The NBA finally released the long-awaited second half of the 2020-21 schedule last week. The Dallas Mavericks have navigated a brutal schedule during the first half of the season, so there’s been hope that the rest of the slate would offer some relief. Now that we have a look at what’s ahead for the Mavericks this spring, it’s clear things should get easier. Although some challenges still lurk.
So far, the Mavericks have played one of the toughest schedules in the NBA. They’ve played the second hardest schedule in the league based on opponents’ win percentage, trailing only the Kings. The opponents they’ve faced have a combined .517 win percentage, and includes playing the top four seeds in both conferences a total of nine times, including recent games against the 76ers and Nets.
Considering the lineup instability they’ve faced along with this schedule, it’s actually incredible they’re sitting two games above .500 right now. We’ve been saying for weeks the Mavericks should be able to get on a roll and finish out the season strong. With the calendar of games now set, we can see a path for them doing just that, as well as some potential pitfalls ahead.
The Mavericks’ remaining schedule is the fourth easiest based on opponents’ win percentage, per Tankathon. Dallas will play Detroit, Cleveland, and Minnesota twice each. At least two of those teams will definitely be tanking as the season wraps up. They do have four games remaining against the two L.A. teams, and one against the Jazz. But the rest of the schedule should easily make up for those quality opponents.
There’s a significant five-game stretch at the end of March and beginning of April that features the Pelicans, Thunder, Celtics, Knicks, and the Wizards, all on the road. That batch of games precedes games at home against the Jazz, Bucks, Spurs, and 76ers, so the Mavericks would do well to take care of business against inferior opponents when they can.
Luka Doncic’s star power continues to pull the Mavericks toward primetime, as they have 14 games on national TV. That includes consecutive games on TNT and ABC against the Lakers. Essentially, Luka vs. Lebron is becoming a showcase for the NBA.
The only real negative in the schedule is the amount of back-to-back games the Mavericks will have to play. Dallas will play on consecutive nights 10 times in the next three months. That’s not ideal for a team that’s posted an 11-22 record on the second night of a back-to-back during Luka’s career. If you extrapolate that win percentage, the Mavericks will probably only win three of those games.
The Mavericks are an inexperienced team, made up mostly of young stars or role players in their prime who have only been part of rebuilds. There’s not a battle-tested veteran to help them get back on track when games turn into slogs, which happens frequently on the second night of back-to-backs. Luka is learning how to win these games, but there’ll still be struggles.
But the biggest stretch might be the entire month of May. The Mavericks will wrap up the season with seven games against teams that will almost certainly be out of the playoff picture. They’ll face the Cavaliers twice, and end the regular season against the Timberwolves. The only tough game on the May slate is against the Nets in Dallas. The Mavericks couldn’t ask for a better schedule to end the season.
After fighting uphill all year, the Mavericks can finally get some momentum and look like the team a lot of people imagined when this season began. The schedule is set up for them to succeed. It’s up to them to take advantage of it.