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Mavericks outlook for February: a chance to gain some ground

February presents the Mavericks with a chance to gain some ground in a tough Western Conference.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I hope everyone is reading Andrew's week to week look at games. He does a great job of taking the games in digestible chunks based on how Dallas is playing at the moment. Last month, I took a look at the schedule for the month and gave the games a difficulty level of Easy, Medium, or Hard depending on how I view that team in relation to Dallas as they've played this year.

Andrew's take is probably more accurate since he has the benefit of considering recent performances; I want to keep an eye on what Dallas needs to do this month to be a playoff threat. February is an incredibly important month for the Mavericks. They've essentially been treading water for most of January, and that's not a good thing in a Western Conference that has a great deal of fluidity in the 7th to 12th ranked teams. The Grizzlies in particular have come on very strong these last few weeks.

Monday, February 3 vs. Cleveland - Easy - The Cavaliers are the most dysfunctional franchise in the league at the moment. They have talent, but a bad coach and young players who are developing terrible habits. Luol Deng was supposed to bring an element of stability to the locker room. He has not. The Mavericks surrendered a huge lead last time the teams met up; I expect Rick Carlisle to have his starters drive the Cavs into the ground if it's possible.

Wednesday, February 5 at Memphis - Hard - Point guard Mike Conley is going to miss this game, which helps the Mavericks a great deal. This is still an exceptionally talented and hard working team that can metaphorically punch the Mavericks in the mouth if they aren't careful. I expect Dallas to win, but this is going to be a huge test.

Friday, February 7 vs. Utah - Easy - The Jazz aren't trying to win this year. They're young and exceptionally talented, but a road game is never an easy thing for a squad like this. The Mavericks should win, but after two games I'd expect this one to be closer than we'd all like.

Sunday, February 9 at Boston - Easy - Boston is another team that doesn't have any incentive to win. Dirk always likes playing at the Garden and the Celtics don't have anyone to guard him. I'd like to predict a massive blowout., but this is another game that is probably a five to seven point victory that none of us feel good about. A win's a win though.

Tuesday, February 11 at Charlotte - Medium - This is a trap game. The Mavericks will have played 4 games in eight days by this point and those old legs of Carter, Calderon, and Dirk might not be feeling fantastic. Al Jefferson is on a tear as well and the Mavericks can't defend old school post players. The Mavericks stand a real chance of losing if they don't come prepared.

Wednesday, February 12 at Indiana - Very Hard - This was a schedule loss before the season started. It's the third game of a three game road trip on the second night of a back to back. That it's against one of the 4 best teams in the league makes this game a no brainer loss for Dallas. I'd like to be proven wrong, but this is why it's important to take these winnable games in the early part of February.

Tuesday, February 18 vs. Miami - Hard - It's the Heat, so this game is going to be hard regardless of when or where it's played. The Mavericks have put up good fights the last few times the teams have played so maybe there's a chance Dallas can steal one against the defending champs. Don't expect it, though, as it's the first game after the All-Star break for either team. The Heat will be well rested.

Friday, February 21 at Philadelphia - Easy - This is another trap game for Dallas. The Sixers shocked Dallas by putting up a heck of a fight back in November and they have just enough youth and athleticism to give the Mavericks fits on defense (most teams do, but you know what I mean). They should win and if they don't, expect a degree of panic because it's very likely the Mavs will have lost two straight prior to this game.

Saturday, February 22 at Detroit - Easy - Unless the Pistons make a trade before this game, the Mavericks should wipe the floor with Detroit. The Pistons have talent and real weapons that can punish Dallas, but they seem unable to figure out how to use all the threats they have in a consistent manner. Josh Smith is always capable of getting hot, but he only seems to do so at the expense of his team.

Monday, February 24 at New York - Medium - The Mavericks are simply not designed to handle a team like New York, which is why they beat the pants off Dallas earlier in the year. That said, this game is still a coin flip because New York is its own worst enemy. This is a game the Mavericks want to win to stay in playoff contention.

Wednesday, February 26 vs. New Orleans - Medium - Dallas can't guard New Orleans. New Orleans can't guard Dallas. This is going to be a wild game that will be worth tuning in for. This is another game Dallas needs because if you look ahead to March, things get nasty.

Friday, February 28 vs. Chicago - Medium - The Bulls are such a gritty team that they're bound to give Dallas trouble even if they can't keep up offensively. I'd like to rank this as an "easy" game but I respect what they Bulls have done too much to discount them.

Twelve games in the month of February. The Mavericks need to go 8-4 over the course of the month if they want to remain in the playoff conversation. March gets absurdly hard to the point where Dallas will have to hope to go .500. Should be interesting!