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The Mavericks must capitalize on the opportunities in their next 5 games

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It looks lighter on paper, but these games will determine if Dallas should be taken seriously.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks are in unfamiliar territory.

Consider this: In the 2016-17 season, the Mavericks didn’t achieve their 13th victory until January 15th while the 2017-18 Mavericks reached that seam feat slightly sooner on December 31. However, these Mavericks are in a much better position at 13-11 as the calendar year draws nearer to a close.

The resurgence of the Mavericks after an almost crippling 2-7 start has been well documented. The bench unit has been firing on all cylinders, the defense has been disruptive and Luka Doncic has looked every bit like a future (and maybe current) star. The combination of those things, among a few others, allowed the Mavericks to win 11 of the last 15 games. Ten of those victories came in a stretch that one Mavs Moneyball writer predicted the Mavericks would lose 11 games.

The Mavericks fought through a difficult stretch, came out on top, and have finally reached a point where the schedule theoretically lightens up.

No game in the NBA is easy, and preparation shouldn’t be taken lightly, but Dallas isn’t preparing to face some of the Western Conference’s premier teams. In the next four games the Mavericks have tilts with the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and the Denver Nuggets.

Winners of nine straight at home, the Mavericks will welcome Orlando, Atlanta and Sacramento while traveling to Phoenix and Denver.

The Magic are sitting at 12-14 and are certainly not playing like Magic of last year, but the Mavericks should be able to handle them in the AAC. At 6-20, the Hawks appear to be headed for the top of the lottery once again. Although, the Mavericks collapsed in Atlanta earlier this season, it would be a colossal letdown if Dallas were to lose to the Hawks at home this time around.

The up-and-coming Kings have been one of the league’s best storylines this season with a 13-12 record. The young backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield pose a tough matchup for the Mavericks, but Dallas is playing like a buzzsaw at home, so handling the jumpstart Kings is certainly in the realm of possibilities.

The Phoenix Suns are an embarrassment, and there’s not much else to it other than ask ourselves how in the world the Mavericks got lit up by the Suns in the season opener. Phoenix has lost eight in a row and have scored under TEN points in the first quarter in two of the past three games. They’re the free space in the scheduling BINGO card.

Finally, the Mavericks wrap up this five game stretch with the toughest test in Denver against the Nuggets who are currently 17-9. On a normal week the Nuggets would probably take care of the Mavericks pretty handily, but these Nuggets will be down Gary Harris (hip) and Paul Millsap (toe) for the foreseeable future. Make no mistake, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will cause headaches, but the Mavericks will have a legitimate shot against a depleted Nuggets squad.

It’s important Dallas takes advantage through this stretch because it represents a bit of a reprieve after the Mavericks ran through a gauntlet of opponents and before gearing up for a run against the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder.

With each passing game it’s becoming clear the Mavericks are going to be factors in the West, and this stretch could further cement that.