The Dallas Mavericks are making one last gasping effort at playing in the postseason. They will have to win out, and need some additional help from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Winning out means stringing together three straight wins (they won the first against the Sacramento Kings at home Wednesday night). The Mavericks have won two games in a row just once since the trade deadline — those two wins were an overtime escape against the San Antonio Spurs and a Maxi Kleber buzzer-beater miracle against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Either way, making the play-in game or losing out on postseason basketball altogether, this has been an historically bad end to a season full of mediocrity and frustration. You could feel much of that prior to Wednesday’s game, with both Mark Cuban and Jason Kidd either pointing fingers, taking responsibility, or being combative to questions of the future.
Here are the final power rankings of the regular season!
Rank: 21 (Tier 5: Turning toward the tank?)
Last week: 22
What makes this season a success? Put a scare into the first round of the playoffs.
At this point, that’s probably the only thing Dallas could do to make this look somewhat successful. Even that’s a bit of a tough sell after going to the Western Conference finals a year ago. The Mavs are plummeting, losing 16 of their last 25 games since trading for Kyrie Irving. Luka Dončić is very upset most nights now, and the Mavs are in danger of not making the Play-In Tournament. They’re one game back of OKC with three games left in their season, and they don’t have the tiebreaker. Maybe if they miraculously get the No. 10 spot, win their two Play-In games and then push Denver to six games, we can consider that kind of rally a success point. But again … conference finals a year ago.
Last week: 20
The Mavs are 4-11 when Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are both in the lineup. The .267 winning percentage is by far the worst for a pair of teammates who both made the All-Star Game that season since the ABA-NBA merger, which includes 473 duos that played at least 10 games together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — MacMahon
Last week: 21
The case for the Mavs: They have Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, with the former having averaged 32.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists over 28 career playoff games and the latter having won a championship with one of the biggest shots in NBA history. While the Mavs are just 4-11 with both Doncic and Irving in uniform, they’ve outscored their opponents by five points over those 15 games, and by 3.1 points per 100 possessions with both on the floor.
Amazingly, all 11 of the losses (along with two of the wins) have been within five points in the last five minutes, and clutch luck can come and go. If they were just 6-7 in those 13 clutch games instead of 2-11, they’d be 41-38, tied with the fifth-place Clippers and sixth-place Warriors.
The case against the Mavs: There have been six games in the last 50 years that a team has had an effective field goal percentage of 70% or better and lost. Three of those have been this season, and two of them – Nets at Sixers in January and Mavs at Heat on Saturday – have had Kyrie Irving on the losing side. Defense is an issue, the Mavs allowed Miami’s 25th-ranked offense (without Bam Adebayo) to score 127 points on 98 possessions on Saturday, and they rank 26th defensively (117.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) since the first game that Doncic and Irving played together.
While all of those losses have been close games, a lot of them (including three to the Pacers and Hornets) have come against bad or mediocre opponents. So while the Mavs have been close to winning some of these games, they’re not necessarily close to being a good team.
They’re still just a game behind the 10th-place Thunder, who play the Warriors, Jazz and Grizzlies this week. But OKC has the head-to-head tie-breaker and the Mavs have a couple of tough games themselves, with the Bulls (who they host on Friday) having been one of the best teams in the league since the All-Star break.
Last week: 16
The Dallas Mavericks’ slide has officially entered alarming territory, as they dropped their fifth game in six tries with a 116-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
They’re now outside the top 10 in the West, a result that would feel borderline catastrophic if they stay there. With five games left, they’re 12 wins shy of exceeding their preseason over-under of 48.5, and FiveThirtyEight’s projection model gives them a 19 percent chance to make the playoffs
If they don’t make any version of postseason play, and Kyrie Irving leaves in free agency, Dallas could be in for a summer of upheaval.