Friday Morning Mavs Donuts
DONUT 1: Due to the fact that Utah and Phoenix and Utah are scheduled to matchup next Tuesday night (meaning one of them is guaranteed to add one to the loss column, giving one of them 31), the Dallas Mavericks clinched a playoff berth Thursday the moment the Houston Rockets fell for the sixth consecutive game, this time in overtime to the New Orleans Hornets.
Anything from the fifth to eighth seed is still a possibility with Denver tied in the loss column.
Denver's remaining schedule: at Phoenix, Orlando at home, at OKC and at Minnesota.
Phoenix's remaining schedule: Denver at home, at Utah and at San Antonio.
Utah's remaining schedule: Orlando, Phoenix and Portland all at home.
The Mavs' host Golden State for their final home game and then play at Chicago and Atlanta.
For Dallas to get the fifth seed they would need to finish 3-0 while Memphis closed 0-4 (doesn't seem likely).
For Dallas to stay in the sixth spot they must simply not exceed the number of losses Denver has from here on out. For example: if Denver finished 2-2, Dallas can go 1-2 and maintain their current sixth-seed slotting.
For Dallas to end up as the eighth seed they must close the season 0-3 ... while Denver goes at least 2-2 and either Phoenix or Utah finish 3-0. If Dallas wins a single game, they cannot drop below the seventh seed, and only Denver would have an opportunity to knock them from the sixth.
With the playoffs guaranteed, now begins the debate: should the Mavs chase momentum or rest ... and if rest, how much is too much, especially when Dallas plays only one game over the final five days of the season as is?
DONUT 2: Where is this team headed?
Let's pinpoint a handful of areas in which this team isn't that team ... and let's do so understanding something I've written before: it IS appropriate to compare teams because future editions of Dallas Mavericks club will ALWAYS be compared to the 2010-11 edition. So let's compare ...
DONUT 3: Last year's squad had three winning streaks of eight games or more. This season's squad has zero winning streaks of eight or more and only two such streaks longer than five games.
DONUT 4: More telling is the team's record in close games. Being able to prevail in such games, a mark of mental toughness and collective focus, has been a hallmark of the Nowitzki/Jason Terry era, especially when infused with the BBIQ of Jason Kidd and Rick Carlisle. Last season, Dallas was 17-11 in games decided by five points or less. This season, Dallas is 10-13 in such contests.
DONUT 5: Yes, we're concerned about the regression of Dallas' offense from eighth in the NBA last year to 23rd this season.
DONUT 6: Most troubling is this team's tendency to get walloped on the boards. Last year, Dallas was only outrebounded by 10 or more seven times. This season, that's happened 15 times already and they've played 20 less games than last season.
DONUT 7: Does rest matter? We'd think so ... but this season, the Mavericks are essentially a .500 team (17-16) on one day of rest, the sort of time sometimes allowed between games in the playoffs.
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DONUT 9: DB.com's David Lord with a juicy note on tonight's Mavs-Warriors game ...
What if the Mavs WANT to not be in sixth, as they are now? How about eighth?
Golden State, the Mavs' opponent tonight, might be a difficult game to lose. The Warriors are in a four-way "tanking" race with NJ, Toronto, and Detroit that will determine who finishes sixth through ninth for the lottery drawing. The Warriors have lost their last six. If they go on to lose their five remaining games, they'll "win" the sixth highest number of ping-pong balls for the NBA draft lottery, but a single win between now and the end of the season could drop them to ninth.
We don't think it's Carlisle's style to attempt to manipulate outcomes to, say, avoid the Lakers because Dallas "wants'' OKC or SA. ("Want'' is the wrong word and a dangerous word.) But if Dallas doesn't put much effort into tonight, we bet it'll still be more than GS puts in.
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DONUT 11: The Mavs are working on precision ... is there "precision'' within "flow''?
"A lot of it is very much a random game, but it's the kind of trust that we have in our players to make those plays,'' Rick Carlisle says. "It's harder stuff to guard if you can do it, if you can pull it off and if you can make good decisions.''
Done right, the Mavs can do things like feed Dirk for 31 second-half points, as was the case Wednesday against Houston.
"If we get in the lane and move the ball and look for the open guy than I think that is a fun way to play,'' Dirk says.
DONUT 12: The way certain Mavs handle adversity continues to accidentally make Lamar Odom look like such a fool ...
"I was just thinking about what my grandma would tell me,'' says Delonte West on his grandmother's passing last week -- and his decision during the roadtrip to not leave the team for her funeral. "She would tell me, 'Don't cry, give me my roses while I'm alive.' You know what I mean? ... She'll be disappointed if I was running around here pouting with my face poked out. I know she'd tell me to get my butt back on that basketball court."