most?
The Dallas Mavericks are one of the NBA's best regular season teams but don't mistake that statement to be a compliment.
Dirk Nowitzki could care less about 50 win seasons. His goal, as it has been all along, is to bring the Mavericks its first World Championship in franchise history and solidify his legacy as the team's all-time best player.
The window of opportunity to achieve this goal is shrkinking each year as the team ages and the Western Conference gets more competitive.
Throughout the 2010-2011 season, the Dallas Mavericks have shown signs of being able to break away from the pack and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since their 2006 meeting with Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat.
The emergence of Rodrigue Beaubois and J.J. Barea combined with veteran leadership from Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Nowitzki have helped the squad cruise through the regular season en route to yet another high Western Conference playoff seed.
Something still seems to be missing. It's hard to pinpoint: call it an "it" factor.
When the season-ending injury to Caron Butler, the Mavericks nascent defensive intensity dissapeared as they again reverted to being an offense first team.
Offensive-minded NBA teams tend to win in the regular season. And, plenty of teams over the course of pro basketball history have been successful in the daily grind by simply outscoring their opponents, and not being too concerned about playing defense.
Mike D'Antoni's coaching career illustrates this point.
When the talent level equalizes, however, defense becomes essential.
If the Mavericks, and most importantly, Dirk Nowtizki, cannot rediscover this intensity, the post-season will be more of the same, with an early exit being all but certain.
With an aging, veteran core, its now or never for the Dallas Mavericks. Time waits on no one, especially in professional sports.