The last week of Dallas Mavericks basketball was a microcosm for this season: an up and down affair with surprising duds, dramatic finishes, blowouts and blown leads. To move up in a tight Western Conference race among teams in the middle of the pack the Mavericks cannot lose games to the Chicago Bulls, to say nothing of scoring your last field goal with 4:40 left at home against the Indiana Pacers.
Luckily for a team slowly being devoured by injury, they’ll have fewer games this week. While there is little risk of falling back, if they want to stay in arm’s reach of spots four through six, they need to bounce back.
Here is a look at what’s ahead:
4. Utah Jazz (41-22)
vs TOR, @ OKC, vs NOP, vs MEM
The Jazz swept the week and won their last five, though their single truly impressive win happened Friday night on the road against the Boston Celtics. This week is a tougher slate, and with how easily the fourth spot has been coughed up lately, the Jazz will need a solid week to hold on.
Not only will they face a stout Raptors squad, and the surprising team right behind them in the standings with the Thunder, they also face two squads scrapping for the eighth spot in the West. The Jazz have gone 5-4 against these teams this season.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24) - 1.5 games back of 4th
vs UTA, vs MIN, @ WSH
Yes, the Thunder had it handed to them at home for much of their matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. But all was made well Sunday evening when they won a tight battle on the road against the Boston Celtics (is their an echo in here?).
The Thunder, who have to be the most surprising team in the league, are on an 8-2 run. They have a couple days off before facing the team just above them — they’ve split games with the Jazz this season — then have an easier end to the week.
6. Houston Rockets (39-24) - 2 games back of 4th
vs MIN, @ LAL, @ POR
Are the Rockets slumping, or has the league started to figure out their center-less trick? After going 10-2 since the end of January the Rockets managed to lose to the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic in one week. That’s...less than ideal.
A four-game losing streak means a fall of two spots, and just a game ahead of seventh. This really highlights how this cluster of teams can’t afford any real slump if they’re trying to lock the best seed possible. Houston gets a chance bounce back this week.
7. Dallas Mavericks (39-26) - 3 games back of 4th
@ SAS, vs DEN, vs PHX
The last win streak the Mavericks had of three-plus games ended January 17th. Since then they’ve coupled wins together frequently, and to their credit haven’t lost more than two in a row all season. They’ve all but locked a playoff spot down, and yet there’s a bit of a sour taste after some of these losses. They were half a game behind the Thunder in a week they faced the Clippers and Celtics, and end the week 1.5 back.
The clutch issues remain the same, though Luka’s overtime performance this week against the New Orleans Pelicans was nothing short of brilliant. The roller coaster of performances means they’re the only team from this group to not move in the standings. Still, they are just three games away from homecourt in the first round. It would be nice to see them string together three wins this week.