Friday night’s Dallas Mavericks loss to the Houston Rockets felt like the team finally accepting both the injury struggles they’ve encountered and the toll it’s taking on those picking up the slack. Especially for Luka Doncic, who is playing outstanding but is also taking on the biggest minutes load of his career.
But the Mavericks continue to navigate, beating up on most of the bad teams they face while waiting for health to restore to put up a fight against the contenders. Here’s this week’s condensed, and a little late, Power Rankings Watch.
Last week: 10
Luka Doncic might be playing the best basketball of his career at a time the injury-ravaged Mavericks desperately need him. He has broken his own franchise record by scoring at least 30 points in 11 consecutive games. He averaged 35.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 10.4 assists in 39.5 minutes per game during that stretch, carrying a massive burden with several key Mavs dealing with injuries, including the right heel contusion that has sidelined co-star Kyrie Irving since Dec. 8. One member of the supporting cast who has stepped up: Dante Exum, who has averaged 16.1 points and 4.6 assists as a starter over the past seven games to help Dallas go 5-2. — MacMahon
Last week: 11
The Mavs are one of two teams (the Bucks are the other) with three rest-disadvantage wins, improving to 3-2 in rest-disadvantage games with their win over the Lakers on Tuesday. They were outscored by 32 points (56-24) in the restricted area, but were 21-for-43 (49%) from 3-point range, with Dante Exum going 7-for-9. Five in those seven makes came in the fourth quarter as the Lakers suffered their first loss (they were previously 11-0) when leading after the third.
The Mavs are now 6-2 without Kyrie Irving, having scored pretty efficiently (120.1 points per 100 possessions) over those eight games. They’ve still been much better with both Irving and Luka Doncic on the floor (plus-6.0 per 100) than they’ve been with either on the floor without the other.
Doncic has scored at least 30 points in 10 straight games, the longest streak of his career. He’s still registering the highest true shooting percentage of his career (61.6%), even though he’s seen a pretty big drop in free throw rate from last season and he’s cooled off a bit with his pull-up 3s (31.5% over these last 10 games).
The Mavs are one of seven teams with a better record on the road (9-4) than they have at home (7-5), and their win in Portland began a stretch where they’re playing seven of 10 on the road. That stretch includes big games at Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Minnesota and Golden State.
Rank: 12 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)
Last week: 10
Holiday wish list: A healthy Kyrie Irving.
I know, I know. That’s asking for a Christmas miracle with his playing history. And it’s unfortunate because he’s so immensely talented and entertaining. But I want to see what this looks like for an extended stretch with Kyrie and Luka Dončić both on the floor together. It’s been a winning formula with them together this season. They’re 10-6 with a plus-6.0 net rating when they’re on the court.