Dallas guns for
best NBA team ever

Mar 6, 2007 7:09 AM

Little more than a month remains before the NBA Playoffs begin. With the trading deadline having passed, teams must pretty much make due with the rosters as currently construed.

How good are those Dallas Mavericks? With 23 games left, the Mavs have already clinched a playoff berth. Last season’s NBA finalist appears intent on not just showing they are the best team in the league this season, but one of the best all time. They are on pace to win 70 games, a remarkable feat given that both Phoenix and San Antonio are also winning 70 percent of their games.

Dallas can play just as well on the road as at home. Their 29-3 home record is clearly the best in the NBA, as is their 21-6 away record. Winning on the road has always been a key ingredient to capturing championships. Only six teams have winning road records this season, five in the Western Conference. In addition to the Mavs, Suns and Spurs both Utah and Houston are playing winning ball when traveling. Only Detroit has a winning road mark in the East.

The Pistons are a clear favorite to represent their conference in the NBA Finals. At 18-10 away from home, Detroit has played almost identical ball home and away. The recent addition of Chris Webber has provided added depth and helped open a four game lead for the top seed over division rival Cleveland. Both Washington and Chicago are 4½ half games behind the Pistons. Atlantic Division leading Toronto is the only other East team above .500.

Indiana and Miami hold down the sixth and seventh seeds in the East with a 29-29 record. The final seed is held by New Jersey, two games behind the Heat and Pacers in the standings. Both New York and Orlando are just a half game behind the Nets with a five game gap after that. Beyond the first five teams, there are five teams vying for three playoff spots. All three spots could go to teams with losing records.

What has made the West that much stronger than the East has been the performance of the teams at the top of the Conference - Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio and Utah. Those four teams are a combined 177-60, nearly 75 percent. Each of the four has a better record than East leading Detroit. The top four teams in the East are a combined 139-97, or 59 percent.

This difference is not a guarantee that the NBA Champion will come from the West, but it does show the power of the NBA remains west of the Mississippi. Detroit remains the one team from the East with experience in the NBA Finals, especially if facing Phoenix or Utah. Should Dallas or San Antonio meet the Pistons, both would be solid favorites. Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers are the two other teams in the West with a winning record.

Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers are tied for the final two seeds and each is one game below .500 as we go to press. Overall there are eight teams within five games of one another, fighting for those final two spots. The top six teams are pretty much all assured of making the playoffs. Only Memphis has no realistic chance of making a run at those final two spots.

Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend with GT estimated lines.

Pistons -2 at Nuggets (Fri): Denver’s tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson have yet to produce the huge dividends expected when Iverson was acquired from Philadelphia. Developing chemistry takes time and the Nuggets should improve. Beginning the week, Denver had played five straight games that totaled over 200 points. The Pistons had played 10 straight below 200. Expect Denver to force the pace and for Detroit to feel comfortable with overall better talent and depth. OVER.

Nets +13 at Spurs (Sat): New Jersey is still fundamentally solid, but lacks quality depth and has trouble holding leads late. The Spurs have an extra day of rest with the Nets having played what was likely a physically draining game in Houston on Friday. The Spurs will be heavily favored and did beat the Nets last month in New Jersey by 25. San Antonio has nine straight wins against the Nets (eight covers), eight by double digits dating back to the 2002-03 NBA Finals. SPURS.

Mavs -4 at Lakers (Sun): Dallas begins the week on a franchise record 15 games winning streak. Los Angeles will be without injured Lamar Odom, sparking rumors that coach Phil Jackson will coax Scottie Pippen out of retirement. The home team has won each of the previous three meetings. The Lakers are just 3-7 SU in the last 10. Dallas is well rested, while the Lakers are playing their first home game following a four city road trip. Both situations combined for a sloppily played game. UNDER.