Every season, the Dallas Mavericks lose a handful of games in agonizing fashion. Sometimes they happen in the depths of winter when the slog of the season is in full force — and let’s be honest, recently they’ve been when the Mavericks try to steal rest for Luka Doncic and the rest of the team can’t stay afloat.
Other times they’re in front of a national audience, when we as fans are dying for the Mavericks to wipe a title contender off the map and instead, they get blown out of the water, exposed in all the worst ways.
These are the games that will make you tear your clothes and set your neighborhood on fire (please don’t do these things) during the 2021-22 season.
Oct 21 — @ Atlanta Hawks (6:30 CT, TNT)
The NBA scheduling gods are going to ride the Luka Doncic-Trae Young matchup to the bitter end (as they should). This year, the Mavericks open their season in Atlanta against the Hawks. The margin of victory in the two teams’ last three games is a combined 11 points, so it should be a thrilling kick off, and not just because this fun non-conference matchup has turned into a strange Twitter rivalry for both fanbases.
The Hawks made quite the statement early in the summer with a deep postseason run on the back of Young’s dynamic playmaking and a strong supporting cast — both young talent and reliable vets. Jason Kidd will still be working out the mechanics of the roster and won’t be ready for Tra-OH NO, IT’S ANOTHER DELON WRIGHT REVENGE GAME?! While Rick Carlisle won’t be around for Wright’s taunting, he feasts on the bench unit and helps push the Hawks over the top. I don’t know what happens in the rest of Wright’s career, but it would be entertaining if every season he popped up on a different team to terrorize the Mavericks on a random Thursday night.
One stat: Prior to the first Doncic-Young face off (a 111-104 Atlanta victory), the Hawks had won 10 straight against the Mavericks. Since then, the Mavericks have won four of the last five. The lone loss? Last February without Doncic, when the Mavericks lost by just four points.
Dec 19 — @ Minnesota Timberwolves (7 CT)
There’s always chaos with the Timberwolves, and this season is no different. But while they’ve yet to build a legitimate team around Karl-Anthony Towns, the team has accumulated enough athletic prospects to give teams like the Mavericks trouble.
But it won’t just be those athletes that catch Dallas on a bad night. Luka and the Mavs will have just squared up with the Los Angeles Lakers four nights prior. Coming off a charged up national event with too many nights off in between, the Mavericks come out flat and drop the first of the home-and-home against the T-wolves.
One stat: Since the start of the 2018 season (nine games), the Mavericks have averaged 123.7 points against the Timberwolves, with Minnesota averaging 117 points. Expect a high-scoring affair.
Jan 2 — @ Oklahoma City Thunder (6 CT)
New Year’s Hangover. Any questions? Deep in my bones I feel that, given the opportunity, Luka & Co. like to party and will immediately feel the effects of their ways. But I could be wrong, at least when it comes to early January games, because in the Luka era, the Mavericks have won all three of their January 1 or 2 games (facing the Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, and Miami Heat for inquiring minds).
The Mavericks may be 6-3 against the Thunder over the last three seasons, but I’m still circling this as possible Pepto Bismol chugging contest. I have visions of human praying mantis Aleksej Pokusevski lurking in the corners, hoisting threes and haunting the dreams of every Maverick, a la Orin from Parks and Rec.
One stat: Tim Hardaway Jr. has faced the Thunder just three times since arriving in Dallas, but has shot 12-of-28 from three in those games. Who knows where Jason Kidd will slot THJ, but he will no doubt be vital this season.
Feb 17 — @ New Orleans Pelicans (7 CT)
The final game before the NBA All-Star break. The Mavericks, hopefully in a good place in the standings, face an opponent that is perpetually a mess, injured, or both. A perfect opportunity to punt on a game before everyone heads to vacation.
These are the sort of games that playoff teams overlook in the deepest dregs of a season. And the hope, as you fill in the patches of hair you’ve pulled out, is that it isn’t a loss that comes back to bite the team in the standings late in the year.
One stat: Though the teams played each other three times last season, Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson went head-to-head just once. But when they did, they put on a show. Zion had 36 points on 14-of-15 shooting and Luka exploded for 46 points, eight rebounds, and 12 assists.
March 27 — vs Utah Jazz (6:30 CT, NBAtv)
I can’t explain it, but I’m convinced the Mavericks will beat the Jazz every time the teams play, never mind that Dallas is 3-7 against the Jazz in the Luka era.
They’ll also meet late Christmas night, and I’ll be putting all my presents in that basket for a big Mavericks win that game. But the Jazz inevitably catch the Mavs off guard at some point and absolutely torch them, so I’m picking their fourth and final regular season matchup as the last game for this list.
One stat: Rudy Gobert has 57 career blocks against the Mavericks, third most against an opponent for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Coming up soon: five games this season that will make you rejoice