The Mavericks nearly coughed up a win Wednesday night to the tanking San Antonio Spurs. Outside of recent injury troubles, few sequences felt more emblematic of this season than the final minute of regulation as the Mavericks tried valiantly to give away their lead.
Few things are going right for the team, as stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving try to work their way back to the floor. The ray of hope is that if that tandem can get healthy by the postseason (or let’s be honest, a play-in game) they will be a handful. And though they haven’t won much together there are some stats in this week’s Power Rankings watch that is encouraging.
Rank: 11 (Tier 3: Play-in Tournament Teams or Better)
Last week: 11
Lineup: Kyrie Irving | Luka Dončić | Tim Hardaway Jr. | Reggie Bullock | Maxi Kleber
Stats: 16 minutes | +29.6 net rating | 142.9 offensive rating | 113.3 defensive rating
The stats on this lineup are meaningless right now. It’s appeared in just two games this season with Kleber just getting back into the mix recently. But this is probably their best playoff lineup when we get down to big game situations. Josh Green has looked good in minutes, and Justin Holiday has a great chance to be a contributor. They’ve played Dwight Powell a ton as the big man, but he’s limited in what he can do. Christian Wood isn’t someone they can count on defensively. So they’ll need these five to be healthy and build chemistry. It has a little defensive potential and the offensive possibilities might be limitless.
Last week: 14
“No one is dying,” coach Jason Kidd said Monday night after the Mavs’ ninth loss in 12 games dropped them to under .500. That’s not exactly the kind of vibes the Mavs hoped for when they made the Kyrie Irving trade. A sliver of good news: There is hope that Irving (foot) and Luka Doncic (thigh) can return this week. Josh Green averaged 22 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in the two games the All-Stars missed. — MacMahon
Last week: 13
Before Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving played their first game together, the Mavs were 31-26. They’re now 34-34, at .500 for the first time since before Christmas (16-16) and in eighth place in the Western Conference, just a game ahead of the 12th-place New Orleans Pelicans. To make matters worse, both Doncic (thigh strain) and Irving (foot soreness) are dealing with injuries that had them in street clothes on Saturday.
The starless Mavs had a chance to win in Memphis, getting 43 combined points from young guards Jalen Green and Jaden Hardy. The latter had a big step-back 3-pointer in the final minutes, but young talent usually brings some lows with the highs, and the next two possessions resulted in a lost ball on a drive and a pass out of bounds. The Mavs blew an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead and 10 of their 11 losses (including all six of their losses with both Doncic and Irving) have been within five points in the last five minutes.
They’re 3-6 with both stars in uniform, having scored 121.1 points per 100 possessions (good!) and allowed 120.1 per 100 (bad!) over the nine games. Maxi Kleber has been available for four of their last six games, but the Mavs’ defense hasn’t been much better (118.9 allowed per 100) in his 96 minutes on the floor over that stretch.
Doncic is out and Irving is listed as questionable for the second half of the Mavs’ home-and-home set with the Grizzlies. The biggest game left on their schedule could be their visit to L.A. on Friday, with the 11th-place Lakers also a game behind them in the standings. The Mavs have won two of the first three meetings, but the loss was the one in which they had both Doncic and Irving.