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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks contend on the fringes

It is the real REAL homestretch.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It was a roller-coaster weekend for the Dallas Mavericks, an embarrassing game against the Washington Wizards then a thrilling convincing victory against the Milwaukee Bucks — both on the road. With just a handful of games left on the schedule, the Mavericks continue to lurk on the fringes of contention.

Now they will jockey for final position in the playoff standings, inching toward securing homecourt in the first round and maybe even the third spot among the west. Here is where the national media ranks them in this week’s Power Rankings Watch.

ESPN

Rank: 7

Last week: 8

Luka Doncic had another dominant performance against a fellow superstar in Sunday’s win over Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks, when Doncic had 32 points, 8 rebounds and 15 assists. It was the third 30-point, 15-assist performance by Doncic this season, matching the total by the rest of the league. It was also Doncic’s fifth straight 30-point game, tying the second-longest such streak in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 5 (Tier 2: Brink of contention)

Last week: 7

Was this season a success? I’m not sure this regular season could have gone better for the Dallas Mavericks. Jason Kidd came in and found a way to fix the defense. At a certain point halfway through the season, the offense got a lot better. They made a trade at the deadline to rid themselves of the Kristaps Porzingis issue, and it helped continue to galvanize this team. Now they have a real shot at the No. 3 seed. Not to mention, Luka Doncic could end up finishing in the top five in MVP voting. Great season for the Mavs that will be vindicated through and through with a first-round victory.

Remaining schedule: Pistons (road), Blazers (home), Spurs (home)

Final week focus: Get that third seed. These are three very easy, winnable games for the Mavs if they remain focused. Detroit is their toughest opponent with the way the Pistons are playing. Portland isn’t trying to put competitive teams on the floor. And San Antonio shouldn’t be able to win in Dallas if the Mavs play their guys.

NBA

Rank: 6

Last week: 5

The case for the Mavs: A top-10 defense and an elite offensive talent is a nice combo with which to go into a playoff series. There’s no good defensive coverage for Luka Doncic, who’s averaged 32.1 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 56.5%) and 8.6 assists over his last 28 games. Over that stretch, the Mavs have scored 119.2 points per 100 possessions in his 1,018 minutes on the floor, and he’ll get more minutes on the floor in the postseason.

The case against the Mavs: They can still have some rough nights offensively. The Mavs are the jump-shootingest team in the league, with 57% of their shots (the league’s highest rate) having come from outside the paint. But they have just one of the 67 players who’ve shot 38% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts, and that’s Dorian Finney-Smith at 38.3%. In a confounding loss in Washington on Friday, Mavs not named Doncic shot 7-for-29 (24%) from beyond the arc.

With their win in Cleveland on Wednesday, the Mavs moved into third place. And then they went to Washington, got beat by Kristaps Porzingis, and fell back into fourth. They hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the third-place Warriors, but would need help to move back up. Both teams play their final three games against teams with losing records.

Get ready for lots ‘o Luka in the postseason. In last year’s playoffs, Doncic averaged an amazing 12.1 minutes of possession per game, 2.5 more than any other player. And while Spencer Dinwiddie has hit some big shots, his addition hasn’t exactly made the Mavs offense less reliant on its star. Doncic has averaged 9.8 minutes of possession since Dinwiddie’s arrival, up from 9.2 minutes prior to that.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 6

Last week: 6

On Tuesday, Luka Doncic totaled 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in less than 30 minutes. According to StatMuse, it was his second sub-30-minute triple-double, which ties him with Giannis Antetokounmpo for the all-time lead.

But he wasn’t done there. On Wednesday in the second night of a back-to-back, Luka went for 35 points, 13 dimes and nine boards in a road win over the reeling (and injured) Cleveland Cavaliers.

With the postseason around the corner, it looks like Playoff Luka (who has career playoff averages of 33.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.8 rebounds) is activating.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 6

Last week: 6

The Mavericks took control of the fourth-place spot in the West with a 3–1 week, and third place is within reach. As the Warriors continue to struggle, Dallas sits just a half-game behind Golden State in the standings with three games to go. Emphasized by a win against the Bucks, the Mavericks seem to be hitting their stride at the right time since the Spencer Dinwiddie acquisition and will have the opportunity to finish the regular season on a strong note.