While the Mavericks’ margin of losses in their four game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder — they lost by an average of 6.5 points — usually doesn’t correlate with a first round sweep, the fact remains that the defending champions will no longer grace us with their presence. (Note: A little bit of friendly Spurs fan sarcasm if you don’t mind).
They were a Kevin Durant isolation possession gone awry from taking Game 1, a couple of missed shots from Dirk Nowitzki that he usually converts from winning Game 2 and impressive fourth quarter performances from Kevin Durant and James Harden, both instrumental in the Thunders’ 35-point quarter, from also winning Game 4. But, as the Dallas Mavericks already know, winning a NBA Championship doesn’t guarantee success next year. In fact, it probably makes it less likely to succeed the following year.
For instance, the last seven NBA Champions have an average playoff win-loss record of 6-6, indicating that the majority of them do not even advance past the second round the following year. In the case of the 2006-07 Miami Heat and this years’ Dallas Mavericks, they were both bounced out of the first round via broom.
In this span, there has been only one back-to-back champion — the Lakers, of course — and only one other team, the 2007-08 San Antonio Spurs was fortunate enough to reach the Conference Finals. So, in esscence, you can resonably expect that the defending champion will “defend” — always feel kind of wary of using the term “defending” but what the hell — their title for one six-game playoff series then follow that up with a second-round exit in six games.
I’m not sure what this trend means exactly — if you change the query to the last 10 champions, it doesn’t change much — but it appears that winning the championship, unless good fortune and determination coincide in one homogeneous mixture the following year, sets the team up for failure in more ways than one.
First, there’s the potential turnover of the team and the league. The league, as evidenced by the crazy LeBron James free agency period, can change drastically. Couple with the Mavericks losing two instrumental players from their rotation last year and the relative age of their team, it probably wasn’t going to end well.
Second, a championship gives you a metaphorical bulls-eye on your chest. Every team wants to unseat the champion and that usually means receiving the best effort from every NBA team, three to four times a week. That kind of physical exertion has to transfer to the Mavs in someway and that, in itself, is pretty taxing mentally and emotionally.
And lastly, it’s pretty difficult to sustain that kind of excellence in two consecutive seasons. It takes truly special teams, and occasionally lucky ones, to have the requisite mental fortitude necessary to embark on another grueling season. Most teams don’t. Winning a championship is becoming exceedingly difficult with the amount of talent at the NBA level and there is no margin for error in the playoffs. None.
The Spurs know that. Miami knows that. Oklahoma City, after their interesting sweep over Dallas, certainly knows that. And, while the defending champion will desperately attempt to tack on another title in the ensuing year, we know it’s not likely.
The Dallas Mavericks, if anyone, can surely attest to that.