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Mavs and Cowboys headed in opposite directions

Dallas sports fans will just have to take the good with the bad this Christmas.
The Mavericks are playing better basketball thus far than most sports fans — including me — expected. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are keeping up the December swoon they’ve developed a reputation for over the past decade. Neither team’s outlook is likely as good or bad as they currently seem, but the trends are hard to miss.

For the Mavericks (18-7), who currently sit third in the Western Conference, they are sporting their usually strong home record at 9-3. But Dallas has struggled on the road during several different seasons in the past few years, which is not the case thus far in 2009. The Mavs actually boast the best road winning percentage in the conference at 9-4.

The Lakers are close in winning percentage at 4-2, but obviously a scheduling quirk has allowed them to play an extremely small number of road contests thus far.

Dallas is also playing well of late, considering it was 7-3 in its last 10 games heading into Wednesday’s tilt against Oklahoma City. Again, only the Lakers are ahead of Dallas in the conference in that regard.

Sports fans know defense is the key to success in just about every team athletic event, so to see the Mavs currently sitting at eighth in fewest points allowed is substantially more significant in my eye compared to their 12th-ranked offense in points per game.

Enough with the records and team stats, what about the players? Dirk Nowitzki is currently in the midst of what may be his best season — in his 12th year in the league. At 26.6 points a night, Nowitzki is right on par with his best season ever.

Stacking up against his other career bests, the German is second in blocks (1.4), having his best steal season in five years (1.1), as well as making both the second-most free throws per game (7) and field goals per contest (9.4). All of his other stats are at least right on line with his career numbers, other than his three-point shooting.

Long story short, Nowitzki is playing like one of the best ballers in the league and it’s reflecting directly to his team’s record.

Jason Kidd’s numbers are very similar to what he was doing a season ago, but it just seems like he’s playing better. In every sport, fans love to look at the scorers — Kobe Bryant, Adrian Peterson and Albert Pujols to name a few — but Kidd’s versatile skills are still very impressive at the age of 36. The Mavs have enough weapons that he can just run the show on most nights and rack up assists, but he’s a great three-point shooter these days and has knocked down a few big shots late in the game already this year.

In spite of some health issues, Erick Dampier has played some of his best-ever basketball in the paint and J.J. Barea is even playing tremendously well recently.

It hasn’t been a very good season to date for the team’s big addition Shawn Marion, and Josh Howard has essentially been a non-factor as he’s struggled with injuries, so to think Dallas is already one of the league’s better teams coupled with the fact these high-ceiling players could step it up down the stretch, it’s easy to be optimistic as a Mavs fan.

Do I think Dallas is going to beat the Lakers or Celtics in a playoff series? No, but I had pretty much conceded the days of the Mavs being an elite squad were over. It’s nice to see them piling up victories once again.

As for the Cowboys, it’s been a rollercoaster season for sure. Early season losses to the Giants and Broncos shook my confidence in them, but then Dallas reeled off four-straight wins — including very impressive victories at the time against Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Just when I’m ready to jump on the bandwagon, the Boys nearly post a goose egg in a disheartening defeat at Green Bay.

Wins over perennial strugglers Washington and Oakland did little to rebuild Dallas’ standing in my eyes, and then losing again at the Giants the following week may have been the knockout blow for the Cowboys.

The loss to San Diego last week wasn’t really a shocker, because the Chargers simply have better talent — especially offensively — and they haven’t lost a December game essentially since I was back in college.

To make the playoffs, I think Dallas has to win the rest of its games and there’s a problem with a game at New Orleans this weekend.

If you’ve seen the Saints play, you know they define offensive explosiveness on their home turf. I just don’t envision the Dallas secondary being able to get many stops, even if the offense does take its best shot at a shootout.

There’s no shame in losing to possibly the league’s best team at home, but when it’s a must-win game that’s a problem. Take your pick of the two losses to the Giants, if you’re looking for a Dallas defeat to blame.

New York isn’t terrible, but it is the worst team to beat the Cowboys and Dallas had a shot to win each one.

When you’ve got the league’s most difficult late season slate to deal with, there’s little margin for error and those early season losses come back to bite you.

Everyone loves to blame Tony Romo this time of year, but he’s actually playing well enough to win. Coming into the season, I thought Dallas had the league’s best stable of running backs and at this point that seems to be an insane notion. Marion Barber looks like a shell of his former self and as a whole they’re just not getting the job done.

Dallas’ defense hasn’t been bad, but the two times it gave up over 30 points this year were the losses to the Giants. As a unit, they needed to answer the call earlier this month in the game at New York.

Now, the status of the team’s best player DeMarcus Ware is in doubt for this week’s game due to injury. I’ve already talked about the Saints’ proficiency visiting the end zone in New Orleans, so for Dallas to be without Ware for that one would be a gigantic loss.

It’s unfortunate the team’s December struggles will keep getting piled on it by the media each year until the Cowboys turn it around, coupled with the fact the late season schedule is so daunting, but nobody said life in the NFL was easy. While I hope Dallas can pull a rabbit out of a hat starting this week, the smart money says otherwise.

Few cities experience a run like Boston has enjoyed in recent years where it thrives in multiple sports. You take success where you can get it and enjoy it while it lasts.

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Posted by on Dec 17 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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