The Dallas Mavericks have two weeks of basketball to decide their season. With the trade deadline looming just a week away, and eight games before a much needed break, the team has the deepest gut check it has faced this season.
Back in the middle of November I wrote that the remaining slate that month would define the season as a whole. It was a step-up in competition at the time, splitting games at home and on the road almost evenly. The Mavericks went 4-5 in that stretch, and were 10-10 on the season. In many ways it was the foreshadowing we were looking for, a measuring stick for the quality of this roster.
Since November the Mavericks have gone 17-15, an up and down 27-25 season to date. They find themselves fending off a play-in spot, almost equal distance from homecourt advantage and being out of the playoffs altogether. But these next eight games could truly decide the season.
Of the eight remaining games prior to the All-Star break, seven are against teams within three games of the Mavericks in the Western Conference standings, and the eighth game is against the first place Denver Nuggets. Six of these games are on the road. Much like the teams around them the Mavericks are an unsteady 9-16 away from home this season. Though they have played their conference counterparts well, posting a 19-12 record against the West.
The schedule is not for the faint of heart: vs New Orleans, at Golden State, at Utah, at Los Angeles, at Sacramento, at Sacramento (back-to-back), vs Minnesota, vs Denver. There are few bright spots or moments of rest in these final days. The Mavericks are still battling key injuries, and will need to squeeze whatever bit of potential they can from a lacking bench.
If the goal for now is to avoid a risky play-in then circle the games against the Pelicans, Warriors, Jazz, Clippers and Timberwolves, all teams at the level or behind them in the standings. The bright spot here is the Mavericks have played teams at or above .500 better than those below (15-13). The only team from this group they haven’t faced is the Sacramento Kings, and the Mavericks are 6-5 against the rest of this group on the year.
All those indicators could tell you that this stretch might be treading more water. And if so perhaps the Mavericks catch a few breaks along the way, enough to create some separation from those playing catch up.
If MFFLs need something to cling to you’re in luck, because the team still has Luka Doncic fresh off a 53 point performance in a win against the Detroit Pistons to close out January. And here is what he’s posted in the games from February 1 until the All-Star break over the course of his career, nothing to scoff at:
- 2018-19: 23.5 points - 9.2 rebounds - 7 assists - 32.7 percent from three (six games)
- 2019-20: 33 points - 12 rebounds - 8 assists - 42.9 percent from three (one game)
- 2020-21: 33.1 points - 7.4 rebounds - 9.4 assists - 43.1 percent from three (eight games)
- 2021-22: 34.4 points - 10 rebounds - 9.6 assists - 41.5 percent from three (seven games)
- AVG: 31 points - 9.7 rebounds - 8.5 assists - 40.1 percent from three
Doncic has played some of his best basketball in the month of February over the course of his career, and it’s possible he’ll be asked to do more than ever before to get through such a gauntlet. It’s gut check time in Dallas.