Deep in the heart of every NBA offseason — after free agents have settled into new homes, summer league is a hazy memory, and the open void of August forces us to impatiently wait for training camp to begin — all that fanbases have left to do is debate the potential of your team.
Echoing through the halls of Twitter, fans argue how good or bad their team will be. And typically each side uses a handful of games from the previous season as grounds for their perspective:
“Remember when the Mavericks got chased out of the arena against Phoenix on opening night?”
“But the Mavs beat the Warriors, IN Oakland...while they were “tanking”...by THIRTY-FIVE!”
Every season there are a handful of games each team should win, but lose, and games they should lose but win. They are the games that make everyone want to pull out their hair and wonder how good the team really is. These are some of those games.
Five Unexpected Losses
@ Memphis Grizzlies (11/09/2019)
The Mavericks will be visiting the Grizz for the first time, after playing the night before at home against the New York Knicks. And while that Friday night battle won’t be nearly as charged as their Madison Square Garden visit a few days later, the Mavs’ first meet-up with the Knicks figures to have some extra adrenaline on both sides.
Memphis will also be on the second night of a back-to-back, and on paper their young cornerstones shouldn’t be equipped to outplay Luka Doncic & Co. But Ja Morant goes shot for shot with Luka Doncic, and Jaren Jackson Jr. blocks a shot to Graceland. A NOTE: If Kristaps Porzingis sits out the second night of this back-to-back (something that should likely happen), this loss becomes a little less hair ripping. But these are the games they have to win to be taken seriously.
@ Phoenix Suns (11/29/2019)
For whatever reason the Phoenix Suns have Dallas’ number. Over the last three seasons the Mavericks fashion a record of 3-8 against the lackluster Suns, with showings like last year’s opening night in tow.
This time around the Mavericks will visit Talking Stick Resort Arena on Black Friday, a little groggy from the holiday off. The Suns will probably have some two-way contract guard making his NBA debut post 25 points in the first half, while Devin Booker scores all 30 of the Suns’ points in the fourth, and Dallas drops another against the lottery dwellers.
vs New Orleans Pelicans (12/07/2019)
The Mavericks will face Zion Williamson’s squad three times in the first six weeks of the season. Facing a division opponent so many times early in the year is an interesting draw. Though the organizations are very familiar with each other, the Pelicans have a huge influx of rotation players they will be sorting through early. Hopefully the Mavericks take advantage.
On this day, though, they do not. Part of that is because of the 1 pm local start, an odd time for Saturday basketball, and this time the Pels connect all the dots — JJ Redick hits six threes and Zion dunks the ball so hard in the third quarter the rim microphones on both baskets explode and they have to pause the game while Mark Cuban sheds tears for rim mics everywhere.
vs Sacramento Kings (02/12/2020)
The Mavericks could not beat the Kings in their three meetings last season, and in mid-February they’re going to be dragging to the All-Star Break. December and January has some brutal stretches in their schedule and the Mavs will be looking for some daylight in winter.
If everything connects for the healthy version of the Mavericks, they can comfortably compete with this tier of team on any night. But even at home, these are the games that will catch them off-guard. The Mavericks go down by double digits early, make a valiant third quarter comeback, then Harrison Barnes has a revenge game. And by revenge I mean he scores 20 in the fourth and proceeds to shake every Mavericks player’s hand because he’s still very nice.
@ Atlanta Hawks (02/22/2020)
Without any of the players on either team getting to weigh in, there’s a not-so-quiet rivalry brewing between each team’s fanbase. This new era for each team will be forever linked by the trade of Trae Young and Luka Doncic on draft night, and Twitter has dumped gasoline on that flame.
The Mavericks have had some head-scratching stumbles against the Hawks and this one is no different. The Hawks are a young core that will have an up and down season, and by the end of February it will be clear their best path is to tank. And even still the Mavericks can’t stop Trae Young going 10-of-24 from three, and Cam Reddish has a career high for his rookie season.