Thursday, April 30, 2009

Looking to Round 2: Are the Mavs Clutch?

One of my favorite stats (and not in a good way) about the Mavs being touted all year was how they could grind out the close games. After all, they won 10 of 14 games decided by 3 points or less. Some media outlets expanded this stat to include games with the opponent within 4 or 5 points to further bolster the idea that the Mavs could hang tough and pull out a victory.

Here's why I found that stat laughable. The Mavericks, as we all know, were maddeningly inconsistent this season, often playing down to their competition (most recently at the end of the regular season when the T-Wolves weren't downed until Terry hit a floater with 0.2 seconds left in the game), occasionally having to dig themselves out of a hole (see again, T-Wolves on 12/30, when the Mavs staged the biggest comeback in franchise history), but very frequently, these guys were building up comfortable leads and letting the opponent back in the game as the clock wound down. Are the Mavs really "clutch" if they beat a lottery team by two points with a second left to go in the game? A game everyone expected them to win from the start?

That's why I find the claim that the Mavs are clutch because they've won some very close games a little specious. It's not that I think the Mavs aren't clutch, I just don't think this is the stat to use to prove your point. To me, the Mavs let way too many big, late leads dwindle, which amounted to "close games" when everything was all said and done.

A few examples:
December 6, at home vs. Atlanta: Dallas builds up a 15 point lead through three quarters, only to allow the Hawks to score 33 (!!!) points in the fourth quarter, holding on for a 2-point win.
January 19, at Philadelphia: Dallas celebrates MLK by letting an 11-point cushion be completely decimated as the Sixers pull ahead by 1 point with less than 5 seconds left in the game. Mavs get the W thanks to Dirk's heroics as he hits a 3-ball at the buzzer.
March 17, at home vs. Detroit: Decked out in green for St. Patrick's Day, the Mavs ride a 14-point lead into the start of the fourth quarter, only to get outscored by 12 in the final frame.

It's not all like this, of course, there's a few examples where we were down for most of the game and stormed back to gut out a win. And I'm definitely not complaining about being able to win close games, seeing as how we were something like 1-of-8 last year in games decided by 5 points or less after the All-Star Break.

Just to see if there's any sort of pattern, let's take a look at the final score for all games:

Fri Nov 07 @ Denver L 105-108
Fri Nov 14 vs Orlando L 100-102
Tue Nov 25 vs Indiana W 109-106
Tue Dec 02 vs LA Clippers W 100-98
Sat Dec 06 vs Atlanta W 100-98
Tue Jan 13 @ Denver L 97-99
Mon Jan 19 @ Philadelphia W 95-93
Sat Feb 07 vs Chicago W 115-114
Fri Feb 27 vs OKC W 110-108
Tue Mar 17 vs Detroit W 103-101
Fri Mar 20 @ Indiana W 94-92
Fri Mar 27 vs Denver L 101-103
Wed Apr 01 vs Miami W 98-96
Mon Apr 13 vs Minnesota W 96-94

Notice something interesting here? One of those four losses was to Orlando, but the rest were to our round 2 opponent, Denver.

This is not really new information. Lots of sports analysts have pointed out that our 0-fer this season against Denver were very close games (the remaining game was an mid-December 10-point home loss), but isn't it interesting that these close games were pretty much the only close losses of the season for your Dallas Mavericks?

So are the Mavs clutch? Sure. But the Nuggets might be just a little bit moreso.


Rosser said...

I think regular season and the playoffs are two entirely different animals (67-15?). Still, 0-4 is a bit daunting. And the Nugs kicked the Bees asses. But like some have already pointed out, NO mailed that series in like few teams ever have. We're playing our best ball. I think we advance.

That being said, somebody mail Melo an s-ton of herb...

Creth said...

how do we definie clutch? just winning isn't enough, is it winning against an evenly matched opponent? is it a come from behind victory? if so, when does the come from behind have to happen?

I agree, with what I think might be part of what you're saying, that close games don't always define "clutch" performances

and I'm sending Chauncey a Honey Baked Ham that a Mexican coughed on

Creth said...

can't wait to talk about clutch NFL players.... I think the problem with clutch is that it doesn't matter why the game got close