Good news everyone!
The Dallas Mavericks had a .125 winning percentage entering November. Entering December, our Mavericks have nearly doubled their winning percentage to .227, posting four more wins with a record of 5-17. They’re roughly the third worst team in the league as of this writing.
The Mavericks have 16 games in December, more than a game every other day. After a fairly home-heavy schedule to start the year, Dallas is on the road for 10 contests and at the AAC for only six games. Nine games are against Western Conference foes with seven games against Eastern Conference opponents. They play 15 different teams and as of this moment 11 of those teams are playoff teams according to the standings. The Mavericks will play in a pair of back-to-backs, book-ending Christmas.
Each game will get a difficulty level: EASY, NORMAL, HARD and (rarely) VERY HARD. Despite the schedule still being shockingly hard, things look better in December than they have thus far. Still, it might get a little rough in the weeks ahead.
Saturday Dec. 2 vs. LA Clippers - Medium - Will the Mavericks lose to the reeling Clippers on STAR WARS DAY (it’s a day game)? LA is in real trouble with so many injuries. I’ve marked this game as Medium only because I don’t think any game for Dallas will ever be Easy this season. This should be a victory for the good guys.
Monday Dec. 4 vs. Denver Nuggets - Hard - This may vex any commenters who haven’t seen the Nuggets play this year but they’re really fairly good despite Paul Millsap being out with an injury. Dallas will be hard pressed to stop All-Universe offensive talent Nikola Jokic. The Mavericks could take advantage of the Nuggets inconsistent guard play, but it will be an uphill climb for a victory.
Wednesday Dec. 6 @ Boston Celtics - Very Hard - The Mavericks should have won the previous game on Nov. 20th but no one could stop Kyrie Irving (maybe don’t play him with a guard shorter than him but what do I know). A game in Boston? Goooood luck Dallas. Celtics win this one, big.
Friday Dec. 8 @ Milwaukee Bucks - Medium - The Mavericks destroyed the Bucks in what could be the defining win of the season. The struggling Bucks should be a smidge more prepared to play this time, but the aura around that team is not great at the moment. Despite this being a road game, this is a true toss up.
Sunday Dec. 10 @ Minnesota Timberwolves - Hard - The Wolves have beaten the Mavericks by double digits twice. This will be the third Dallas game in five nights, all of which are on the road. This strikes me as a schedule loss. Also the Wolves are pretty dang good.
Tuesday Dec. 12 vs. San Antonio Spurs - Hard - LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 32.5 points per game against the Mavericks this season. They don’t have a player in the rotation who can do a thing to stop him. The Mavericks always give the Spurs all they have, but it won’t be enough.
Thursday Dec. 14 @ Golden State Warriors - Very Hard - Well this just isn’t right. Schedule loss.
Saturday Dec. 16 @ San Antonio Spurs - Hard - It’s very kind of the NBA schedulers to allow the Mavericks to get all of their games against the Spurs out of the way by mid-December. But this game, their third in five days, really isn’t fair. If they win this one, it’ll be an act of kindness via the basketball gods.
Monday Dec. 18 vs. Phoenix Suns - Easy - Finally! A winnable game! The Suns have been playing better but they are still not good. Dallas should win this home game but needs to contain Devin Booker.
Wednesday Dec. 20 vs. Detroit Pistons - Hard - The Pistons are better than you think. And they’re a lot better than the Mavericks. Dallas will need to bring their A game just to be in the contest.
Friday Dec. 22 @ Miami Heat - Medium - The Heat aren’t very good, but they also aren’t very bad. If the Heat are focused, Dallas could be in trouble. But if Hassan Whiteside’s knee issues continue or if Dion Waiters isn’t into the game, this is one the Mavericks could steal on the road.
Saturday Dec. 23 @ Atlanta Hawks - Medium - As of this writing the Hawks are technically worse than the Mavericks, but in the season opener, Atlanta seemed a lot better than Dallas. With Nerlens Noel out of the rotation, John Collins could feast against a rather hapless Maverick front court. The Dennis Schroder-Dennis Smith battle will probably decide this game as it did the first match-up. Call it a toss up with the Hawks getting a slight advantage, this being the second night of a road back-to-back for Dallas.
Tuesday Dec. 26 vs. Toronto Raptors - Hard - The first Mavericks game post-Christmas is against one of the East’s better teams. At least it’s a home game. Dallas will struggle because the Raptors are better in every single position.
Wednesday Dec. 27 @ Indiana Pacers - Medium - The fourth game in six days for Dallas comes against the shockingly fun Pacers team. Indiana is playing with a lot of, uh, pace, and scoring a ton, which is decidedly weird for a Nate McMillan coached team. Unless Nerlens comes back from the end of the bench, Myles Turner will cause problems for Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes. The Pacers back court duo of Darren Collison and Victor Oladipo will be fun against whichever guard lineup Carlisle elects to play that evening. This is a probable Pacers win, but it should be fun.
Friday Dec. 29 @ New Orleans Pelicans - Hard - Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins combined for 50 points and 35 rebounds against Dallas. The Mavericks have not shown any ability to rebound or stop tall, good basketball players in the weeks since. Though New Orleans doesn’t have much else to throw at the Mavericks, those two are more than enough.
Sunday Dec. 31 @ Oklahoma City - Hard - I’m still shocked that Dallas beat the crap out of the Thunder last week. But the Thunder have too much talent not to figure something out eventually. Dallas will have it’s work cut out for them on the road again. The Thunder should be favored but the Mavericks always play OKC very hard.
The Mavericks aren’t as bad as their start in October, it’s true. But they aren’t marginally better either. The schedule has cursed Dallas early and by the time the schedule lightens some, it will be far too late for it to matter. There are 5-7 very winnable games in December but four games is a more realistic bench mark. If Dallas enters 2018 with 10 victories, they have surpassed my expectations.