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Grading the Mavericks: Kyrie Irving has saved Dallas’ season

The Mavericks could make a deep playoff run

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks won two games on the road against the Spurs and Lakers and lost another at home to the Grizzlies this week. Luka Doncic continues to be out, but Kyrie Irving made his return in Los Angeles on Friday.

Team Grade: B-

The Mavericks have been a poor road team the entire season but got two much-needed road victories in the past two games. In both instances, the Mavericks found ways to win, but only after they almost found ridiculous ways to lose. Against the Spurs, it was this pass by Maxi Kleber up two points that led to San Antonio tying the game and sending it to overtime:

Against the Lakers, it was blowing a nine-point lead going into the fourth. Kleber made up for his mishap in the previous game by scoring six points in the final seven seconds, including the game-winning shot:

Dallas now finds themselves in sixth place, one game back of fifth. Our editor, Josh Bowe, analyzed the state of the team as well as anyone could:

They have 11 games remaining and need to win six or seven of them to ensure that they stay out of the play-in. The improbable win over the Lakers was big not only because they beat a team that was trying to catch them in the standings, but because Dallas now has the momentum they need to stay afloat and get healthy before the postseason. Whether they lose in round one or make a surprise Finals appearance, the next two months will be entertaining.

Straight A’s: Kyrie Irving

Not only does Irving give Dallas a second star with Luka Doncic, but he gives them hope when Doncic is unavailable to play. With all of the injuries in the league, depth has never mattered more. Normally, a road game in Los Angeles without Doncic is an automatic loss. However, the addition of Irving quite literally saved Dallas’ season.

They got him for this very reason: to make the Mavericks competitive in the minutes Doncic is off the floor. Irving had 38 points, six rebounds, and six assists in 39 minutes against the Lakers, including the pass to Kleber that led to the game-winning shot. The win in Los Angeles prevented Dallas from falling to ninth and could be the turning point in their late-season push. When you zoom out, the Kyrie Irving acquisition planted seeds for Dallas’ revival one month ago and started to bear fruit when Dallas beat the Lakers. If Dallas can win the minutes (and games) without Doncic, they will be tough to beat when both Irving and Doncic are available to play.

Failing Miserably: Late-game execution

Despite the fact that Dallas has won two consecutive games in the closing minutes, their late-game decision-making still needs a lot of work. Firstly, having Maxi Kleber and Theo Pinson inbounding the ball during key possessions in back-to-back games was perplexing. Kleber’s pass led to a turnover and the Spurs forcing overtime, and Pinson nearly got a five-second violation twice.

Secondly, Dallas once again gave up an uncontested layup on an inbound play in the final seconds of a game. First, it was Brook Lopez slipping to the cup to win the game, and now Keldon Johnson getting a dunk to force overtime. This is concerning, to say the least, and potentially dooming if Dallas has a mistake like this in a playoff series.

Extra Credit: Jason Kidd

Kidd may not be a good coach but at the very least he seems to have a positive connection with his players. This was exemplified when he jumped on the pile after the Kleber game-winner and showed a level of unity with the entire team. Cohesiveness is important in the playoffs, and maybe this growing chemistry can help Dallas down the stretch (although better play calling and rotations would probably help more).