The Mavericks continue to do Mavericks things. They will notch a quality win over an opponent ahead of them in the standings, then drop a game to a team waiting in line for the lottery. So what to make of that pattern?
On the one hand they seemed destined to drop a few games late in the season and be sniffing 10th place in the West. But then again, maybe they trip in to 7th...6th...and find a favorable matchup with all those teams they beat ahead of them in the standings. It’s not the place you want to be nearing the halfway mark of the season. But here we are.
Here are this week’s power rankings watch:
Rank: 12 (Tier 4: Play-in Tournament Teams or Better)
Last week: 10
Big-ticket gift idea: Cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a horse to ride to the arena. Is this a dumb way of welcoming Kemba Walker to the Dallas Mavericks? Probably! But I’m excited about this addition. The Mavs desperately need some extra playmaking and initiation on offense. There’s only so much Luka Dončić and Spencer Dinwiddie can do there. Finally adding Walker to the mix and seeing him get acclimated is fun.
What Emma is getting them at the office: A DVD box set of “Shark Tank.” Is this sucking up to Mark Cuban by promoting his television show? Absolutely. But that’s the kind of job security you want to grab when you’re on the Mavs and you’re playing with top-of-the-line facilities and amenities. Secure the bag and secure the long-term job in Dallas.
Why this ranking? Good win over Portland, but the Mavs had two really good chances to upset Cleveland and couldn’t. Even without Dončić in the second game, Walker was so close to ending that one for Dallas in the win column.
Last week: 14
Dallas has lost 10 of its past 16 games, allowing 115.6 points per 100 possessions during that span, which ranks near the bottom of the league. More bad news is that the Mavs’ three best defenders are injured now. Maxi Kleber is out indefinitely with a torn right hamstring. Josh Green has missed the past six games with a sprained right elbow. And Dorian Finney-Smith exited Monday’s loss in Minnesota due to a strained right adductor. — MacMahon
Last week: 15
Luka Doncic continues to lead the league in time of possession for a third straight season, and it seems the Mavs are taking some precautions in regard to the load he’s been carrying. This weekend was the second straight back-to-back (and the third time this season) in which they rested Doncic in the second game. They’re 0-3 (with losses to the Rockets and Bulls) without him and their loss in Cleveland on Saturday dropped the Mavs back down to .500. But being .500 at this point in the season isn’t a terrible situation given the parity in the Western Conference. The Mavs are 8-3 against the eight West teams ahead of them in the standings after eviscerating the Blazers’ defense on Friday.
Kemba Walker was DNP’d in eight of his first nine games with the Mavs and has been playing behind Frank Ntilikina. But he got a chance to start with Doncic out on Saturday, and he led all scorers with 32 points, blowing past Jarrett Allen for the game-tying bucket at the end of the fourth quarter. The Mavs obviously can’t overuse Walker and he certainly has limitations on defense, but it will be interesting to see if he has a larger role going forward. Dallas has scored 12.8 fewer points per 100 possessions with Doncic off the floor (104.9) than it has with him on the floor (117.7), more than double his on-off differential from last season (5.1 per 100).
Fifteen of the Mavs’ 30 games have come against the Eastern Conference. They’ll now play 13 of their next 15 within the West, currently 10-5 (with five straight wins) against their own conference. Their game against the Lakers on Sunday will be just the Mavs’ sixth Christmas game and just their second at home, with the previous home game having been a Finals rematch loss to the Heat in 2011.
Last week: 8
Both Mavericks losses last week came against the Cavaliers—the first was by 15 points, the second by one in overtime. Kemba Walker, playing in his third game with Dallas, went for a game-high 32 points in Cleveland, but it wasn’t enough with Luka Dončić out. In the team’s two wins at home against the Thunder and Trail Blazers, Dončić went for 38 and 33 points, respectively, but he still relinquished his scoring title lead to Joel Embiid—for now.