2002-2003

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Mavs Return To The Conference Finals

Won 60, lost 22 (tied for first, Midwest) Dallas finished with the best regular season record in franchise history and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for only the second time; Dirk Nowitzki was named to the All-NBA Second Team while Steve Nash was an All-NBA Third Team selection; both players were selected to play in the All-Star game in Atlanta; the Mavericks won their first 14 games of the season, falling one win shy of tying the NBA record; Don Nelson was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for November while Nash, Nowitzki and Michael Finley shared Player of the Month honors; Dallas was a league-best 27-14 on the road…the Mavericks led the league in scoring with 103.0 points a game and committed an NBA record-low 11.6 turnovers a game; Dallas recorded a franchise-high 41 regular season home sellouts…Nash set a franchise record for consecutive free throws made with 49; Nowitzki ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring (25.1 ppg) and joined Mark Aguirre as the only Maverick to record 2,000 or more points in a single season; Maverick opponents shot a franchise-low 43.8% from the floor.

THE BEST MAVERICKS TEAM EVER The 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks finished with a franchise best 60-22 record. This was the team's ninth winning season in franchise history.

AMONG LEAGUE'S ELITE Dallas is one of just four teams to post 50-win seasons in the last three years joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs.

ALL-NBA PERFORMERS AGAIN Dirk Nowitzki was named to the All-NBA second team, while Steve Nash was an All-NBA third team selection. That marked the second straight season both players made those respective All-NBA teams.

WESTERN CONFERENCE CONTENDERS Dallas advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1988. That season was the only previous time Dallas had played in the Conference Finals.

PROLONGED POSTSEASON Dallas played 20 games in the 2002-03 postseason. That marked the longest postseason in team history beating the 1988 playoff run that also continued through the Western Conference Finals for a total of 17 games.

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END With their loss to the Pacers on Thanksgiving, the Mavericks fell one win shy in their quest to move into a tie for the best start in NBA history at 15-0. The Mavericks had the best start by any team since 1993-1994 and tied for the third best start in league history.

A CLINCHER Dallas was the first team to clinch a spot in the 2003 NBA Playoffs. With losses suffered by the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, Dallas grabbed its playoff spot on March 19, 2003.

WAY ABOVE .500 For the first time in history, the Mavericks finished the regular season 38 games above .500. Dallas went 38 games above .500 for the first time after beating New Orleans on 4/1/03. The highest a Dallas team had been above .500 was 33 above during the 2001-2002 season (57-24).

COACHING ACCOMPLISHMENT Don Nelson led Dallas to a better record in each of the last four seasons (2000-2003). In those years, his teams finished 40-42 in 1999-2000, 53-29 in 2000-2001, 57-29 in 2001-2002 and 60-22 in 2002-2003. He joined seven other NBA coaches who accomplished the feat. It also marked the ninth time this occurred (Dick Motta did it with both Chicago and Dallas) and first time since Del Harris did so during 1994-98.  Here is a look at all nine instances:
Coach (Team)   Years
1. Red Auerbach (Boston)  1954-60
2. Dick Motta (Chicago)  1968-72
3. Tom Heinsohn (Boston)  1969-73
4. Gene Shue (Philadelphia)  1973-77
5. John McLeod (Phoenix)  1976-81
6. Dick Motta (Dallas)  1980-85
7. Chuck Daily (Detroit)  1985-89
8. Del Harris (L.A. Lakers)  1994-98
9. Don Nelson (Dallas)  1999-2003</p>

DIRK 2K Dirk Nowitzki joined Mark Aguirre as the only Maverick ever to record 2,000 points or more in a single season. Nowitzki finished with a total of 2,011 points.  Aguirre accomplished this feat three times (1983-1984, 1984-1985 and 1986-1987).

ROAD WARRIORS The Mavericks finished the season with the league's best road record for the second straight season. At 27-14, Dallas tied last season's franchise-best road mark. The last three seasons are the only winning road records in franchise history. Over those years, Dallas has gone 79-44 on the road. San Antonio also finished with a 27-14 road record in 2002-03. Dating back to the 1997-1998 season (not counting the shortened 1998-1999 season), the Maverick's 27 road wins tied the fourth-highest total during this time period.

HOME SWEET HOME Dallas finished 33-8 at the American Airlines Center. After winning the home finale, they tied the second best home-record in team history. Just the 1986-87 home record of 35-6 was better. Dallas also set a new franchise record for best start at home at 12-0, which was also the longest home win streak in team history.

MAVERICKS LEAD LEAGUE IN BIG WINS The Mavericks posted 36 wins by 10 or more points which was the most in the NBA. New Jersey and Sacramento each tied for second with 31. Dallas defeated its opponents by an average of 13.6 ppg. In fact, the Mavericks held a lead of at least 15 points, 41 different times.

