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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks are lurking behind the contenders

The Mavericks make a final push with 10 games left.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Charlotte Hornets Brian Westerholt-USA TODAY Sports

After an eventful road trip came to a close the Mavericks find themselves in the thick of playoff positioning, packed together with three other teams in the middle of the Western Conference standings. The team mostly held steady in this week’s national power rankings. Even with two ugly losses at the end of a long road trip, the success this team has had since the calendar hit 2022 didn’t force a fall — especially with the combo play of Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie over the last several weeks.

ESPN

Rank: 8

Last week: 8

The Mavs ran out of gas at the end of a five-game road trip, suffering double-digit losses in a back-to-back against Philadelphia and Charlotte after winning the first three games. Spencer Dinwiddie hit game-winning 3s in Boston and Brooklyn. He joined Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan as the only players to hit last-minute winners in consecutive games this season. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 8 (Tier 2: Brink of Contention)

Last week: 7

Blast from the past: Pretty tough to go with anybody other than Dirk Nowitzki. Maybe if Tony Dumas had delivered on his promise of showing out in the 1995 dunk contest, then my thoughts here would be different, but Dirk has to be the go-to Dallas Mavericks guy in this kind of exercise. With his entire career in hindsight, I truly love the idea of being able to point at him on draft night back in 1998 — the goofy, gangly German kid — and telling everybody within earshot that this guy would score more points than Wilt Chamberlain in his career. They would have laughed you out of the room, and you would’ve needed to wait 20 years to run it in their faces.

Dirk was that guy. The title run was so impressive and cathartic because we saw just how much the embarrassment of losing in the first round in 2007 was to him. It sent him on a journey, and by the time he was staring the big three of Miami in the face in 2011, nothing could rattle him. Nothing could bother him. Nothing could keep him from quieting all those people calling him soft and a choker for playoff failures in the past. You know how difficult it is to become Teflon as an NBA legend? Dirk is exactly that.

Why are they ranked here? A loss to the Sixers was a little disappointing because they’d been on such a big run. Still waiting to see if this defensive execution is something that carries over into the playoffs, but they’ve been so fun the last three months.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 7

Last week: 8

It may not be long before the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans will be known as the Dinwiddie deal.

Porzingis, the highest-paid player in that trade, has been fine for Washington. But his contributions are going to a lottery team, while Dinwiddie is clearly raising the ceiling of a borderline contender.

In Wednesday’s road win over the Brooklyn Nets, Dinwiddie dropped 15 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning, buzzer-beating three.

In 12 games with the Mavs, Dinwiddie is averaging 17.9 points, 4.3 assists and 2.1 threes with a 43.1 three-point percentage. And his secondary playmaking has made it more difficult for defenses to overload on Luka Doncic. Against a scrambling defense, Dinwiddie will feast.

NBA

Rank: 6

Last week: 5

Luka Doncic somehow registered a minus-30 as he scored 37 points in less than 30 minutes on Saturday. He didn’t get much help offensively (Spencer Dinwiddie was out) and the Mavs allowed 91 points on 61 defensive possessions in those minutes. The last three games of their five-game road trip were a step back for their defense, which allowed the Nets, Sixers and Hornets to score almost 126 points per 100 possessions over the three games. It’s fair to say that they were fortunate to get a win in Brooklyn on Wednesday, with Dinwiddie improving to 9-for-17 on clutch 3s on his buzzer-beating game-winner.

For the season, the Mavs rank third in 3-point differential, having outscored their opponents by 5.7 points per game from beyond the arc. But they allowed Philly and Charlotte to shoot 36-for-80 (45%) from deep over the weekend, just the eighth and ninth times this season they’ve been outscored by double-digits on 3s.

The team that ranks fourth in 3-point differential (plus-5.4 points per game) is the team – Minnesota – that Dallas will face twice this week, currently leading the sixth-place Wolves by just a game and a half. Monday should be the first time in six games that the Mavs have had their top seven guys (sans Tim Hardaway Jr.), with Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock expected to return from absences. Their when-healthy starting lineup — Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell — has scored 123.4 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 29 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes. (Minnesota’s starting lineup has the second-best mark.)

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 10

Last week: 7

Is this Spencer Dinwiddie heater going to continue? The former Nets and Wizards guard has been on an absolute tear since joining the Mavericks, banging home buzzer beaters and taking a significant share of secondary ballhandling duties. Luka Dončić is creeping up the MVP ladder, and he’s already proven to be one of the game’s greatest players on the postseason stage. A sturdy backcourt mate could morph the Mavericks into the surprise contender of 2022.