When looking at the West standings earlier today, my first thought was “well, the Mavericks are still right there, so it makes sense not to shut everyone down and go team tank.” Then I looked a little closer and realized the Mavericks are actually farther behind than I thought.
I figured if I was this dumb, maybe at least one other person was too! I hope. Anyway, this post is to basically give a reset on the standings, to show where the Mavericks are before they play their final five games starting Saturday in Miami.
Right now, the Mavericks are one game back of 10th, one and a half games back of ninth, and two games back of eighth and seventh. Dallas is three games back of sixth, but with five games left that is an awfully difficult gap to close. It’s still possible, but improbable.
Here’s where things get tricky. Here are the four teams in the play-in spots, ahead of the 11th place Mavericks:
- New Orleans
- Los Angeles
- Oklahoma City
Now, of those four teams, here are the ones the Mavericks have won the head-to-head tiebreaker for:
- Los Angeles
Yikes. So that means for the other three teams, add an additional game to the games back column, since if the Mavericks were to tie them at the end of the season, those three would be placed ahead due to the tiebreaker status. So instead of being one game back of the 10th place Thunder, the Mavericks are actually two games back. There is a chance the Mavericks could win the tiebreaker with New Orleans, as the season series was tied 2-2, which means the next tiebreaker is division record. The Mavericks are one game back of the Pelicans there, and both teams have one more division opponent left (Memphis for New Orleans, San Antonio for Dallas). If the Mavericks win and the Pelicans lose, they’ll be tied at division record, which the next tiebreaker goes to conference record. The Mavericks and Pelicans currently have the same amount of wins, although New Orleans has less losses due to fewer games played. The Pelicans play the Clippers, Kings, Wolves, and Grizzlies before the season ends. The Mavericks play the Kings and the Spurs. So there is a chance the Mavericks could tie the division record and finish with a better conference record, although the odds are slim. It’s best to assume for now that New Orleans will finish with the tiebreaker advantage.
This means if you’re wanting the Mavericks to sneak into the play-in, the team to watch will definitely be Los Angeles. The Lakers play six more games to close the season and it’s an even split among teams that are done and teams still fighting: at Minnesota, at Houston, at Utah, at LAC, vs. Phoenix, and vs. Utah. Meanwhile the Mavericks have a similar mix, depending on how the standings shake out with at Miami, at Atlanta, vs. Sacramento, vs. Chicago, and vs. San Antonio. Closing the season with three home games will definitely help the Mavericks here, if they can somehow manage a way to sweep or split this road back-to-back against Miami and Atlanta.
Simply put, the Mavericks are both simultaneously alive but on life support. Any loss in the final five games will be killer and two losses in the final stretch likely ends the season. Dallas has lost control of its own fate here, and will need some help from the teams above them. Let’s see what happens.