The two seasons prior to the 2021-22 campaign, the Mavericks finished in the bottom third of the league in defensive rating. That’s not the case this season, as they’re currently a top-five defense in the league.
Over its last 11 games, Dallas has gone 10-1 and continues to rise in the Western Conference standings. This includes four-straight wins during the midway point in the season.
Surprisingly, the Mavs’ offense has struggled during the recent hot streak. In fact, over the past 11 games their offensive rating (110.2) is 20th in the league while their defensive rating (98.5) is the best in the NBA.
It’s truly been the defense that has carried the Mavericks over the recent stretch of success.
Dallas’ defense has held their opponent to under 100 points in eight of those 11 games. On the season, the Mavs have accomplished this 18 times, going 15-3 when opponents score in double digits.
The Mavs have also limited their opponents to under 50.0% shooting in 21 consecutive games. This means that the last team to shoot better than 50.0% against the Mavericks was the Brooklyn Nets in early December.
This dominant defense has allowed Dallas to defeat good teams, but also roll through weaker teams. During a recent two-game stretch against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic, the Mavs didn’t trail for a single second over that 96 minute stretch.
What’s turned things around in Dallas?
There’s several points in the timeline of this season that could be marked as the spot where the Mavs figured things out. One of the largest turning points of the season was following a Dec. 10 loss to the Indiana Pacers. At that point, the Mavericks were 12-13 and drastically underperforming.
From there, things appeared to get even worse, as players started to enter health and safety protocols while key players like Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis battled injuries too.
However, the Mavs powered through, staying afloat without Doncic. Upon his return on Jan. 1, the flip was truly switched.
Since he returned to action in the first game of 2022, Dallas has the best point differential in the league, leading to a 7-1 record this year. The roster is finally starting to mesh, while new coach Jason Kidd is beginning to fully implement his systems.
It takes time for a new coach to implement their schemes on a new team. As such, the effects of Kidd at the helm are starting to become visible on the court.
Kidd was on Frank Vogel’s staff with the Los Angeles Lakers before earning the head job in Dallas. In that final season with the Lakers, they had the best defensive rating in the entire NBA, which gave Kidd firsthand experience on how to build a great defense.
“He showed me what it takes to be the best defense in the league,” said Kidd on media day when asked what he learned during his time alongside Vogel.
The longest winning streak in the NBA is currently at four games, held by both the Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. Ironically enough, these two teams will face off on in their next game Jan. 20 in Dallas. It will be a true test for the Mavs, as they’ll take on the top team in the Western Conference.
Phoenix (11.2) and Dallas (11.1) have the NBA’s top net ratings over the last ten games, meaning this matchup will be between two of the hottest teams in the league. During this stretch, the Mavericks have the top defensive rating (98.2) while the Suns have led in offensive rating (117.2).
Again, the offense has struggled of late, which is partially due to Doncic not playing his best on that end of the floor. Luckily for the Mavs, he’s coming off of perhaps his best game of the season, posting 41 points against the Toronto Raptors.
If he’s able to start playing well offensively and boost the team in terms of scoring, the Mavericks will be even more dangerous.