BIGGEST SCORING MARGIN The Mavericks had the best scoring margin in the NBA in 2002-03 at +7.8 points per game. Over the last 20 years, the +7.8 margin tied for the tenth-highest mark during that time span.

DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE! The most improved defense in the NBA helped the Mavericks tie for the best record in the league. Here is a look at some of the highlights of 2002-03:
•  The Mavericks had the best improvement in the NBA from 2001-2002 in points allowed per game at -5.8 (101.0 to 95.2). •  Dallas held its opponents to just 43.8% shooting which was 12th in the league.  That mark set a new franchise record for lowest opponents field goal percentage breaking 43.9% set in 2000-01.
•  The Mavericks held the Lakers to an opponent record-low of 30.8% from the field on 11/19/02. 
•  Only 40 opponents shot better than 43.5% and the opposition scored 100 or more points just 30 times.
•  Dallas ranked 16th in the NBA giving up just 95.2 ppg and was 28-1 when holding opponents to 89 points or less.
•  Dallas forced 16.0 turnovers a game, which was sixth in the league.
•  The Mavericks improved from 22nd to tied for 11th in steals and from 18th to 13th in blocks per game from 2001-02.

WINNING MONTHS The Mavericks tallied a winning record each month in 2002-03 for the third consecutive year. Dallas has posted a winning record in 19 straight months (dating back to April 2000). This is the longest stretch of winning months in franchise history (the old streak was 14 months from November 1986-December 1988). At 14-1 in November, Dallas posted the most wins ever in that month and the most wins in any month in franchise history (previous bests were 12-4 in March 1987 and in January 2002).

OFFENSE STILL THERE Although people pointed out Dallas' improved defense in 2002-03, the Mavericks were the top scoring team in the league for the second straight season. Dallas averaged 103.0 points a game. They scored 100 or more points 52 times and were 43-9 in those games. The Mavericks also ranked seventh in the league in field goal percentage at 45.3%.

SELLOUT CENTRAL The Mavericks recorded a franchise-record 41 regular season sellouts for the first time in team history. The previous best was 38 in 1986-1987. The team finished the year with 71 consecutive regular season sellouts dating back to the 2001-2002 season.

CONFERENCE AND DIVISION MARKS Dallas finished the season with superb records against each conference and against its Midwest Division opponents. The Mavericks finished with a 34-18 Western Conference mark, for the second straight season. That record is the best since the team went 41-19 in 1987-1988.  The 34 victories ranked third in wins among the West. San Antonio and Sacramento both finished 36-16. The 18-6 Midwest Division record was the best since the team finished 19-11 in 1988-1989. Dallas was a franchise-best 26-4 (including a 14-1 mark at home) against the Eastern Conference.

AGAINST THE BEST Dallas measured up well with the league's toughest competition. Against teams with a record of .500 or better, the Mavericks went 27-17. They also fared well with teams below .500 with a 32-5 record (with losses to the Lakers 12/6/02, Milwaukee 12/30/02, Seattle 1/19/03 and 3/13/03 and Orlando 2/25/03).

MAINTAINING A LEAD Dallas was a great team at maintaining a lead. They finished 40-7 when leading at the start of the second quarter, 44-10 when leading at halftime and 49-4 when leading after three quarters. Over the last three seasons, the Mavs are 142-8 when leading at the start of the fourth quarter.

ALL-STAR REVIEW Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were members of the Western Conference All-Stars in Atlanta. Both players made their second consecutive All-Star appearance. Nash played 16 minutes and had 2 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Nowitzki also played 16 minutes and had 9 points and a rebound. See the All-Star History section of MavsWiki for details and statistics on every Maverick appearance in the All-Star game.

THE STARTING FIVE Head coach Don Nelson used 18 different starting lineups. The most common and successful one (17-3) was Adrian Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki at forward, Shawn Bradley as the center and Michael Finley and Steve Nash as the guards.

PERFECT GAME Reminiscent of another Don; Don Larsen, Nellie's Mavericks played some perfect games. In 11 games, the Mavericks never trailed from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer.

BENCH PRODUCTION Dallas got a lot of help off the bench in 2002-03. In 61 of the 82 games, at least one non-starter came off the bench to score in double figures. Against the Nuggets (2/1/03), the Mavericks had their most productive bench game with 67 points (outscoring the starters by 12) as three reserves topped 10 points. The Mavericks went 32-9 when their bench outscored the opponent's reserves. Nick Van Exel scored in double figures 41 times off the bench. In fact, Van Exel recorded the best bench performance in team history with 40 points against Sacramento on 5/10/03. The Mavericks finished 6-0 when three players came off the bench to score in double figures.

