Looking back at March, I declared a 7-6 month a victory for the Mavs, with 8-5 or 9-4 outside chances if things started to come together. Considering the Mavericks just finished their first sub .500 month of the season at 6-7, it's safe to say that things aren't the best in Mavsland right now.
Dallas is now far enough back in the standings to make a real run at the sixth seed very difficult. Oklahoma City is also barreling along as well in the eighth seed and could even pass the Mavericks unless Dallas gets it together. This is really do or die time for Dallas. Do they want to be fodder for the Warriors in the first round or do they want to rumble with the Rockets or Grizzlies?
April features eight games, evenly split between home and away games, with four match-ups coming against playoff teams and two more against squads just on the outside of the race. All eight games are against Western Conference teams. When looking ahead this month, I'll assign the games a difficulty level: Easy, Medium, Hard, and in some cases Very Hard.
Wednesday, April 1 at Oklahoma City Thunder - Hard - Dallas is 2-1 against the Thunder this season and a third win would be hugely important for holding off OKC for the seventh seed. The Thunder are playing really solid basketball at the moment, punishing teams who aren't ready for the human battering ram that is Russell Westbrook. They also kill teams on the glass with Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. Each team will be coming off two days of rest, so expect a battle from wire to wire. I'd like to say Dallas wins this one, but predicting this team has become impossible.
Thursday, April 2 vs. Houston Rockets - Very Hard - It's time to look at our favorite scheduling quirk this season: every game between Dallas and Houston this season has been the second end of a back to back for the Mavericks. While I think the Rockets are very good, this issue is the main reason I have the game listed as "Very Hard". Obviously, Dwight Howard returning gives Houston another solid option to throw at the Mavs. Houston goes as James Harden does, so if he looks good early, Dallas could be in trouble no matter how close they hang with Houston. Expect a loss here.
Saturday, April 4 vs. Golden State Warriors - Hard - The question here will be how many players does coach Steve Kerr rest? If he sits Curry for any reason, the Mavericks have a chance. If Curry plays and someone like Draymond Green sits, the Mavericks have a chance. If the full Warriors squad plays, this will be a game we all will want to turn off early. The Warriors are that good this season.
Wednesday, April 8 vs. Phoenix Suns - Medium - After how the last game ended against the Suns, I expect Monta Ellis to lose his mind and bury the Suns, who will be playing the second night of a back-to-back. The Suns are a horrible match-up for Dallas, so this game will probably be close, and yet this close to the playoffs if the Mavericks don't play with urgency in a game like this, there might not be any hope for the post season.
Friday, April 10 at Denver Nuggets - Medium - The Nuggets are a team that gives Dallas fits, mainly on the strength of their energy. But they've played inconsistent basketball down the stretch and are probably looking ahead to the off season. Keeping Kenneth Faried off the glass and getting Jusif Nurkic into foul trouble will be important for dictating the pace of this game. This is another game the Mavericks just have to have.
Sunday, April 12 at Los Angeles Lakers - Easy - Dallas should run the tanking Lakers out of the building. The last victory was far too close for comfort.
Monday, April 13 at Utah Jazz - Medium - This is a classic trap game. If the Mavericks have any sort of basketball sense, they should be riding a three game win streak by this game and the Jazz are the kind of young, talented squad who could surprise them. The emergence of Rudy Gobert has been huge for Utah and it could be fun watching the Mavericks attack him at the rim. The Mavericks should win, but this one will probably be much closer than fans would expect.
Wednesday, April 15 vs. Portland Trailblazers - Hard - The very last game of the season for both teams will have playoff seeding implications for a great portion of the West. If Dallas is sitting on 49 wins, expect them to toss the kitchen sink at the Blazers in the chase for 50. If not, and if the 7th seed is all but locked up, expect Dallas to rest their starters and for Portland to get a win on the road.
This should be a 50 win team and yet finishing April with a 5-3 record seems a tall order. Dallas simply hasn't played a consistent brand of basketball for months and they've been treading water in the West. Unless Dallas manages to string together a four game winning streak during these final eight games, I don't see a path to 50 wins for the Mavericks. As per the usual in this space, expect a 4-4 month as the Mavs stumble their way into the playoffs.