The Mavericks’ 131-110 loss Tuesday in New Orleans leaves Dallas (8-3) on the brink of elimination in the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. At just 1-2 in Western Conference Group B play, with a minus-14 point differential and just one group game remaining, the Mavericks are two games back in the loss column in the group after Tuesday’s NBA slate, with odds almost just as slim of winning the Western Conference wild card selection.
The Denver Nuggets (9-2) beat the Los Angeles Clippers (3-7, 0-2) 111-108 in the late window Tuesday to move to 2-0 and stay in front in Western Conference Group B.
Do you care? Should you care?
In the scope of a full NBA season, Tuesday’s stinker of a loss to a Pelicans bunch who came in riding a five-game losing streak might just be an aberration for the Mavericks — a bump in the road on the way toward a long season’s worth of progress. But with the manufactured stakes of the In-Season Tournament built into the early part of this year’s NBA schedule, a loss like this one stings a little more — at least in the players’ pocketbooks, if not in the heart and soul of every fan.
The Mavericks are all but out of the running for that extra $500,000 payday per player that will be awarded to the NBA Cup champions. In this ill-fated endeavor, the Mavericks will only get to play on their tricked-up In-Season Tournament floor once, on Nov. 28 against Houston, since manufacturing issues prevented the team from unveiling it as planned on last week against the Clippers.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd joked that it was “the floor and their jerseys” that threw the Mavericks off Tuesday in New Orleans in the postgame presser, before reiterating that it was actually the 20 turnovers the Mavericks gave away that decided the outcome against the Pelicans.
“I think the floors are hard to watch on TV,” Kidd added. “The league might have gone a little too far with the floors.”
But Mavericks star guard Luka Dončić took the criticism of New Orleans’ King Cake-themed floor a step further.
“I mean, outside [of] all the colors, the court today was really bad,” Dončić said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “It was really slippery. And then some places the ball didn’t really bounce. So you know, if we’re going to have these courts, we’re going to make sure that it’s a stable court, so you can play on it. Like in Dallas, you know? It wasn’t stable, so we had to change it.”
Luka Doncic, when I asked him about the specialized in-season tournament court that was used tonight. pic.twitter.com/dJdzqXirpZ— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) November 15, 2023
So maybe the end of the Mavs’ first In-Season Tournament experience came just at the right time after all. Perhaps it was wearing out its welcome.
But for some, the show must go on. The Nuggets are in front in Western Conference Group B, but the Rockets are still alive as well at 1-0 after Tuesday night’s games. In Group A, The Lakers and the Jazz are both 2-0, and in Group C, the Timberwolves are in front at 2-0, while the Kings are still alive at 1-0 as well.
In the Eastern Conference, the Group A frontrunners are the Pacers (7-4, 2-0) and the Hawks (6-4, 1-0), the Group B frontrunners are the Heat (7-4, 2-0) and the Bucks (6-4, 1-0) and the Group C frontrunners are the Celtics (8-2, 1-0) and the Nets (6-5, 2-1).
The NBA announced this week that viewership for In-Season Tournament games is up 55% versus last season’s comparable viewing windows, an average viewer increase from 1.09 million to 1.7 million per game.
Has the In-Season Tournament moved the needle for you? Or are you glad we don’t have to talk about it anymore? RIP Mavs, and let us know in the comments.