The flight of the Phoenix: Destination Dallas
Haven’t been following the National Basketball Association (NBA) this season? I don’t blame you. The first three quarters of an NBA game matter about as much as what the second man on the moon said. Throwing all this aside, two NBA teams, the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks, are winning at such an incredible rate that they’re getting a column written about them.
Dallas and Phoenix became just the third pair of teams in NBA history to enter February with an .800 winning percentage. Dallas at 39–9 and Phoenix at 37–10 are pulverizing their opponents with little or no sign of letting up, and try this on for size, the Mavericks lost their first four games of the season while Phoenix lost four of their first five! Dallas is 25–2 since December 11. Phoenix is 34–4 since November 18.
Dallas has separate win streaks of 12 games and 13 games this season. That’s nothing, say the Suns, who have separate win streaks of 15 and 17 games on their résumé this season.
The Phoenix Suns are such a powerful offensive team, the only teams that have been able to find success against them are Dallas and Utah. The Suns lead the league with an average of 111 points per game. With Steve Nash at point guard averaging 11.9 assists per game (he’s leading the league; Utah’s Deron Williams is way back in second, averaging nine) the Suns have that certain flair in their offense that can be mesmerizing to watch. Along with Nash, forwards Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudamire pour in the points and make the offense click. Add Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, and Boris Diaw (que sera sera et c’est la vie; he’s French) into the equation and you have six players who average double figures.
The Suns are giving up defense in the process of having the best offense and they’re okay with that. They’re 22nd in the NBA in points per game given up, whereas the Mavericks are second. The Mavericks are also eighth in the league in points per game showing they’re as balanced as a tight-rope walker. They’ve also got depth, playing 10 players a night compared to seven for the Suns.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki leads the team in scoring and is their lone All-Star. Josh Howard is a budding superstar while guards Jason Terry and Devin Harris are a solid backcourt combination. Jerry Stackhouse provides a scoring punch off the bench. Dallas’ depth and Phoenix’s lack thereof will loom large in the second half of the season, with the Suns running the risk of running out of gas when it matters most, around playoff time.
As Dallas and Phoenix keep racking up wins, making their opponents look like blindfolded kids trying to hit a piñata, the stage is being set up for the playoffs.
With the Eastern Conference lacking the firepower found in the Western Conference, forget about the NBA Finals. Phoenix is 10–0 on the road and 19–1 overall against Eastern Conference teams.
It’s hard to fathom a team from the East winning four of seven after seeing a stat like that. The real series to watch will be the Western Conference Finals, when the two best teams in the NBA battle it out just to determine who makes it to the NBA Finals.