ESPN.com Insider John Hollinger's computers have never really liked the Dallas Mavericks much. And after two blowouts on their home court to start the this shortened season? Well, Hollinger is ready to write off the defending champs, who have looked anything but in back-to-back losses to the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets.
Here's what Hollinger has to say:
I can't tell you definitively who will be winning the championship this year, but I can tell you one team that won't be.
Yes, I'm the one who usually cautions you about sample size, and yes, I'm writing off the defending champions after two games.
Before I pile on further, let's backtrack for a second. In general, early-season results are tricky because everybody wants to make grand proclamations from one-game samples, even though that's usually a terrible idea.
Take the Los Angeles Lakers, for instance. They lost two close games, both coming without star center Andrew Bynum, and are 0-2. In the big picture, all this means is that they're 0-2. Losing by one at home to the Chicago Bulls and by nine on the road to the Sacramento Kings isn't a big enough departure from our expectations to meaningfully adjust them. (Although it would be nice if they could rebound a missed free throw.)
But there's an exception to the rule. At this time of year, people sometimes ask me whether there's anything I look for to draw conclusions from early-season games. Actually, there is because it can help us draw conclusions very quickly, from a much smaller sample than normally required:
In particular, home teams that are at full strength (or reasonably close to it) yet are still run off the floor.
There's a reason for this: Good teams are virtually never blown out at home, and, conversely, bad teams virtually never win blowouts on the road. So we have fairly strong information, already, that the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets are teams with which to be reckoned.
As for the Dallas Mavericks, we can make an even stronger statement: Championship-caliber teams virtually never lose at home like this even once. They sure as heck never do it twice in a row.
To read Hollinger's full Insider report, click here.