4/26: Unless the Mavs beat Atlanta and the Nuggets lose to Minnesota played concurrently tonight), Dallas' first round opponent will be OKC. The odds of that scenario are placed at 15.4%, but who knows how hard the Mavs, Hawks, Nuggets, or Wolves will play in this situation?
4/25: In the last couple days, OKC and LAL have clinched 2nd and 3rd, but the Mavs and Nuggets remain 50/50 for 6th. If Denver wins tonight, they get 6th unless they lose to some very beat up T'wolves with nothing to play for tomorrow. If OKC wins, the Mavs can clinch 6th with a win over Atlanta.
4/23: Suddenly, Dallas and Denver are locked in the closest seeding battle in the NBA. The winner gets to avoid OKC, in favor of a Lakers team that will presumably be missing the yahoo formerly known as Artest. The Mavs own the tiebreaker over Denver, but also one more loss right now. Sportsclubstats says Dallas will be 6th seed 50.063% of the time, and Denver takes it in all other scenarios. The Mavs have to lose one less game than the Nuggets the rest of the way. Both teams losing out would actually do it, but since Denver plays hopeless and beat up Minnesota in the finale, that seems unlikely. For Dallas to have a realistic chance at 6th, they really need OKC to beat Denver on Wednesday. Unfortunately, that will be the second night of a back-to-back for a Zombie Sonics squad that will likely be locked into 2nd by that point. That looks to be the most important non-Mav game around Dallas this season. Big seeding implications, and a potential first round opponent.
4/20: Houston's loss last night clinched the playoffs for Dallas. Sportsclubstats is still worth monitoring to gauge the chances they'll face different opponents in the first round. Right now, the Lakers are easily the most likely at 66.2%. The Spurs, Zombie Sonics, Clippers, and Grizzlies are 5%, 19.4%, 8.1%, and 1.3% respectively. The chances of facing OKC become 52% if the Mavs go 0-3. Looks certain they'll have a rematch of last year's 2nd or 3rd round.
4/19: If you find someone that is dumb enough to bet you that the Mavs will miss the playoffs, take their money. Even if Dallas goes 0-3, 2 of Utah, Phoenix, and Houston would have to win out, and Denver would need to finish 2-2. 99.9% (not figurative, that's the actual odds from Sportsclubstats.com) that the Mavs are in.
4/17: Once again, the Mavs are still very much in control of their destiny despite a tough OT loss. 95.9% in, but their 6th seed odds are slipping (45% 6th, 40% 7th, 11% 8th). 1 win should still be enough. Beating Houston coupled with a loss for Phoenix, Utah, or Denver might clinch, or at least land in the 99.?% range.
4/16: As disconcerting as yesterday was, it didn't hurt the Mavs; playoff odds or potential seeding all that much, Still 97.9% in and 64% 6th seed or better. Does anyone expect this team to go 0-5 to finish the season? That's probably what it would take for them to be fishing in 2 weeks. FYI, a win tonight against the Jazz would get them really close to clinching.
4/14: Along with an ugly win of their own, the Mavs finally got help from the other playoff contenders. The good, old guys are now 97.8% to make the playoffs. 1-6 over the last seven and they'd still be 91.8%. Heck, even 0-7 could be enough, but let's hope it doesn't come to that. The main focus at this point should be at least holding onto 6th (69% to do so).
4/13: After dispatching Golden State, the Mavs are 89.7% to avoid 9th or 10th place. 2-5 finish would be enough 84.8% of the time, while 3-4 essentially clinches it at 99.3%. They need at least 4-3 to have a realistic (73%) shot at 6th, while a very unlikely 7-0 would be needed for a 82% chance at 5th or better.
4/11: Despite the Mavs win over the Kings last night, Dallas' playoff odds have actually gone down very slightly. This is due to unfavorable results in games outside their control. Today the good guys are 84.3% likely to make the playoffs. However, their prospects have improved in that only a 3-5 record the rest of the way is required to boost those odds to 89.7%, and 4-4 would be the near guarantee of 99.6%.
Original Post 4/9:
Over the last couple weeks, a few pundits have persisted in saying that Mavericks are at real risk of missing the playoffs. Let's take a look at likely outcomes of their schedule and their tiebreakers to see how concerned we should be as fans. The best resource I have found for these situations in Pro Club Stats. This late-season fixture within my array of constantly-open tabs simulates the rest of the season millions of times every day (using point differential to weight the odds), and estimates the chance every team has of finishing at any seeding position. Drill down on the Mavericks, and you will get a model for likely seeds given each possible record over the last nine games:
If twitter is blocked on your computer this image won't be displayed. Just look at the bottom of this page, which you could also refer back to over the next couple weeks to see how the odds adjust day-to-day.
To keep the image small, I edited out filler spaces like win percentage and the seeds Dallas has no shot at (1, 2, 14, and 15). As you can see, due to the Mavericks' good tiebreaker standing (already clinched it vs. Houston, Denver, Utah, and Phoenix), they would be favorites to make the playoffs (71.6%) even if they went 3-6. 4 wins seems to be the real comfort range, though, with the Mavs earning the 8th seed or better 96.7% of the time. Also, note that the AAC will not house the higher seed in any series this year (barring a couple upsets making for an odd 6th vs 7th matchup).
How likely are the Mavs to get 4+ wins and lead to a relatively stress-free final day of the season? Pro Club Stats' simple model says 71.5%, but let's look at the remaining schedule:
The Mavericks should be definitive favorites for 3 games (SAC, @GS, and GS). None of the other opponents have a big edge or disadvantage against Dallas (remember, Chicago should have the top seed wrapped up by the penultimate game of the season). 5-4 looks the most likely record the rest of the way, but 4 or 6 wins wouldn't surprise me.
I'm only going to start getting nervous about the Maverick's playoff chances if Dirk gets hurt, or they blow one of their 3 very winnable games. It would just be shocking if they can't get more than three wins against this slate. The possibility exists, though, and stranger things have happened in sports before, but at this point we can reasonably expect playoff basketball in Dallas this year.