MAVERICKS HONOR ROLL The Mavericks picked up plenty of accolades in 2002-03. 
• Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were named to the All-Star Team for the second straight season.
• Don Nelson was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for November.
• Also in November, Michael Finley and Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki shared the Western Conference Player of the Month honor.
• Dirk Nowitzki was named Western Conference Player of the Week for games during December 30, 2002-January 6, 2003 and for games during November 4-10, 2002.</p>

MR. EVERYTHING Dirk Nowitzki showed everyone his versatility. The big German ranked first on the team in scoring (25.1 ppg), rebounds (9.9) and steals (1.35) while playing 39.0 minutes per game. He recorded career-highs in points, scoring average, rebounds, free throw percentage, assists, assists per game, steals and steals per game. He recorded 41 double-doubles and led the team in scoring 50 times and in rebounding 52 times. He scored 20 or more points in 64 games and hit for 30 or more 20 times. Among the NBA leaders, he ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring, seventh in rebounding, 40th in field goal percentage, seventh in free throw percentage, tied for 29th in 3-point percentage, 32nd in steals, 22nd in minutes per game, tied for 33rd in blocks and seventh in double-doubles.

KEEPS GETTING BETTER Already a potent scoring threat, Dirk Nowitzki continued to get better during the season. In each of his five seasons in the NBA, the 7'0 forward has increased his scoring average. He is one of only three players (Spurs' Malik Rose and Raptors' Alvin Williams - min. 40 games) to improve his scoring average in each of the last five seasons. His scoring average went from 8.2 points in 1998-1999 to 17.5 points in 1999-2000 to 21.8 in 2000-2001 to 23.4 in 2001-2002 to 25.1 in 2002-2003.

SUPER STEVE All-Star guard Steve Nash led the team in scoring 17 times and in assists 63 games, while shooting 46.5% from the floor. He ranked as the team's third-leading scorer (17.7 ppg) and top assist man (7.3 apg). For the second straight season, he was the only Maverick to play in all 82 games. He tallied career-highs in free throws made and attempted, free throw percentage, steals, steals per game and blocks. He ranked 36th in the NBA in scoring, 37th in field goal percentage, third in free throw percentage, sixth in 3-point percentage, eighth in assists per game and ninth in assists per turnover ratio. He shot 50% or above in 36 games. He posted 19 double-doubles and finished with 15 in the last 35 games.

NASH STREAKY AT THE LINE Steve Nash set a franchise record for consecutive free throws made at 49. That mark surpassed Rolando Blackman's old team record of 45 from November 5-19, 1991. Right after that streak was snapped, Nash started another one, which reached 47 before he missed a technical foul shot at New York on 1/24/03.

FABULOUS FINLEY Michael Finley played great basketball in 2002-03. The two-time All-Star averaged 19.3 ppg (42.5% FGs), 5.8 rpg and 3.0 apg in 38.3 mpg. He scored in double figures 64 times, 20 or more points 31 times and 30 or more six times. He also tallied at least five assists 15 times and at least five rebounds 44 times. He ranked tied for 15th in the NBA in free throw percentage, tied for 38th in 3-point percentage and 24th in minutes per game. He recorded nine double-doubles.

THE BIG THREE (AND FOUR):  When Michael Finley, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki each scored 20 points, it was a pretty good sign of a Maverick win. This happened eight times (Mavericks were 7-1 in those games). All totaled, the Mavericks had three players score 20 or more points in the same game 10 times (8-2 record). Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz were the others involved in the combinations.

NICK THE QUICK Nick Van Exel was one of the best sixth men in the NBA. He averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes. He scored in double figures 43 times (20 or more 10 times) and led the team in assists 14 times in 73 games played. In the NBA, he was tied for 35th in assists, tied for 23rd in assist to turnover ratio (2.54) and tied for 31st in 3-point percentage. He came off the bench in all but one game he played. He poured in a season-high 35 points (12-24 FGs, 4-7 3FGs) off the bench against San Antonio (3/20/03), which tied for the fifth-best bench performance in Mavericks history. In the 13 games Finley missed, Van Exel averaged 16.1 points on 43.5% shooting (77-177 FGs), including a 42.9% mark (21-49 3FGs) from behind the arc, and 4.7 assists in 29.8 mpg.

