How You Like Me Now?
At least, that's what I would say to the Miami Heat these days if I were Avery Johnson or Dirk Nowitzki or anyone remotely associated with the Dallas Mavericks. Proof that the basketball gods feel horrible about gift-wrapping the NBA Finals for Miami last summer, just look at the two franchises now.
Your Mavericks, meanwhile, are even better than last year and, at this point, have the NBA's healthiest, bestest record and a great shot to again be in the Finals.
Since an 0-4 start they have gone 25-3 and tonight will run their current winning streak to 12 by beating old friend Marquis Daniels and the Indiana Pacers. (I know it's not sexy as those new Carmen Electra Taco Bell commercials, but for the first time in 10 days there isn't a college football bowl game, so what else you gonna watch?) While the Heat has burned out, the Mavs' superlatives are difficult to keep up with.
Avery just became the fastest coach to 100 career wins, topping legendary Red Auerbach's 100-35 start by four games. Josh Howard this week again earned Western Conference Player of the Week, joining Dirk, Michael Finley and Mark Aguirre as the only the Mavs to win the honor multiple times. (Howard, in fact, is the only Mav to have received the honor in two consecutive weeks.) And the Mavs became the first team since the 1971-72 Lakers to produce two double-digit win streaks in the season's first 32 games. A win tonight, and the Mavs will increase their lead over the Spurs in the Southwest Division to a healthy three games.
Jealous yet, Miami? --Richie Whitt