With the recent slide of the Spurs and rise of the Mavericks the Western Conference standings are much closer. The Mavericks defense is really clicking with Avery under control and with the entire roster becoming healthy. Your team is a team to watch out to win the championship this year.Denver's the red-hot story in the Western Conference at the moment, closing in on the injury-depleted Houston Rockets and even eyeing fifth-place Sacramento.
But Dallas is the team to watch out West.
Former Spurs point guard Avery Johnson — who took over for Don Nelson as head coach on March 19 — has the Mavericks playing Spurs-like defense, a notion that ought to scare every team in the West, including the Spurs.
The Spurs got a taste of it on Thursday night, when they were held to 34.8 percent shooting in a blowout win for the Mavs. Until the final two minutes, the Spurs were in danger of recording their lowest point total ever.
Some of that was just poor shooting by the Spurs — who missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts, many of which were open looks. But a lot of it was Dallas' defense, and the absence of Tim Duncan — still out with a badly sprained right ankle.
Nevertheless, the difference Johnson has made in his team's approach to defense can't be overstated. It starts with subtle reminders, like the sign that hangs in the center of the Mavs' locker room that reads: "Contested shots wound us. Uncontested shots and layups will kill us."
That's straight from Gregg Popovich's playbook. Johnson just reinforced the notion. He rewards the starter he and his assistants believe played the best defense in each previous game by calling the Mavericks' first play of the game to get a shot for that player. Doesn't everyone like to score?
The return of Erick Dampier from a foot injury has helped Johnson's emphasis on defense. Dampier blocked three Spurs shots on Thursday night, and he changed a lot more. But no Dallas team of the recent past has played in-your-face, pressure defense the way these Mavs did on Thursday.
No team wants to face a defensive-minded Dallas in the playoffs, including Phoenix.
Johnson's made all the difference in Dallas