ESPN.com
 E-mail Dan
 Radio affiliates
 ESPNRadio.com
 Dan's bio
 Rob's bio
 Audio highlights
 Photos
November 19, 2002



Dallas discovers defense
By Dan Patrick

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks are the NBA's only unbeaten team. Their 10-0 record is impressive considering the teams they've played. They beat a tough Portland team and both New Jersey and Boston on the road, ending the Celtics' six-game winning streak.

Shawn Bradley
Shawn Bradley, right, is fourth in the NBA in blocks with 2.9 per game.

But point guard Steve Nash, a guest on Monday's radio show, said the win streak isn't too significant. To Nash, and the rest of the Mavs, the key to their season is an improved and developing defense.

The Mavs know there is truth to the following adage: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. While no team can match the Mavericks' offensive firepower, especially on the perimeter, their defense is allowing only 87.1 points a game, 14 fewer than a year ago.

A key component to their improved defense has been the solid play of Shawn Bradley. Bradley, who hit the weight room during the offseason, returned with rejuvenated energy and focus and gives the Mavs the needed presence inside. Currently averaging 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, Bradley is contributing on both ends of the floor.

The Mavs like to win, and they like to win pretty. Along with their improved defense, they are still second in the NBA in scoring. You'd be hard-pressed to come up with a threesome that matches up with Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley.

Last season, they tried to out-score opponents to win the championship. But the Mavs lacked an inside presence, had difficulty guarding players, and were humbled quickly by the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lakers are a great example of the importance of a dominant defense. While the Kobe-Shaq tandem puts points on the board, they're also two of the league's better defenders.

The Lakers are a great example of the importance of a dominant defense. While the Kobe-Shaq tandem puts points on the board, they're also two of the league's better defenders. And remember, when the San Antonio Spurs won the title in 1999, they had a strong defensive presence with David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

This season there's not much breathing room between the top teams out West. Certainly, the three-peating Lakers continue to flex their muscles. And despite occasional signs of weakness, Nash said teams still struggle mentally against the powerhouse.

If the Mavericks beat the Lakers on Tuesday night, at this point in the season, it wouldn't necessarily be a notch in their belt. But it would be another victory -- and a confidence boost, which can't be underestimated. To contend in the playoffs, they're going to need that mental edge.

But late November is not the time to worry about win streaks and the Lakers. Save that for the playoffs -- the only time win streaks and the Lakers will matter to the Mavs.

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
 

ALSO SEE
Stein: The sound of Cuban's silence

Rosen: Mavericks are top guns

Patrick/Dibble Archive