MISCELLANEOUS MAVERICKS •  The Mavericks had 13 games where they scored 60 points or more in the first half and went 11-2 in those games.
•  Against Cleveland (3/18/03), every Maverick played and scored. That was only time all season that occurred.
•  In 15 games, Dallas was led by at least six players in double figures.  The Mavericks went 14-1 in those games.
•  The entire starting lineup scored in double figures three times (at Memphis 11/30/02, at Golden State 3/14/03 and at Sacramento 3/16/03).  Dallas won all three of those games.  At Golden State, a total of seven players scored in double digits.
•  The Mavericks were the only team in the NBA that did not have a player they drafted on their active roster. 
•  Dallas finished the regular season going 11-9 in games that were nationally televised.
•  Back-to-backs weren’t much of a problem for Dallas.  The Mavericks finished 11-5 in the first game and 11-5 in the second game of back-to-backs.  They won eight sets, split six and lost two.
•  ESPN.com surveyed more than 34,000 fans to build the best sports teams according to Bang for the Buck, Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players, Coach/Manager and Championships.  The results found the Dallas Mavericks as the fifth best sports team overall and the third best in the NBA behind San Antonio and Sacramento.  They also ranked first in Fan Relations.
•  In 31 games, the Mavericks were perfect from the foul line in the fourth quarter.  Their best fourth quarter free throw performance came on 11/13/02 at Cleveland.  Trailing the Cavs by one point heading into the fourth, Dallas made 15-of-15 from the foul line and came away with a four-point victory. </p>

SHARP SHOOTERS The Mavericks were the league's seventh-best shooting team at 45.3%. They shot a season-high 55.7% at Minnesota (3/30/03) as they hit 49-of-88 of their field goals. That game marked the third time Dallas shot over 55.0% on the season (3-0 when that occurred). Dallas shot above 50% 12 times and won each of those games. They outshot their opponent 51 times and had a 48-3 record when doing so.

SWEET STRIPE The Mavericks finished the season with the second-best free throw percentage in NBA history. At 82.9%, it was second to the 1989-90 Boston Celtics who shot 83.2%. Dallas broke the previous franchise best of 80.6% set in 200120-02. In 2002-03, they also were the league's top free throw shooting team. Three Mavericks finished shooting better than 86% from the line.

REBOUNDING WARS The Mavericks won the battle of the boards 30 times (in the 22 losses they averaged only 38.4 rpg compared to the opposition's 47.0 rpg). Dallas grabbed an average of 42.1 rebounds, 3.4 below its opponent's 45.5 rpg. Dallas ranked 17th in the league in rebounding but was 28th in rebounds allowed. They had a season-high 64 boards vs. L.A. Lakers (11/19/02). The Mavericks had a season-low 27 rebounds at Portland on 3/28/03 and at Orlando on 2/25/03, which was three off the franchise-low. The 30 offensive boards vs. Minnesota (3/10/03) was a season-high.  In fact, Dallas had 20 offensive rebounds in the first half alone, which was one more that they had in any other game during the season. Dallas finished an impressive 25-4 when outrebounding its opponent. FROM WAY DOWNTOWN The Mavericks finished the season with a streak of 365 games with a made 3-pointer. For the season, the Mavericks averaged 7.8 made 3-pointers and 20.3 attempts a game. At Houston (1/29/03), the Mavs drilled a season-high tying 15 3-pointers on a season-high 32 attempts. Overall, the Mavericks made 38.1% of their 3-pointers, which ranked third in the league. Five Mavericks ranked in the league's top 45 in 3-point percentage.

ASSIST ANGLE Dallas averaged 22.4 assists, which was ninth-best in the NBA. Steve Nash led the Mavericks with 7.3 a game, which was eighth in the league. As a team, the Mavericks made a league-best 1.94 assists per turnover. Dallas had a season-high 39 assists at Minnesota (3/30/03). The Mavs were 41-2 when having more assists than their opponent but 17-19 when their opponent finished with more.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL For the second consecutive season, the Mavericks set an NBA record for fewest turnovers in a season. Dallas averaged just 11.6 turnovers a game in 2002-03 (12.1 in 2001-2002). The team tied a franchise record by committing just four turnovers against Detroit on 11/9/02. Dallas allowed just 6.67 steals per game, which was the third-lowest average in the league. The team committed fewer than 10 turnovers 21 times and finished 15-6 in those games.

STEAL OF A TIME The Mavericks made 665 steals (an 8.11 average), which tied for 11th in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki led the team with a career-high 1.39 a game. Four Mavs averaged at least one steal (Nash, Nowitzki, Griffin and Finley). Dallas had a season-high 16 vs. Portland (11/11/02). Overall, Dallas was 21-5 when recording 10 or more steals. BLOCK PARTY Dallas was 13th in blocks averaging 5.48 a game.  Shawn Bradley ranked ninth with an average of 2.10 blocks per game. The Mavericks had a season-high 12 blocks against Philadelphia on 1/4/03.  They topped 10 or more 10 times.

 *****

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