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5 Mavericks games that will make you rejoice in the 2023-24 season

These are the wins that will make you smile...and maybe convince you the Mavericks are headed to the finals.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

We’re inching toward a new season for the Dallas Mavericks, a team with several new pieces collectively turning over what will hopefully a new and more fruitful leaf. Last year’s 38-44 11th place finish is never where you want to end up, but especially on the heels of a Western Conference Finals appearance.

There is reason for optimism heading into the year as the front office retooled on the fly. But, inevitably, every season there are a handful of surprise games. Ones that either make you declare your team is winning the finals or force you to buy a new television because you threw a remote through the last one.

This is our annual Rage and Rejoice series. The games that surprise you in the 82-game season. We already hit the ragers for this year. Now on to the games destined to catapult the Mavericks to the finals.

10/25 @ San Antonio Spurs

There are going to be a whole bunch of eyes on San Antonio on Wednesday the 25th, and the Mavericks will be there to play spoiler. Victor Wembanyama will be tasked with breathing new life into the franchise down south for the first time since the departure of Kawhi Leonard (but really since Tim Duncan left the floor). The future certainly looks bright for the young French talent, but the Mavericks won’t care about any of that.

With lingering injuries currently a big question mark for both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and the historical data saying teams that play internationally in preseason start slow, it doesn’t feel ripe to call the Mavericks shot here. But I think the Mavs, even if the rest of October is sluggish, will be ready for the opener. Expect the Mavericks offensive firepower to win out here, no matter how Wembanyama plays. If Luka plays, he likes putting on a show when the lights are brightest.

11/3 @ Denver Nuggets

This will be the Mavericks opener for the in-season tournament. Mentioned previously in the rage piece, who knows if the tournament will do anything to energize the players or fans. But like I said before, Doncic needs little motivation to bring extra fire to a game — especially when it’s an elite opponent.

Over the last four seasons the Mavericks have an 8-5 record against the Denver Nuggets (and 4-2 in Denver). It will be interesting to see how Nikola Jokic & Co. enters this season, coming off an incredible title run. Often defending champions are one extreme or the other: carrying the momentum from the previous season, or worn down and maybe even uninspired. Given coach Mike Malone and the talent on the roster it’s more likely the former. But that will bring a highly motivated Doncic to the floor. I predict the Mavericks get a hot night from one of the flamethrowers off the bench that carries them to victory.

12/25 @ Phoenix Suns

The Mavericks had a pretty fun rivalry brewing with the Suns after embarrassing them two seasons ago in the second round of the playoffs. Fans in Phoenix could claim a last laugh last season when the Mavericks failed to even make the playoffs. There was plenty opportunity for this back and forth to blossom, with several players on each team getting under the skin.

But the Suns have blown up most of their roster in an attempt to build a super team, and the Mavericks — while decidedly not a super team — have also done some reshaping. That may remove some of the venom from the matchups. These two teams met opening night last season. Of the two starting lineups only Luka Doncic and Devin Booker remain with their respective teams(!!!).

Even without more players sharing that history on the floor, no one should have trouble finding motivation with all eyes on them Christmas evening. Assuming health, which is a big question mark with both team’s stars, this will be a battle — a true test of the defensive pieces the Mavericks added this summer: Dereck Lively II, Grant Williams, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Dante Exum, and Derrick Jones Jr.

1/15 vs New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have young talent, but they haven’t been able to take the full next step of being a legitimate playoff team. They’ve made the play-in each of the last two years, but they’ll want more than that. That ceiling could be decided by Zion Williamson, an electric talent who hasn’t been healthy in quite some time. The former number one pick has played in just 114 games over four seasons.

Even though he’s at the start of a new five-year max deal, this feels like a make or break moment for Williamson, and in turn New Orleans. The Mavericks are in a not-so-dissimilar position. Doncic has proven himself time and again, and is in year two of a five year deal (the final year is a player option). But wiping clean the slate from last season will be very important. The Mavericks shouldn’t be in a similar place to their divisional opponent. But here we are, both teams looking for the next step in contention. It’s been a rare occasion to see Doncic and Zion face off. Maybe it’s playing with fire to earmark a matchup in the middle of the season, but I’m expecting fireworks here for a 1 PM local game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

1/17 @ Los Angeles Lakers

Just two days later the Mavericks will be out west, and there should be plenty to play for. The Mavs are 7-3 against the Lakers the last three seasons, including a 124-115 win on Christmas last year. LeBron James had 38 points in the game, but Doncic’s crew bested him (Luka finished with 32 points, nine rebounds and nine assists).

And oh, should I mention that Christian Wood, who started for the Mavericks in that game, had 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and two blocks?! Memories can feel so far in the rearview mirror sometimes. He’ll be suited up for the other side this time, with “revenge” on his mind — for all the ways the Mavericks wronged him...