Alright. That’s it. I’m putting the tank in park and climbing out.
The Dallas Mavericks are making the playoffs, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
Yes, this is a tough feeling to accommodate after last night’s kick-in-the-crotch loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. And I was feeling much better about this before Dallas got curb stomped in Denver on Monday. But after watching the Mavs, and primarily Dirk Nowitzki, give me hope late Tuesday night, I’ll ride this wave until I drown in this hopeless water.
Let it be known, making the playoffs is supposed to be a good thing. You want to be one of the final 16 teams chasing for an NBA championship, even if your team stands no chance of doing such. This goes for any team outside the cities of Oakland and Cleveland, no matter the direction this predetermined road the basketball gods have paved for us.
All 30 NBA teams should strive to make the postseason. There should be an exception, however, when a team starts 4-17 and the calendar hasn’t even hit 2017 yet. This is when the towel should be thrown in, when all hope is lost and the dark abyss of being a lottery-bound franchise is staring you in the face. The Mavericks were plummeting, with no sign of a safety net in sight. Visions of Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball in a Dallas jersey were our only solace.
But what’s been happening with the Mavericks since Jan. 12 can’t be explained. They’ve won nine of 14 games. Dirk is playing center, and that’s somehow not cringe-worthy. Seth Curry is playing like Steph, Harrison Barnes continues to play really good basketball, up is down, down is up and the world is on fire.
And then there’s Yogi Ferrell.
March will be the seven-year anniversary of Rodrigue Beaubois’ 40-point game at Oracle Arena. A rookie waltzed into Golden State’s house, took a seat, put his feet up and dared the humbled hosts to say he couldn’t. Nothing like that had happened since. Until this past Friday night
This undrafted point guard from Indiana rolled into Portland on Friday night and outplayed Damian Lillard. He scorched the Trail Blazers for 32 points and made nine 3-pointers. That ninth three was the dagger, giving the Mavericks a four-point lead late and, eventually, another road win in Portland. He’s been neutralized the last two games, but had a strong fourth quarter Tuesday. He will need to dish out more than two assists per game and can’t commit really dumb late-game turnovers if he wants to stay the starter when Deron Williams and/or J.J. Barea return, though.
Nevertheless, you can’t tell me this divine intervention makes sense and doesn’t give you hope.
Ferrell’s play, in turn, has awoken the rest of the Mavericks. Barnes continues to excel at Dirk’s power forward spot since the Big German moved to center. Barnes has averaged nearly 21 points and six rebounds per game since Jan. 25 and followed that with 26 points on Tuesday. He even got to the line eight times, which is progress (could’ve used one or two more of them against Portland). Dirk’s return to the lineup has spaced the floor, allowing Barnes to shoot an efficient 48 percent. Wesley Matthews has benefited greatly with Ferrell in the fold, averaging nearly 19 points in the last five games.
Seth Curry has also played well as of late, averaging 16 points since being inserted into the starting lineup in January. Portland did a good job keeping him neutralized on Tuesday, but that was mainly due to Mason Plumlee being a very large human and nearly destroying his shoulder. Dallas shot 42 percent from three against Portland on Tuesday, but having Curry’s shot making is going to be more beneficial for this team going forward.
Yes, this feeling of loss really sucks. But I’m not prepared to get back into that tank, and you shouldn’t either.
Everything’s still coming up Mavericks at a time the other teams “fighting” for the eighth seed continue to falter. Portland won’t be playing Dallas 20 more times this year. Minnesota has dropped four in a row and are now without Zach LaVine for the rest of the year. New Orleans snapped its four-game losing streak Monday. Sacramento was a Steph Curry missed layup away from also dropping its fourth straight, but now have to worry about DeMarcus Cousins going mental and being suspended more games.
Hell, even the Nuggets are too inconsistent to get a feel on what team they are.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks continue to do their best Undertaker. The hand is stretching out of the grave, slowly crawling out with the intent of choke-slamming every team in sight until they get to the playoffs, only to be shoved back down the grave by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. They showed that mental toughness Tuesday. As much as this is painful to say, they’re not dead yet.
But hey, this is the world we live in. The Mavericks’ only hope of getting a Fultz or Ball is if the entire team stayed on the bus and didn’t take the court for every game until April, but they’re not going to do that. I want to jump back into that tank so badly and start driving it down Victory Park all the way here to the Las Vegas Strip, but that’s not going to happen. The Mavericks are winning games against teams they shouldn’t be winning against, and continue to look far more competent than the 4-17 team that was on display in December.
Carlisle has a plan and has a team that can shoot, defend and match up athletically with the most of them. This makes me sad and happy at the same time. Sometimes, we must admit when a team is fun enough to the point where you just throw your hands up and accept defeat in opposition of Team Tank. The Mavs are doing that, and that’s completely OK. Whether or not you believe Dallas keeps this play up the rest of the year is completely irrelevant.
The wins last week are evidence that the Mavericks are turning a corner. And that is a scary thought for these other playoff-fighting teams who have never been in this situation before.
The tank is slowly unraveling, and we must accept the fact that this Dallas Mavericks team is (hopefully) going to the playoffs because of a point guard named Yogi and some serious supernatural shit that is Dirk.