The Dallas Mavericks wrapped up 2023 with a solid win against a Golden State Warriors who, while not being up to their normal standard, have been solid of late at home. That combined with a solid showing on Christmas night against the troubled Phoenix Suns gives hope that the Mavericks can carry some momentum into the new year, and maybe even get a bit healthier.
While the team didn’t surge up the power rankings this week, they’ve managed to hold steady as they continue to beat up on bad teams and put up a decent fight against most contenders.
Last week: 9
The Mavs have the worst record (5-9) in games played between the nine West teams that are currently over .500, having lost three big games last week. But they found their offense over the long weekend and kept the Suns from rejoining that over-.500 group, thanks in part to a special Christmas performance from Luka Doncic.
Doncic’s streak of 11 straight games with at least 30 points came to an end against the Clippers on Wednesday (when he scored 28). He missed a game in Houston two nights later and the Mavs had their first three-game losing streak of the season, having scored just 103.3 points per 100 possessions over the three games.
But they got to play the Spurs on Saturday, when Doncic recorded a 39-point triple-double. And he saved another special performance for the holiday, recording the fourth-ever 50-point game on Christmas as the Mavs kept the Suns on the road to nowhere. His ability to make plays (and get fouled) when he gets in the paint remains the most important part of his game, but Doncic was also 8-for-16 from 3-point range on Monday, continuing to have the best 3-point shooting season of his career (38.7%).
Dereck Lively II returned from a four-game absence on Christmas and recorded the second 20-and-10 game of his rookie season It was the seventh game that he started alongside Dante Exum and the Mavs have now outscored their opponents by more than 30 points per 100 possessions in 124 total minutes with Doncic, Exum and Lively on the floor together.
Their Christmas win in Phoenix was the middle game of the Mavs’ only stretch of five games in seven days, which concludes with a visit to Minnesota on Thursday. They shot just 7-for-32 (22%) from 3-point range in an 18-point loss (at home) to the Wolves less than two weeks ago.
Last week: 12
Luka Dončić missed Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, leading to one of the season’s more predictable (though relatively competitive) losses.
But before that absence, Luka had emphatically joined the MVP conversation in recent weeks (if he wasn’t there already).
Luka’s come in under 30 points just once since November 22. In that 15-game stretch, he’s putting up 36.7 points, 10.3 assists, 8.8 rebounds, 3.9 threes and 1.6 steals.
Last week: 9
Kyrie Irving has been ramping up his on-court workouts as he nears his return from a right heel contusion that has sidelined him since Dec. 8. But even after his return, coach Jason Kidd plans to keep guard Dante Exum in the starting five, bumping Grant Williams to the bench to prioritize playmaking and on-ball defense. The lineup of Luka Doncic, Irving, Exum, Derrick Jones Jr. and Dereck Lively II is plus-35 in 22 minutes. The four-man group, excluding Irving, is plus-76 in 71 minutes. The trio of Doncic, Exum and Lively is plus-86 in 180 minutes. Lively, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Mavs’ Christmas Day win over the Suns after missing the previous four games with a sprained ankle, has been a driving force in Dallas’ success. The Mavs are 17-7 when Lively plays and 1-5 when he doesn’t. — MacMahon
Rank: 13 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)
Last week: 12
Something I like: It doesn’t even make sense how good Luka Dončić is. You can slice up any segment of the season, and his numbers are ridiculous. His last 14 games are 37.6 points, 11.4 assists, and 9.2 rebounds with 62.5 percent true shooting.
Something I don’t: Kyrie Irving has missed nine straight games, and the dreams of him putting in close to a full season are pretty much gone.
A question I have: Can the Mavs swing any deal to get a big man who can rebound and defend as Dereck Lively II gains experience?