Starting out 0-3 is less than ideal in a challenging Western Conference. But with 79 games left to play, it’s time to start digging into the schedule to see what’s possible for the Dallas Mavericks.
There are 14 games this month with six games at American Airlines Center and eight games on the road. Nine games are against Western Conference foes and five against the East. There’s a four game road trip which traverses both coasts but is broken up by a four day break. Finally, November also has a pair of back to backs. It looks to be a rough way to start the season, but in the NBA nothing comes easy.
Each game will get a difficulty level: EASY, NORMAL, HARD and (rarely) VERY HARD. At this point in time, I don’t think the Mavericks are very good. But, while they might be 0-3 right now, with a few different bounces Dallas could easily be 3-0. Some of these games will be shots in the dark, so be sure to leave us your comments below on where I’ve got it wrong.
Wednesday, Nov. 2 at Utah Jazz - Hard - Luckily, the Mavericks will be playing this game off three days rest whereas the Jazz will be playing the second night of a back to back. This game should be an offensive rock fight, with the Jazz causing Dallas a ton of problems in the paint with their length, while the Mavericks should annoy the Jazz right back. Neither team scores many points in transition but the Mavericks have a better offensive flow in the half court so far this season. Pencil this game in as a toss up, with the Mavericks really needing a win against what should be a tired Jazz squad.
Friday, Nov. 4 vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Hard - The Blazers have started the season red hot, and none hotter than dark horse MVP candidate Damian Lillard. The Mavericks will have trouble containing the savvy Portland back court, but Dirk seems to always play well against the Blazers. Each team will be playing on one day’s rest but Portland is on the second leg of a three game road trip. I’d be willing to bet a Portland team with something to prove gets the win.
Sunday, Nov. 6 vs. Milwaukee Bucks - Medium - Giannis Antetokounmpo aside, Milwaukee is a strange team, hurting for shooting after the loss of guard Khris Middleton. But with Jason Kidd at the helm, the Bucks should prove an interesting challenge for the Mavericks, with more length at all positions than any team we’re likely to see this season. Dallas will be catching the Bucks on the second night of a back to back and should be able to edge out a victory.
Tuesday, Nov. 8 at Los Angeles Lakers - Easy - One day, the Lakers are going to be a problem in the West. This is not that day. Despite a team full of talent, they are still extraordinarily young. And for some reason, coach Luke Walton is insisting on making Nick Young a defensive stopper. It’s easier to turn water into wine. Expect a high scoring affair that’s a lot of fun. Also expect a win.
Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Golden State Warriors - Very Hard - Playing a super team on the second night of a road back to back is really not fair. And yet, that’s what the schedule says. I suspect Rick Carlisle might rest a few of his veterans and Steve Kerr could do the same thing. It’s going to get ugly for the Mavericks, but tune in anyway for the chance to see some amazing shooters get up shots. This is a schedule loss.
Monday, Nov. 14 at New York Knicks - Medium - I’m going to be honest: I don’t think much of the Knicks. I think they’re a poorly constructed team that puts their second best player (Kristaps Porzingis) way down the pecking order because Derrick Rose has yet to understand he’s good at basketball. Carmelo Anthony is still a beast, but if this 2K-Create-A-Team doesn’t get it together soon, we’re going to be hearing about players’ only meetings. The Mavericks could be catching the Knicks at the right time.
Wednesday, Nov. 16 at Boston Celtics - Hard - The Celtics annoy me more than most Eastern Conference teams, and not just because Jae Crowder learned to play basketball there after being so inconsequential in Dallas. Boston has a great coach, a deep bench, and plays really hard, especially on defense. The last game in a four game road trip covering eight days may make this a schedule loss.
Friday, Nov. 18 vs. Memphis Grizzlies - Hard - It will be interesting to see if former Maverick Chandler Parsons is actually playing games at this point. If he is, this game goes from a regular Friday night match up to a must watch. The Grizzlies are always a tough out, though for the first time in a while Dallas might have the interior big men to battle Memphis. Putting Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Andrew Bogut on the court at the same time is bound to cause some fireworks. I’d like to imagine this is a toss up, but feel that the Grizzlies are just better than Dallas at this point.
Saturday, Nov. 19 at Orlando Magic - Medium - This is a sneaky difficult game, once you get into the schedule - a road back to back with less than 20 hours rest is going to be brutal on the veterans. Luckily, the Magic seem to be a mess in terms of roster construction, with a hodge-podge of talent led by a defense-first coach in Frank Vogel. It will be a challenge, but the Mavericks have a good chance of pulling out a win.
Monday, Nov. 21 at San Antonio Spurs - Very Hard - Weird things happen in rivalry games. The problem is that this series hasn’t been much of a rivalry and the Spurs boast what is probably the NBA’s best front line in MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. The Mavericks will probably put up a good fight, but in all likelihood they will get swarmed by the Spurs.
Wednesday, Nov. 23 vs. Los Angeles Clippers - Very Hard - The Mavericks always seem to play the Clippers tough so they should having a puncher’s chance against the Clippers, who are running it back with the same basic squad for what seems like the eleventh time. Chris Paul and Deron Williams always play each other great, DeAndre Jordan remains a target of Maverick fan disdain and Blake Griffin will be playing amazing basketball (unless he gets hurt again somehow). The looks like another loss but I have a feeling here. Let’s call this one a surprise victory.
Friday, Nov. 25 at Cleveland Cavaliers - Very Hard - The day after Thanksgiving, on the road, versus the defending champs who look like they are on a mission? No thank you.
Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. New Orleans Pelicans - Medium - Anthony Davis is a basketball cyborg sent back in time to crush us all. The problem is that Skynet put him on a team that’s filled with objectively bad or always injured players. Unless something starts to click with New Orleans soon, expect Davis to have an otherworldly line while the Mavericks win.
Wednesday, Nov. 30 vs. San Antonio Spurs - Hard - Considering I expect the Spurs to bushwhack the Mavericks nine days prior, I expect the first home game of the season of this rivalry to be a touch closer. The Spurs should still win, but perhaps the Mavericks have a fighting chance.
Out of 14 games, there are only five in the month of November I feel confident in the Mavericks’ chances right off the bat. That leaves nine games I could see the Mavericks losing. But because this squad is filled with veterans, coached by a genius, and led by one of the best NBA players of all time, a 7-7 record for the month of November is a great goal to shoot for.
It’s a long season and the road to the playoffs isn’t easy. Being above .500 in 2016 would be nice, but in a competitive Western Conference playoff race the main goal is to be within striking distance near the end. Let’s simply look to make it through November with some hope at the end.