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The Dallas Mavericks are eliminated from the playoffs

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For the second season in a row, we won’t see Dallas in postseason play.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Dallas Mavericks joined the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies in being officially eliminated from playoff contention this season.

This news shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of any of those teams, but that doesn’t make it any less bittersweet for fans of a franchise with such a long and consistent track record of excellence. Yes, this is a necessary step on the path to good odds in the draft lottery. But it’s also the third time in the seven seasons since winning the NBA Finals, and the second year in a row, that the Mavericks will miss the playoffs.

The 2011 Championship was the culmination of 11 straight seasons of playoff appearances ushered in in large part by the appearance of Dirk Nowitzki. In the decade leading up to the team’s win over the Miami Heat super team, the Mavericks were regularly competing deep into the post-season. Between Dirk’s consistently excellent play and the team’s playoff success, it was hard to imagine a day when we couldn’t count on both.

So as the team has come on harder times, it’s perhaps fitting that one of the few bright spots of this season has been Dirk’s still consistently excellent play. After a bit of a decline in efficiency last season (his 49.5 percent effective field goal percentage is among the lowest of his career), it wouldn’t have been unthinkable for the 39-year-old to take another step back this season.

Instead, his eFG is 55.9 percent, a career best driven by his insane 43.9 percent three-point shooting (also a career best). And despite his more limited minutes, he’s shooting this well on a volume of per-game attempts that is in line with some of the most productive seasons of his career.

Next season very well may be Dirk’s last. And while news of the team’s elimination from playoff contention may not be wholly welcome, it at least means the Mavericks are moving closer and closer to being able to surround Dirk with the talent he deserves.