The Dallas Mavericks are taking advantage of a soft part of their schedule, and have made a move up the Western Conference rankings. The team is riding a four-game win streak thanks to the insane heroics of Luka Doncic during Tuesday night’s win against the New York Knicks. They wrap up 2022 with a couple games that should extend the streak, though their struggles against teams with a losing record is well known.
There is some fortune in all this, as the team reached this part of their schedule while battling a bad injury bug. They are playing without Maxi Kleber, Josh Green, and Dorian Finney-Smith — all key players to the rotation. It’s forced a variety of supporting cast into vital roles, especially Christian Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr. Their effectiveness have been a roller-coaster or results. The important thing is the Mavericks pocketing more wins that should be easily handed over. Here are the updates to the Mavericks’ standings in league power rankings.
Last week: 16
Luka Doncic had one 50-point performance in the first 293 games of his career. He has hit that milestone twice in the past three contests, including the historically unprecedented 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist performance in Tuesday’s overtime win against the Knicks. — MacMahon
Last week: 14
The Mavs still have a better record against the other 16 teams that are currently over .500 (11-8) than they do against the 13 teams that are currently below .500 (6-8). That latter mark includes losses to Orlando, Washington, Houston and Detroit, and the Mavs lost (with a rest advantage) in Minnesota on Monday, getting outscored by 40 points (58-18) in the paint, even though Rudy Gobert wasn’t playing.
They were outscored by 24 points in the paint in the same building (and with Gobert in uniform) two nights later but made up for that discrepancy at the free-throw line and from beyond the arc. (The Mavs have outscored their opponents from 3-point range in 30 of their 34 games.) And the Wednesday win was the start of what’s now a three-game streak, with the Mavs also taking care of business against the Rockets and Lakers. The Houston win came with 50 points (and 10 assists) from Luka Doncic, and the Christmas victory was the fifth time this season that the Mavs have scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions. (That’s the second most for any team, behind the Celtics’ six.)
Christian Wood has started the last five games and he had 30 points against the Lakers on Sunday, just the Mavs’ fifth win in the 14 games in which he’s scored 20 or more. Dorian Finney-Smith has missed the last three games, but Dallas has outscored its opponents by 13.2 points per 100 possessions (scoring 123.1 per 100) in 336 total minutes with Doncic, Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the floor together.
The Mavs will finish their season series with the Rockets with two more games in the next eight days. Their first meeting with the Spurs is Saturday in San Antonio, and it should be noted that six of those eight losses to currently-below-.500 teams have come on the road.
Rank: 11 (Tier 3: Play-in Tournament Teams or Better)
Last week: 12
The Dallas Mavericks are very predictable at the end of games. It keeps them from putting teams away early and making it easy on themselves. But you can kind of do that when Luka Dončić is the guy everybody knows is getting the ball. The net rating is bad, but the record is good so far.
Mr. Reliable: Luka Dončić | 45.3 FG | 19.0 3FG | 75.0 FT | 28.6 points per 36 | 7.6 rebounds per 36 | 8.0 assists per 36 | 2.7 turnovers per 36
He still takes confounding 3-point attempts and doesn’t hit a decent percentage of them, but the heliocentric nature of the Mavs’ clutch attack is because Dončić is really that good. He’s never afraid of the moment, and he’s always ready to make teams pay. The Mavs are 12-8 in the 20 clutch games Dončić has played in this season.
Mr. Unreliable: Tim Hardaway Jr. | 28.6 FG | 20.0 3FG | 45.5 FT | 10.8 points per 36 | 5.0 rebounds per 36 | 2.9 assists per 36 | 0.0 turnovers per 36
The Mavs do miss Jalen Brunson at the end of games, but most of their role players have stepped up when called upon to make shots. The thing concerning to me about the Hardaway struggles is the bad free-throw shooting. It’s only 11 attempts, but he should be knockdown with those.
Last week: 14
The injury to Maxi Kleber has forced Christian Wood into the starting lineup for the past six games, and while he had his best game of the season on Christmas scoring 30, he’s been up and down outside that (+1 in the other five games total). He is defending better and blocking more shots, but he’s out there for his scoring and that’s been inconsistent. Wood is now extension eligible and the Mavericks have a decision to make — is he a key part of their future next to Luka Doncic? Because Doncic is the sun that everything revolves around in Dallas, and in case you question that here is his 60-point triple-double from Tuesday to remind you.