The Dallas Mavericks shouldn't have made the playoffs this year, even though they clinched a spot for the 15th time in 16 years on Monday with a 102-91 win against the Utah Jazz. No, seriously, they shouldn't have.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs when Dirk Nowitzki turned 37 last June and they still hadn't made him the team's second-best player. Because 37-year-olds shouldn't be this good, and because clearly, Dirk wasn't going to able to average 18.3 points on 45 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds while destroying the league in the month of March. (He did.)
They shouldn't have made the playoffs on March 27, when they were blown out 133-111 by the Sacramento Kings. The loss dropped them three games under .500 at 35-38. It was a culmination of a terrible month that had not only evaporated their lead in the playoff race, but dropped them to the outside looking in.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs after the emojis flooded Twitter for an entire day, when DeAndre Jordan infamously decided that he would not honor his verbal commitment to the Mavericks and chose Raising Cane's with the Clippers instead. The Mavericks didn't have a backup plan; why would they? They ended up stealing an underappreciated but still lifelong backup from Milwaukee. As it turns out, despite everything, he was almost an All-Star starter.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs on March 28, the day after that Kings blowout, when they realized Chandler Parsons was out for the year. They shouldn't have made the playoffs because Deron Williams also missed the game against the Kings with a sports hernia that would end up costing him eight games.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs in late October, when nearly every national media outlet predicted doom and downfall for Dallas. With a stronger Western Conference, this journey would have been much more difficult, but many teams were not nearly as good as we once thought.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs in the third quarter on Monday, when the Jazz made their run. Trevor Booker sliced into the lane for a layup that made the game 66-64 with 2:16 left in the third. You could see it all playing out: Utah would win, the Mavericks wouldn't be able to pull off a game against the Spurs and Rajon Rondo would make sure the Kings blew their game against Houston, ending the Mavericks' playoff hopes for good. With all those scenarios still going through our heads, with all the moment going Utah's way, Wesley Matthews hit this shot. And everything was OK again.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs on March 5, 2015, when Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles, or on April 21, 2015, when it was decided that Chandler Parsons needed a variation of microfracture surgery. Matthews' incredible returned was detailed here, and Parsons was ahead of schedule, too. It's still incredible that those two returned so early on and that they gave the Mavericks so much this season.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs when I predicted JaVale McGee as the team's defensive MVP -- just out of principle.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs when they lost five straight games last March -- to the Kings, to the Nuggets in overtime, teams that aren't in the playoffs, while the Mavericks now are.
They shouldn't have made the playoffs relying on Raymond Felton, Zaza Pachulia and J.J. Barea the year of 2016. They shouldn't have made the playoffs asking Rick Carlisle to cover up any and every major flaw the team had. They shouldn't have made the playoffs with rotations consistently lacking athletes. They shouldn't have made the playoffs when Rick Carlisle threw his inhibitions to the wind and relied on two rookies to save the season.
The 2016 Dallas Mavericks shouldn't have made the playoffs. They did. It's an incredible, unexpected, superhuman accomplishment for a team that overachieved and outperformed every expectation from day one thanks to a generational talent still destroying worlds while most of his peers have retired, a mad genius on the sideline, and a roster made up of feisty, ballsy players who never gave up despite several moments where it would have seemed entirely to easy to do just that. They alternated between making us insanely furious and stupidly gleeful, between throwing TV remotes and cackling at yet another Felton spin move or Justin Anderson chasedown block.
What a team. What a fucking team.