The Dallas Mavericks managed to pull a pair of rabbits out of their collective hat in January with consecutive wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers to finish the month with an 8-6 record. It was their first winning month this season. The team currently sits 13th in the West with a 18-30 record, and while the Mavericks are 12 games under .500, they’re also just a few games back from the eight seed.
January should be considered a success, despite some lost opportunities the Mavericks would probably like to have back. Dallas went just 5-3 during January’s opening eight-game stretch despite the fact that it will likely be their easiest of the the season. But winning games against the NBA’s best is a salve upon that frustration.
With the All-Star Weekend break in the middle of the month, February has just 12 contests. It’s a fairly even home-road split, with seven games at the American Airlines Center and five on the road. There are only two back to backs, one on either side of the break.
It’s safe to say that the Mavericks are not as poor as their record, but they do have major flaws: terrible three-point defense, bad rebounding, and few free-throw attempts. But they shoot the ball well from three and have a fairly deep roster after developing some of their younger players following a glut of injuries.
It’s also important to remember that the trade deadline is Thursday, Feb. 23, after the All-Star break. Lots of things can and will happen throughout the league this month. If the Mavericks make any trades, that changes the look at the entire month. It should be interesting to see how things shake out.
Now, on to the February ratings. Each game will get a difficulty level: EASY, NORMAL, HARD and (rarely) VERY HARD.
Wednesday, Feb. 1 vs Philadelphia 76ers - EASY - With social media superstar Joel Embiid missing the game due to some knee issues, the Dallas Mavericks have no excuses against one of the league’s weaker teams. A home game for Dallas against a bad team means a likely win.
Friday, Feb. 3 at Portland Trail Blazers - HARD - Portland is an incredibly hard place to play (though Dallas did hold on in a way-too-close game there just before Christmas), and Damian Lillard will be in the middle of his annual “I get no respect” post-All-Star announcement quest. Last time the Mavericks got out to a huge lead and held on tight despite a wild comeback. Terry Stotts won’t let that happen again, and I expect this one to be a beatdown by the Blazers.
Monday, Feb. 6 at Denver Nuggets - NORMAL - The last time these two teams played, second year player Nikola Jokic obliterated the Mavericks to the tune of 27 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. As of this writing, he’s out with a hip injury. If he plays, the Mavericks better hope for huge offensive games from key players, because there’s not a person on the roster who can stop him. I wish that were hyperbole. At least the Mavericks will have a few days rest before playing in the high altitude.
Tuesday, Feb. 7 vs Portland Trail Blazers - HARD - Portland’s still one of the leading contenders for the eight seed out West. The Mavericks will be on the tail end of a back to back whereas the Blazers will have one day of rest on a two-day road trip. If Dallas still harbors playoff hopes, this is as close to a must-win as it gets. It’s also REALLY hard to beat the same team twice in a week in regular season NBA. So let’s give the Mavs the edge here.
Thursday, Feb. 9 vs Utah Jazz - HARD - The Mavericks have hung tight with Jazz in two of three games. The Jazz are also really, really good. At least they will be playing on the back end of a back to back? The Mavericks can score well enough to hang with the defensively minded Jazz, but they have to find a way to execute late game when it becomes a possession-by-possession game. This one feels like a loss. Rudy Gobert is just ridiculous.
Saturday, Feb. 11 vs Orlando Magic - EASY - The Mavericks are better than their record. The Magic are definitively not. In fact, they may be worse. So unless the Mavericks don’t show up, they dang well better win this one.
Monday, Feb. 13 vs Boston Celtics - HARD - This is our bi-yearly reminder that the Boston Celtics fleeced the Dallas Mavericks in that horrendous Rajon Rondo trade. The additional problem here is that the Celtics are pretty darn good. BUT, this year they haven’t been as good defensively, and they aren’t as deep as they look. Unless Jae Crowder has a revenge game, the Mavericks should be able to stick around with the Celtics. The Celtics should still win though. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.
Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Detroit Pistons - NORMAL - The Pistons haven’t played as well as they should, considering the talent, but by mid month, maybe they will have figured it out. If the Mavericks are still in the playoff hunt (at least in their minds), then this is another one they can’t afford to drop. It’s a road game, so that favors the Pistons.
Friday, Feb. 24 at Minnesota Timberwolves - NORMAL - The Timberwolves are really frustrating. On paper, they should be a lot better, and after an early January stumble, the Wolves finally got it together the rest of the month. They’re one of many teams still in the eight-seed hunt, so just like Dallas, this is a game they can’t afford to lose. After the break, neither team can afford to come out rusty. The coin flip goes to the Wolves based on home court advantage and raw talent, but this will be a close one.
Saturday, Feb. 25 vs New Orleans Pelicans - HARD - The Pelicans are one of the EIGHT teams still within a reasonable distance of the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. They also employ All-Universe talent Anthony Davis (All-Star starter and likely All-NBA player). Dallas has won one of two match ups so far, and the third could be very interesting depending on where teams stand by the end of the month. I suspect the Pelicans will still be in the hunt, so the coin flip goes to New Orleans.
Monday, Feb. 27 vs Miami Heat - EASY - THE TANK OFF! Well... that’s what it should be. The Mavericks will still be fighting for every win, and I suspect we’ll see some rest and injuries from key Miami players, since they’ve clearly admitted they are “rebuilding.” Dallas will end the month with a win.
Because the back half of the Western conference is stuck in the mud together, there has been little real separation among any of the teams. The Lakers and Suns have posted worse records than Dallas, but only by a few games. If the Mavericks are actually serious about making a run at the eight seed, they can’t afford bad losses nor can they afford a simple .500 month. Dallas actually needs to make some headway in the standings, so an 8-4 month is really the goal. Anything less will be a disappointment because the margin for error is so small.