Somehow, I’ve managed to get this wrong nearly every month.
I opened the year overly optimistic, despite feeling in my gut that the team was pretty bad. The Mavericks started 1-7. Then I assumed the Mavericks would crash and burn during a brutal November. I was mainly right as Dallas ended the month 5-17. By December I assumed things would collapse.
They didn’t as the Mavericks achieved their first non-losing month of the season and pulled their record back to 13-25. With that sort of month and what appeared to be a winnable slate of games, I thought Dallas might actually gain some ground in the standings in 2018.
Dallas has not. After going 3-11 in January, the Mavericks enter February near the bottom of the standings at a putrid 16-35.
With All-Star weekend near the middle of the month, teams and most players get a week off. That means fewer games in an already short month. The Mavericks play 10 games in February with four games at home and six on the road, which includes a pair of back to backs. As of this writing, only four of those 10 games come against playoff qualified opponents.
Each game will get a difficulty level: EASY, NORMAL, HARD and (rarely) VERY HARD. The Mavericks have passed the point in time where fighting for a playoff spot makes sense, so how they approach the rest of the regular season means every game is worth tuning in for, no matter their record.
Saturday, Feb. 3 @ Sacramento Kings - Medium - The Kings are fellow basement dwellers, and like Dallas they have an oddly constructed roster with some youth and some extreme veterans (shout out to Vince Carter and Zach Randolph). They’re playing hard, but they aren’t winning much, just like the Mavericks. Given that it’s in Sacramento with Dallas on the second game of a four-game road trip, the edge should go to the Kings.
Monday, Feb. 5 @ LA Clippers - Medium - Judging the post-Blake Griffin Clippers is a foolish exercise as of this writing. The Mavericks could walk in and beat up on a listless, confused team. The Clippers could use Dallas as a punching bag as their new-look roster figures out how to make all the pieces work.
Thursday, Feb. 8 @ Golden State Warriors - Very Hard - The Warriors have been really inconsistent lately. So this could be a fun, close game. It could also be an utter blow out. I would bet the Warriors rest players, but Dallas is so under-talented in comparison that it hardly matters. If the Mavericks beat the Warriors on the final game of a four-game road trip I’ll be flabbergasted.
Saturday, Feb. 10 vs Los Angeles Lakers - Medium - The Lakers have played well in January and the Mavericks might be reeling following the four-game road trip. The individual match ups will be fun at the least, but this is a true toss up.
Sunday, Feb. 11 @ Houston Rockets - Hard - The second night of a back to back on the road against the second best team in the league is not very fair. The Rockets should run the Mavericks off the floor, but Dallas tends to put up a fight (or pick a fight, if you happen to be Salah Mejri). Hopefully, it will at least be entertaining.
Tuesday, Feb. 13 vs Sacramento Kings - Medium - This will be the final game for the Mavericks prior to All-Star break while the Kings have a game against the Rockets the following night. The game may basically be a toss up, but this time around it’s the Kings on a road trip facing down a back to back, so the edge goes to the Mavs.
Friday, Feb. 23 @ Los Angeles Lakers - Medium - Starting off the post All-Star break is tough, particularly if the Mavericks get to LA the night before. Los Angeles nightlife is undefeated (unless you’re Dirk Nowitzi, who will go to bed at 8pm like the old man he is). I’m here for another Lonzo Ball-Dennis Smith Jr. match up, and it’ll probably be another close game. Watch the energy early. This game is a toss up.
Saturday, Feb. 24 @ Utah Jazz - Hard - The Jazz aren’t great (Donovan Mitchell sure is though) but playing the second night of a road back to back for Dallas isn’t great either. This one screams scheduled loss, though I can’t wait to see Mitchell vs. Smith.
Monday, Feb. 26 vs Indiana Pacers - Hard - The Pacers play with... uh... pace. At minimum it should be a great battle of back courts, but the Pacers have a fairly definable edge in front courts. Turner is the kind of player the Mavericks theoretically got Nerlens Noel to counter, but who knows if he’s even on the team at this point. It’ll be the third game in four nights for Dallas, so it will be interesting to see if they have the energy to keep up with Indiana.
Wednesday, Feb. 28 vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Hard - The Mavericks have won two of three contests this season against the Thunder. Dallas has survived the Russell Westbrook onslaught before, so if they can somehow win another game against the Thunder, that would be a highlight in a challenging season. But the Thunder have righted the ship at this point in the season and could be fighting for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Mavericks will get their best shot.
What is left to say about this team? Unless something interesting happens at the trade deadline, it’s safe to say that we know who these Mavericks are: a hard working team that just doesn’t have the talent or the depth to keep pace against most of the league.
Could they make this their first winning month? Sure. Could they lose seven, eight, or nine games? You betcha. The chorus to start losing on purpose gets louder with every game, but that’s not an option for the Mavericks (at least in an overt way). So I’m done making predictions.
The Mavericks are still worth watching, though, because they play hard every night, Dennis Smith, Jr. is awesome, and Dirk Nowitzki still exists.