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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks hold steady

Two dramatic games out of the break has the Mavericks holding their spots in national rankings, and forcing attention on their solid play the last two months.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Coming on the heels of a thrilling road win, the Dallas Mavericks enter an important week of games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz. The Mavericks are still sniffing behind the Jazz for home court in the first round, but they’re also deadlocked with the Denver Nuggets for fifth.

In Power Rankings world the Mavericks are mostly holding steady. But one thing is certain: no one wants to face this version of Luka Doncic combined with a solid Mavericks defense. Especially if the additions of Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans turn in to reliable contributors.

ESPN

Rank: 9

Last week: 8

The Mavs’ primary motivation for their trade-deadline deal was to move on from Kristaps Porzingis and his max contract, but Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans have been significant contributors off the bench since arriving from Washington. Dinwiddie has averaged 14 points on 63.9% shooting from the floor, highlighted by his 24-point performance in Sunday’s comeback win over the Warriors. Bertans has averaged 9.8 points and is shooting 39.3% from 3-point range. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 10 (Tier 2: Brink of contention)

Last week: 10

First Quarter Grade: B- | Ranked 17th

Second Quarter Grade: B+ | Ranked 11th

Third Quarter Grade: A-

How we feeling? The Dallas Mavericks look fantastic lately, and Luka Doncic is surging. Over his last 17 games, Luka is averaging 32.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.0 assists with 47.1/40.3/74.2 shooting splits. If he did that this entire season, the Mavs would probably have a handful more wins, and Luka would be right in the thick of the MVP conversation with Jokic, Embiid, DeRozan and Giannis. He played himself into shape, and Mark Cuban even remarked on the idea that the public body and conditioning shaming of Luka done in early December got him motivated in the right direction. The Mavs still need another guy to step up consistently, but nobody should want to play against this defense and that version of Luka.

Prediction for the final stretch: The Mavs fend off Miami to finish with a top-five defense in the NBA. Mavs have a 0.2 points per 100 possessions lead on the Heat’s defensive rating, currently. They keep chugging ahead and the Jason Kidd-coached defensive turnaround this season finishes in the top 5.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 8

Last week: 8

It may be too late to truly crash the MVP party, but Luka Doncic is at least heading toward the front door. A few more weeks like his last few, and he’ll be knocking on it.

Over his last 20 games, Luka is averaging 30.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 3.0 threes while shooting 35.5 percent from three. Since the Kristaps Porzingis trade (four games), he’s putting up a whopping 41.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 5.5 threes.

That move may have had a lot to do with increasing roster flexibility going forward, but it might also unleash a somehow scarier version of Doncic. For years, it’s felt like the Dallas Mavericks were walking some kind of tightrope in getting KP involved while still allowing Luka to do what he does. Now, it’s almost entirely the latter, and the added freedom is leading to some outlandish production.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 12

Last week: 11

Is it the Spencer Dinwiddie effect? Dallas is 3–1 since swapping Kristaps Porzingis for the veteran guard, who’s been coming off the bench, but its success obviously starts and ends with Dončić. He went for 34 points in Sunday’s road win against the Warriors and is assembling his best scoring month of the season.

NBA

Rank: 7

Last week: 8

The Mavs have generally been at their best (plus-8.8 points per 100 possessions) in the first quarter and their loss in Utah on Friday was a tale of two halves, where they scored just 42 points on 44 possessions after halftime after scoring 67 on 49 before. They had chances down the stretch and were 3-for-13 on clutch shots, going 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the final three minutes.

But the Mavs now lead the league with 12 wins (they’re 12-20) in games they trailed by double-digits, with their comeback from 21 points down at Golden State on Sunday being their first win in a game they trailed by more than 20 points since they had two in the 2020 bubble. They’re still just 18-for-78 (23%) on clutch 3s, but Spencer Dinwiddie (2-for-24 on clutch 3s in his final full season with Brooklyn, 7-for-15 this season) hit a big one off a feed from Luka Doncic, capping a remarkable, 26-1 run and putting the Mavs up six with less than two minutes left. Dinwiddie has come off the bench in his four games with his new team, but he’s played as many minutes with Doncic (72) as he has with any other teammate and the Mavs have scored 116.8 points per 100 possessions in those 72 minutes.

The Mavs will get two more chances against the Jazz later this season (having lost the first two meetings by a total of nine points) and the Warriors will get another chance against the Mavs on Thursday.