I had a sense that Dallas’ recent survival pattern was unusual, but it wasn’t until I set the crack researchers at Elias Sports Bureau on it that I realized how odd it was. The Mavs’ 125-112 win over Minnesota Monday night was their 12th straight -- and almost a record-breaker. Had the Timberwolves' Sasha Pavlovic made a meaningless 3-point attempt at the buzzer, it would have dropped the Mavericks’ winning margin to 10 points rather than 13 … and marked the Mavs’ 12th straight win by 10 points or fewer.
According to the folks at Elias, that has never happened before … ever. The Mavs have already become the first team in nearly half a century to win 11 straight times by 10 points or less; the last club to do so was the 1962-63 Lakers.
That Laker team won 11 straight before losing, and then won 11 of their next 12, with nine victories by 10 points or fewer. In other words, their string of wins was even more bizarre than Dallas’ current run -- they went 22-2 over a 24-game stretch, with 20 wins by 10 or fewer. That Laker team is also a good example of how fortune in close games can be fickle. Just after that streak, they lost 10 times by 10 or fewer in the final month of the season.
If you’re curious, the 1962-63 Lakers went 18-15 the rest of the season after their 22-2 run and finished 53-27. L.A. was the top seed in the West and barely outlasted the St. Louis Hawks in the conference finals before losing in six games to the Celtics in the Finals. Of course, this was so long ago that "Hot Rod" Hundley, who retired this past season as Utah’s radio announcer at age 75, played on that Laker team.
The next closest streak is from more recent history: Cleveland, last March. The Cavs won nine straight games by 10 points or fewer before reeling off four more by more impressive margins (including, ironically, a 102-74 rout of the Mavs). A loss to the Wizards, of all teams, ended their streak at 13.
Dallas is going through a stretch similar to the '62-63 Lakers. This was only their second win by more than 10 points since Dec. 16, even though they’ve won 25 times in that stretch. No, that isn’t normal -- 12 of Dallas’ first 19 wins were by more than 10 points, for instance.
With upcoming home games against the Nets and Knicks, the Mavs have a great shot at extending their winning streak to 14 games … not to mention adding another double-digit win or two to their resume. Based on Tuesday’s Power Rankings and their home-court advantage in each game of their next two games, they would be 14-point favorites against New Jersey and 11-point favorites against New York.