What is working in Dallas?

A lot has gone right for the Mavs so far, but can they keep it going?

Updated: January 8, 2014, 3:02 PM ET
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider

How are the Dallas Mavericks winning?

At first glance, Dallas doesn't fit with what most teams look like today. Its point guard is slower than most, its center is smaller than most, its small forward is older than most, and its shooting guard can't shoot 3s. So how is it that the Mavericks have an offense that is tied for seventh in offensive efficiency?

To beat an evolved NBA defense -- one that swarms toward the ball, rushes at 3-point shooters and works to protect the rim -- teams must make defenders cover as much ground as possible. Basically, the theory goes, spread the defenders out while looking for the hole that opens up as they move with the ball. And Dallas excels at exactly that.

It sounds like an NFL philosophy, but in basketball there can be multiple passes in a single possession. NBA offenses spread defenses vertically -- including the full court and the half court -- and horizontally. But it's the way Dallas plays fast that has it winning and outhustling its opposition. Much of this has to do with the burgeoning trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, who have meshed quickly and effectively.