The Dallas Mavericks have two weeks of basketball to decide their season. With the trade deadline just a week away and eight games before a much-needed break, the team has the deepest gut check it has faced this season.
Back in mid-November, I wrote that the rest of that month’s slate would define the season as a whole. At the time, it was a breakthrough in the rivalry, splitting home and road games nearly evenly. The Mavericks went 4-5 in that stretch and went 10-10 on the season. In many ways, it was the harbinger we were looking for, a measure of the quality of this roster.
The Mavericks have gone 17-15 since November, with an up and down 27-25 season to date. They find themselves defending a playoff spot, nearly equidistant from home-field advantage and out of the playoffs altogether. But these next eight games could really define the season.
Seven of the remaining eight games before the All-Star break are against teams atop the Western Conference standings with the Mavericks three games ahead and the eighth against the first-place Denver Nuggets. Six of those games are on the road. The Mavericks, like the teams around them, are a shaky 9-16 this season. They did play well against their conference counterparts though, posting a 19-12 record against the West.
The schedule is not for the faint of heart vs. New Orleans, at Golden State, at Utah, at Los Angeles, at Sacramento, at Sacramento (back-to-back), at Minnesota, at Denver. There are few bright spots or moments of respite in these final days. The Mavericks are still dealing with key injuries and need to squeeze whatever potential they can from a depleted bench.
If the goal now is to avoid a risky play, skip games against the Pelicans, Warriors, Jazz, Clippers and Timberwolves, all teams tied or trailing in the standings. The bright spot here is that the Mavericks have played teams .500 or above better than under (15-13). The only team in this group they haven’t faced is the Sacramento Kings, and the Mavericks are 6-5 against the rest of this group on the year.
All of those indicators can tell you that this stretchy part can hold more water. And if so, maybe the Mavericks take a few breaks along the way, enough to create some separation from the players.
If the MFFLs need something to hang on to, you’re in luck because the team still has Luka Doncic fresh off a 53-point rout of the Detroit Pistons to end January. And here’s what he posted during his career from February 1st through the All-Star break, nothing to scoff at.
- 2018-19 23.5 points – 9.2 rebounds – 7 assists – 32.7 percent from three (six games)
- 2019-20 33 points – 12 rebounds – 8 assists – 42.9 percent from three (one game)
- 2020-21 33.1 points – 7.4 rebounds – 9.4 assists – 43.1 percent from three (eight games)
- 2021-22 34.4 points – 10 rebounds – 9.6 assists – 41.5 percent from three (seven games)
- AVG: 31 points – 9.7 rebounds – 8.5 assists – 40.1 percent from three
Doncic has played some of the best basketball of his career during the month of February, and he may be asked to do more than ever to handle such a gauntlet. It’s gut check time in Dallas.