Thursday, March 24, 2011
Mavs win 50th for 11th straight season
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- Make it 11 in a row.
The Dallas Mavericks extended their run of 50-win seasons Thursday night, recording the milestone victory with a 104-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dallas joined the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers with at least 50 wins on the season. With 11 games left, the Mavs have a shot to reach 60 victories for the first time since winning 67 in 2006-07, and for what would be only the fourth time in franchise history, all accomplished during this 11-year span.
"That's incredible to be able to win 50 in 11 straight seasons," point guard Jason Kidd said.
Dallas made Kidd the second overall pick in 1994. In the three previous seasons, the Mavs won a total of 46 games. And in the three seasons after Dallas traded Kidd to the Phoenix Suns, the team won a total of 79 games (1997-2000) before perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and owner Mark Cuban changed the course of the franchise and won 50 games for the first time in 2000-01 (53-29).
The Mavs' run started under Don Nelson for four-plus seasons. Avery Johnson continued it after he replaced Nelson at the end of the 2004-05 and then extended it three more seasons, posting consecutive 60-win campaigns in 2005-06 and 06-07. Rick Carlisle has now joined Johnson as a three-time member of the 50-win club.
"You can't get spoiled as a fan," Kidd said. "That would be unfortunate because it's not guaranteed that you can win 50 games every year. It can turn the other way quickly."
The streak puts the Mavs in elite NBA company. Only two other teams in NBA history have recorded at least 11 consecutive seasons of 50 wins or more. The Spurs, at 57-14, extended their current run to 12 seasons under the leadership of coach Gregg Popovich and power forward Tim Duncan. The Magic Johnson-era Lakers also put together a string of 12 from 1979-91.
The Bill Russell-led Celtics own 10 consecutive seasons with at least 50 wins from 1958-68.
However, what separates those clubs from the Mavs are multiple championships during their run of highly successful regular seasons.The Nowitzki-led Mavs lost a 2-0 lead to the Miami Heat in 2006, the franchise's only NBA Finals appearance.
"We all know a championship is more important [than 50 wins]," Kidd said.
That is likely why Carlisle, 155-80 in two-plus regular-seasons and just 7-9 in the postseason, seemed nonchalant about yet another 50-win season.
"It means you're a good team," Carlisle said. "Beyond that, I'm not sure what else it means. I know there's been a great record of consistency for a long time with a winning team and that's substantial. But, it's not just about being good. It's about being great, so that's what we're thriving for."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.