Hey sports fans. We are in the home stretch, and boy, is it going to be tight. But the Mavs have been...dare I say rising to the challenge? I don't know if I would say that, because Mavs, but let's see what impartial observers have been saying.
A reminder that these numbers do not reflect games played Monday or Tuesday, including the Mavs' somewhat uninspiring win over the Celtics. To the numbers...
- Well....huh. CBS has the Mavs fourth?? Okay then!
- In all seriousness, though CBS's rankings are wildly different than everyone else's this week, and I'm not sure why except maybe recency bias. The Mavs have been a team that has found a different gear in some of these games in recent weeks.
- Man, the Trail Blazers are in some sort of free-fall. Think a lot of rankers had the Rockets a little prematurely high last week, which seems to happen to the occasional team. And the Clippers look primed to take over that first spot any week now, though I'll be interested to see how that loss to Denver (not factored into this week) affects next week.
- Look at those plucky Bobcats! I haven't watched much of them this season, but it's nice for them and their fans to see them in a consistently respectable spot.
- I don't mind seeing the Lakers push up a little here. They're already eliminated from playoff contention, so let's get them as far away from those top ten picks as we can, shall we? (A little Laker schadenfreude on my part there, but I do really enjoy watching Xavier Henry again, so it's not all disingenuous.)
- Keep on 76er'ing, 76ers! You can do it!
After an easy win in Oklahoma City on Sunday and having played their best five-game defensive stretch (102.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) since before the All-Star break, the Mavs are looking good for one of the last two playoff spots in the West. They play their next eight games at home. Three of their five remaining road games are against the Lakers, Kings and Jazz.
Time for Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle to take some fresh bows. A reasonable 10-5 finish is suddenly all the Mavs need to record a 50-win season. I thought coming in that 45 wins was their ceiling, but a schedule that seemed so brutal back in November is working in Dallas' favor now.
At this point I want to increase the difficulty setting on Rick Carlisle's coaching career. He's making this look too easy.
The Mavs rank No. 22 in defensive efficiency, but they have been a top-10 unit over the last five games. Recent wins over Oklahoma City and Indiana remind us how dangerous Dallas can be when at full strength and playing well.