The Dallas Mavericks continue to stagger back and forth, between a team capable of handily beating the league’s elite and looking lifeless against the lower tier. This is reflective in their record, and represents the lifespan of even a single game. No lead the Mavericks hold is safe. No game a certainty.
That is likely why they continue to surge forward and fall back in our power rankings watch across the NBA landscape. Since dropping two in a row to the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards the Mavericks have notched wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. So is the story of this season.
Rank: 10 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)
Last week: 7
Good wins: Memphis, Toronto and Portland. The Dallas Mavericks have some pretty impressive performances on their résumé so far this season. They beat Memphis by 41, outlasted Toronto in a really fun game and bounced back from two confusing losses by taking down Portland this weekend.
Bad losses: Oklahoma City, Orlando and Washington. The Mavs have some curious losses on their schedule so far as well, and two of them happened back-to-back this week. The Washington loss is less egregious, but how the hell did they not even crack 90 points against Orlando?
Not sure how to feel: Wins over Brooklyn and Utah. They caught Brooklyn at a very dysfunctional time for the Nets (when isn’t it, though?), and the Utah victory might not look so hot by the end of the season.
What does it mean? The Mavs possess one of the toughest schedules in the NBA so far, which makes those bad losses even more confusing. They should have looked at those games as gifts, although maybe they did and that’s why they didn’t bring it the way they should. They’re still trying to figure out some balance with attacking around Luka Dončić, as he’s putting up a historic usage rate. Spencer Dinwiddie is on fire as his running mate, but they’re going to need Christian Wood to be healthy and Tim Hardaway Jr. to get going soon. Tough schedule this coming week, but all four are at home.
Last week: 7
Dallas notched both a pair of wins (Brooklyn and Portland) and a pair of losses (Orlando and Washington) last week. The Mavericks’ success begins and ends with Luka Dončić, who is averaging 34.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.1 assists this season. In the Mavs’ 117–112 victory against the Trail Blazers, the sixth-best defensive-rated team in the league, Dončić logged his fourth 40-point, triple-double performance. For a team that plays at the slowest pace in the league, the Mavericks are fifth in the league in effective field goal percentage and eighth in three pointers made per game. They have the eighth-best offensive-rated team in the Association.
Last week: 8
It just may be that, with a historically-high usage rate (third highest in the 27 seasons of play-by-play data), Luka Doncic is going to look worn down from time to time. The 23-year-old seemingly hit a bit of a wall last week, shooting 17-for-50 as the Mavs lost both ends of a back-to-back in Orlando and Washington. Not coincidentally, those were two of the Mavs’ three worst offensive games of the season (97.5 points scored per 100 possessions over the two games). When you depend so heavily on one guy, you need that guy to be good. The Mavs are now 7-1 when Doncic has registered a true shooting percentage above 60% and 0-4 when he hasn’t.
He was back in form on Saturday, scoring 42 points (on 13-for-22 shooting and 15-for-18 from the line), grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists against Portland. And Doncic tied the game with a typically-methodical drive with 3 1/2 minutes to go. But it was Spencer Dinwiddie who drained three straight 3s to win the game for the Mavs. Dinwiddie is 6-for-10 on clutch 3s (including playoffs) since coming to the Mavs in February, 10 of the Mavs’ 12 games have now been within five points in the last five minutes, and it’s good to have options (or outlets) down the stretch.
The Mavs are 6-1 at home and they still have four more games left on a stretch where they’re playing 10 of 12 at American Airlines Center. They’ll have a rest advantage against the Clippers on Tuesday, but will be at a disadvantage when they host the Rockets the following night.
Last week: 9
Reggie Bullock was in a 3 of 25 funk from 3-point range before making four 3s in the fourth quarter Tuesday night to help the Mavs hold off a Clippers comeback bid. “I was so happy for him,” Luka Doncic said. “A lot of people put a lot of pressure on Reggie, talk about he can’t make a shot. But the things he does on the court for us don’t show up in the statistics a lot.” — MacMahon