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Mavs Win Midwest; Collapse In Playoffs

In 1986-87 the Mavericks served notice that they had arrived as an elite team in the NBA, with a versatile young roster that seemed to presage years of future success. Dallas posted a best-ever 55-27 record and won the Midwest Division.

Won 55, lost 27 (first, Midwest)…Dallas finished with the league's fourth-best record. The season was full of milestones: most wins (at the time), first division title (won by 11 games, the biggest margin in the Midwest since 1980-81), winningest March ever (12-4), first 4-1 road trip, first-ever wins in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The club never lost more than two in a row in regular season, but dropped three straight in playoffs to Seattle after setting 11 records in a 151-129 Game One win. For the first time two Mavericks (Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman) played in the All-Star Game and for the fifth straight year Dallas committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA (14.7). They were a club best 35-6 at home For the third straight year Dallas led the NBA in 3-pointers made and attempted with then NBA record totals of 231-of-653. James Donaldson shattered the club rebound record averaging 11.9 per game, best in the West and best among all NBA centers. Dallas' defense improved from 21st in the NBA the previous season to 14th (110.4 ppg). The season started on a defensive note when Dallas walloped opening-night opponent Utah while holding the Jazz to a .311 field-goal percentage. A week later Dallas drilled Seattle, 147-124, as a club-record nine Mavericks scored in double figures. On November 26 the always careful Mavericks tied their own NBA record with only four turnovers against the Sacramento Kings. Their 13-1 start at home was the best in team history. Dallas's lineup had settled into a starting unit of Mark Aguirre, Sam Perkins, James Donaldson, Derek Harper and Rolando Blackman withDetlef Schrempf, Roy Tarpley, and Brad Davis coming off the bench. The team was talented and versatile at every position, presenting problems for almost all NBA opponents. In January, Schrempf recorded the third triple-double in team history. In March, Donaldson surpassed Jay Vincent's 1984-1985 single-season record of 704 rebounds. March proved to be the team's best month ever at 12-4, including Dick Motta's 800th career win on March 28 against Washington. As always, the Mavericks protected the ball-for the fifth straight year they led the NBA in fewest turnovers, with 14.7 per game. As teams throughout the league began to use the three-point shot as a regular part of offensive strategy and not just as a gimmick or bailout, Dallas continued to lead the pack in treys. The Mavericks made 231 three-pointers and averaged 116.7 points. Donaldson shattered the club rebounding record and led all NBA centers with 11.9 boards per game. Dallas, which hadn't lost more than two games in a row during the season, melted under playoff pressure. In the opening game against Seattle the Mavericks set 11 club playoff records in a 151-129 victory. Then the wheels came off as Dallas dropped three straight to the Sonics, who were led in scoring by former Mavericks player Dale Ellis, reborn in Seattle as one of the NBA's top three-point marksmen. After the 1986-87 season Dick Motta unexpectedly resigned as head coach, and the reins were turned over to John MacLeod. MacLeod had coached the previous 14 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, compiling a 579-543 record. He had guided the Suns to the playoffs nine times and to the NBA Finals in 1976.

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