The Mavericks faced a strange situation in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the 76ers: they were blowing Philadelphia out. Dallas has struggled to pull away from teams this year, but the 129-103 win was exactly what the Mavericks needed after losing five of their last six games.
"This is an important win for us," Carlisle said after the game. "It stopped the bleeding. It was a tough, very tough first half, but in the second quarter we got some traction."
It's even more important for what it represents: the easiest stretch of the season approaching with nine of the next 10 games in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center. Dallas has been the victim of a brutal, lopsided schedule, already playing one of the toughest 10-game stretches in the NBA last month. Now, the opposite is happening.
"It's big and we know it," Carlisle said. "I don't think there's any reason to overstate it. We've had struggles."
Here's what the Mavericks' schedule looks like during this 10-game stretch, which includes Philadelphia.
|Feb. 21||vs. Sixers (129-103 win)|
|Feb. 24||vs. Thunder|
|Feb. 26||vs. Nuggets|
|Feb. 28||vs. Timberwolves|
|March 1||vs. Magic|
|March 3||vs. Kings|
|March 6||at Nuggets|
|March 7||vs. Clippers|
|March 9||vs. Pistons|
|March 12||vs. Pacers|
The toughest game there comes this Wednesday, against Oklahoma City, who has also had two days off to prepare for it, and then in a couple weeks against the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pacers aren't an easy win either, and the Pistons could put up a challenge against Dallas. But overall, game for game, especially with only one back-to-back to worry about (remember, it's a leap year so Feb. 29 is an off day), the Mavericks know they can make up ground.
"We need every game," said Wesley Matthews, who broke out of an extended slump by scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting on Sunday. "We need every single game. It's tight right now as far as the playoff picture, and if you view the NBA season as a marathon, we're in the sprint part of it right now."
In fact, after those fives losses in six games sandwiching the All-Star break, the Mavericks are close to being out of the playoffs than they are moving up and past the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 6 seed. The Grizzlies are 32-23 with a three-game margin of error on Dallas, while the Mavericks have an edge on Portland of just one game (they've won 14 of their last 16, incredibly) and a two-game lead on the No. 9-seeded Utah Jazz, who Dallas unfortunately lost to just a couple weeks ago.
Never mind all that. The Mavericks play 10 games, nine at home, seven against teams under .500, just one on the second night of a back-to-back. They've already nabbed the first win.
"This should be our time to turn things around," Zaza Pachulia said.
Because if they don't know, when will that time even come?