These Dallas Mavericks, I tell ya, they continue to perform despite all logic or reason. Last month with the Rondo facial injury looming to start February it seemed like the Mavericks might be in for a tough twelve games. Then Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler got injured before All Star break. After the break, Chandler Parsons sprained his ankle and Tyson Chandler got nicked up again. Oh, and Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle got in an in-game argument which prompted national media attention and a number of hot takes (including my open letter and a counter defense of Rondo).
Despite all this, the Mavericks still finished the month 7-5 and are sixth in the West right behind Portland and the Clippers. Since the trade for Rondo, the team has never looked quite right, yet they're managing to move along, winning two thirds of their games. I don't seem to recall the Mavericks having any winning streaks of reasonable length, yet they've had streaks of five games and two streaks of six games. They're winning in spite of narrative and that's pretty impressive. There's still plenty of time to improve as well.
March features 13 games: seven at home, six on the road. Nine of those games come against probable playoff teams, with three more against squads with an outside shot to slide into the final playoff position in their respective conference. When looking ahead this month, I'll assign each game a difficulty level: Easy, Medium, Hard, and in some cases, Very Hard.
Monday, March 2 vs. New Orleans - Medium - Dallas is 2-1 this season against the division rival Pelicans. New Orleans is just a single game out of the final playoff spot in the West. Normally, the Pelicans force Dallas to work for every point, but with Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis out with injuries, this is a game Dallas should win. Still though, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are the kind of big scoring guards that have caused Dallas problems all year. The Mavericks need to be ready for an intense game, regardless of Pelican injury issues.
Thursday, March 5 at Portland - Very Hard - The Blazers should be seeking to avenge an epic collapse in February when they came to Dallas and the Rose Garden is also a traditionally difficult place to play. With two days rest on the first game of a three game road trip, the Mavericks should toss the kitchen sink at the Blazers. Still though, this is a 50-50 game at best.
Friday, March 6 at Golden State - Very Hard - Talk about a brutal back to back, playing two of the top four teams in the West. Dallas will most likely be without Amar'e Stoudemire (it doesn't sound like he'll be playing in back to backs), but the Mavs will finally get to see Rajon Rondo get a chance to lock up (or at least annoy) human heat check Stephen Curry. That said though, this is most likely a loss unless Dallas comes out guns blazing.
Sunday, March 8 at Los Angeles (Lakers) - Easy - This is the only game of the month that I feel utterly confident in. The Lakers, while not openly tanking, have no desire to win and certainly don't have the talent to bother the Mavericks. Lock this game in as a victory unless something disastrous happens.
Tuesday, March 10 vs. Cleveland - Hard - The Mavericks beat Cleveland in their first match up, but that was a different time. The Cavaliers are playing scorched Earth basketball, destroying teams on the strength of all-universe player LeBron James. The Cavs are still quite beatable, mainly because they don't have guards who play defense (sorry Kyrie, it's true). They also don't have anyone to guard Dirk Nowitzki, unless LeBron assumes that responsibility. Dallas plays much better at home. so I'm going out on a limb and saying they win this one.
Friday, March 13 vs. Los Angeles (Clippers) - Hard - I always think the Mavericks match up well with the Clippers, because they don't have an actual small forward. And yet, the Clippers roll Dallas, mainly on the strength of their offensive rebounding. Dallas will have another weapon this time in Amar'e, but unless Dallas can get DeAndre Jordan into foul trouble, this could be another frustrating game for Dallas fans.
Monday, March 16 vs. Oklahoma City - Hard - The third of a five-game home stand has the Thunder coming to town with Russell Westbrook on a path of destruction. OKC has looked rejuvenated after a deadline trade, which is crazy since they traded FOR Dion Waiters. Still, the additions of savvy vets D.J. Augustine and Kyle Singler has provided real experience for the bench, making the Thunder formidable for all 48 minutes, despite Scott Brooks terrible rotations. Oh, they also have Kevin Durant. He's good. Despite two days of rest, this is probably a loss.
Wednesday, March 18th vs Orlando - Easy - The Magic are the kind of sneaky athletic team that could shock Dallas is the Mavericks aren't ready. Still, though, Dallas could be in dire need of a win after a tough three previous games, so they should run away with this one.
Friday, March 20 vs. Memphis - Very Hard - Dallas vs Memphis always seems to be a matter of which team gets in foul trouble first and which team can hit threes. Memphis can bully Dallas and are so talented in the forward positions that they can run Dallas out of the gym at any time. (Anyone remember Z-Bo lighting Tyson Chandler on fire last game?) The Mavericks need to connect from beyond the arc if they want to have a chance against Memphis. At best, this is a 50-50 game.
Sunday, March 22 at Phoenix - Medium - It's hard to say where the Suns might be three weeks from now. After trading away two thirds of their back court rotation, they could be sinking fast in the West. Yet the Suns possess the kind of front court athleticism to punish Dallas. Alex Len, the Morris twins, Brandan Wright, and former University of Texas star P.J. Tucker are an exciting group. They still have super athlete Eric Bledsoe as well. The Mavericks should prevail, but it won't be an easy win.
Tuesday, March 24 vs. San Antonio - Hard - The Spurs are struggling ... and are still on pace to win 60 percent of their games this season. Tony Parker in particular has had a rough yeah. And yet, injuries and bad luck have played a part in the Spurs being no. 7 in the West. Every San Antonio-Dallas match up going back to the beginning of the decade has been tough for Dallas, and this match up should be no different. I expect a close Maverick win with the game being in Dallas.
Friday, March 27 at San Antonio - Hard - Same issues apply, it's probably going to be a battle, but this time the game is in San Antonio. Since I expect Dallas will win the first match up, it's probably too much to expect for the Mavericks to beat the Spurs twice in a row.
Sunday, March 29 at Indiana - Medium - The Pacers are so well coached that they've managed to hang around the playoff race all season despite missing star Paul George and dealing with a host of other injuries. Dallas lost to the Pacers back in November in what will probably go down as one of their worst losses of the season, getting ran off the court by Donald Sloan. There's a good chance Paul George may be back. Still, though, with only eight games left in the regular season after this match up, expect Dallas to be locked in.
Despite a tough schedule, the lack of back-to-backs means the Mavericks should have plenty of opportunities to play as a full squad. The only for-sure loss I see is the Golden State game. The Mavericks are unlikely to go on any win streaks this month, but still have an outside chance at finishing the month 8-5 or even 9-4 if they start to hit on all cylinders. With this many solid playoff teams on the docket, a 7-6 month is a victory.