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Grading the Mavericks: consistency through injury has been vital for recent success

Despite the Mavericks shorthanded lineups, they have steadied the ship

Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Mavericks went 4-3 over the last two weeks. The four victories came on the road in Golden State, then three straight at home against the Trailblazes twice and the Timberwolves. Dallas is 22-15 in sixth place in the Western Conference.

Grade: B+

The Mavericks’ last seven games have been good, but they could have been great. Dallas let an eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter at home against Cleveland slip away, and got blown out in Utah when Kyrie Irving made his return to action. Those two games should have been wins, and if Dallas had taken care of business, they would be looking at a five-game winning streak and eight wins in their last nine games.

They beat the Warriors on the road without Irving, so there is some give-and-take. Currently, they are riding three consecutive home wins during a home stand with four more games to play. This stretch is huge for Dallas’ conference standing and their team morale. If they can come out of this stretch with 5 or more wins, the team should have the momentum they need going into a very tough final tow weeks of January, and Luka Doncic should be the favorite for MVP.

The Mavericks got their best win of the year against Minnesota on Sunday night. Irving and Doncic combined for 69 points and 13 assists. Minnesota had all of their starters, but Dallas was down Dereck Lively, which makes this win all the more impressive. A win like that will help balance out the sting of a 37-point loss to the Jazz.

Straight A’s: The defense

Since Christmas, the Mavericks have the sixth-best defense by rating (110.8). There isn’t one thing you can put your finger on to identify the difference, Dallas is just playing better on that end. They have the pieces for at least a top-half defense, but potentially one that is top 10. Derrick Jones Jr. is a plus defender, Lively is a legitimate rim protector and anchor, and despite the narratives, Doncic and Irving are good defenders when they want to be. The Mavericks’ best defense is their offense, but when the defense is playing well too, this team is a legitimate threat to win playoff series.

Currently Failing: Health, again

The Mavericks have not been able to get away from the injury bug since November. Irving, Doncic, Lively, Dante Exum, Grant Williams, and Maxi Kleber have all missed games in the last two weeks. Dallas’ best trio of Irving, Doncic, and Lively have now only played 33 minutes together since Christmas in two games. This team has shown resilience through adversity, but they are going to have trouble staying afloat if the injuries continue to pile up.

Extra Credit: Dwight Powell

Dwight Powell has been surprisingly good as of late. He has a team-best +51 plus-minus since Christmas and has worked really well as a distributor for Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. He has hit them on a few really impressive back-door passes that clearly have been installed recently by the coaching staff. Powell was destined to be the Mavericks’ backup and spot start guy from the moment he signed. Despite his shortcomings at times, he does have a version of himself that will help this team a lot.