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Thursday, April 1, 2010
Dallas has NBA's best duo down the stretch

By Tim MacMahon

Critics of the Mavs’ point to margin of victory as evidence that this team isn’t as good as its record indicates.

Surely, there must be a lot of luck involved for a team that is 18-5 in games decided by five or fewer points. Never mind that the Mavs had an almost identical record in such games last season.

Perhaps the Mavs’ success in close contests also has something to do with the fact that they have the most productive pair of fourth-quarter scorers in the NBA.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry combined to average 12.8 points per fourth quarter/overtime entering Wednesday, according to numbers crunched by ESPN Research. That figure is a notch higher after Dirk dropped 19 by himself as the Mavs rallied from a double-digit deficit down the stretch in Memphis.

One theory I’ve heard is that the fourth quarter stats are padded for Dirk and Jet because the Mavs struggle to put teams away, so Dallas doesn’t get much garbage time. But that doesn’t hold water when you look at the other pairs who rank among the top five in fourth quarter scoring: Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Mo Williams, Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

All those pairs play for playoff teams on pace to win at least 50 games. And the Thunder (12-12), a baby-faced bunch, is the only team among the five who doesn’t have a winning record in games decided by five or fewer points.

The hunch here is that the Mavs will continue to rack up wins in tight games as long as they have a duo that fills it up in the fourth quarter as well as any other in the NBA. They are indeed lucky to have two proven, premier clutch scorers.