In the next six days, the Dallas Mavericks will face three of the NBA's best four teams, plus the Chicago Bulls. Only one matchup, against LeBron James and the Cavs, is at home. The Thunder, the Bulls and the Spurs are all road games with just a day of rest between each one.
It's not hyperbole to say this may be the toughest four-game stretch any team will face in the entire NBA this regular season.
Dallas enters Tuesday sitting at 22-16, six games over .500 with victories in three of their last four games, but it's too easy to imagine a situation where they're 22-20 in a week. Just go game-by-game: LeBron James hasn't lost to the Mavericks since the 2011 Finals (although Dallas beat Cleveland without him once last year); Oklahoma City will be a road game on the second night of a back-to-back; the Bulls are a team Dallas beat once at home, but the third game in four nights in Chicago is problematic; and then the Spurs in San Antonio, where Dallas has lost 14 of their last 16 matchups.
It doesn't help that the Mavericks face another back-to-back coming home from this three-game road trip, immediately playing the Boston Celtics. They get one day off before facing the Timberwolves and then another day off before the Thunder come to town. Then another three-games-in-four-nights, all away from home, with the Rockets first and then a Lakers-Warriors back-to-back.
Let's lay it out visually, just to get a sense of how quickly all these games will take place and how little rest Dallas will get.
|@ Timberwolves (W)||OFF||vs. Cavaliers||@ Thunder||OFF||@ Bulls||OFF|
|@ Spurs||vs. Celtics||OFF||vs. Timberwolves||OFF||vs. Thunder||OFF|
|@ Rockets||OFF||@ Lakers||@ Warriors||OFF||vs. Nets||OFF|
Across these three weeks, the Mavericks play 12 games and just nine days off, many of those which will be spent traveling. How many games should they be realistically expected to win? Or maybe we should consider how many games are clearly losses? All Dallas can really hope to do is survive.
You can write down the away games against Oklahoma City and Golden State as schedule losses, unless Cleveland becomes a blowout so quickly that Dallas runs their starters out again on Wednesday. The Spurs game probably should be a rest game for Dallas, too, saving their energy for a much more fair fight against Boston at home. If you can somehow manage a win against Cleveland OR Chicago, take care of the Timberwolves and the Lakers, and beat either the Rockets on the road or the Thunder at home, then Dallas can finish this 10 game road trip at 5-5. That's the best case scenario, if you ask me. It's better not to think about the worst case scenario, where Dallas could be at or even a game under .500 headed into February.
If there's any consolation, it's that the second unit has two wins under their belts in three "rest" opportunities. Dallas will have to sit their starters at some point -- well, at least Dirk, but quite possibly the entire unit -- and if Rick Carlisle plays it juuuust right, maybe he can earn a cheap win and quality rest. Really, Carlisle is the one equalizing hope Dallas has for these 10 games.
So you tell me in the poll below: where do you expect the Mavericks to fall over the next ten?