Mavs Donuts + A Hellish 2nd-Half Stretch
Back in August, as the NBA schedule was announced, we analyzed it from the Mavs’ perspective and determined that the most difficult part of the schedule would be a one-month stretch starting on January 23rd against the Chicago Bulls and continuing all the way through February 20th.
Months later, the Dallas Mavericks have entered that stretch and it still looks to be the toughest part of the season for the Mavericks to survive. Starting with Friday night’s loss against the Bulls, the Mavericks are asked by the schedule to play 14 games in 29 days and that’s with the All-Star Break in the middle. Prior to that break they will have played 12 games in 20 days. Seven of the games in the stretch are on the road. It includes three back-to-back games. Only five of the 14 games will be against teams that currently have a losing record.
No matter how you look at it, it’s a grueling stretch. More than half of the games in that month long slate come against teams that consider themselves title contenders.
So let’s take a look at what the Mavericks have had to deal with ... and will continue to have to deal with:
The Mavericks lost this game 102-98, as we detail here. They fought hard in the fourth quarter, but they failed to display what Rick Carlisle called a “physical disposition” against the Bulls, particularly on the boards. Chicago outrebounded Dallas 47-30, and in what was a story for the moment (and hopefully not going forward) the Mavs closed the final 5:11 with Rajon Rondo on the bench.
The loss pushed Dallas to 30-14 ... but the Mavs continued to linger in the all-important region of that top-four slot in the West.
The Pelicans entered the Sunday evening game as a .500 team that will inevitably miss the playoffs. But they are a completely different team at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. They came in 13-5 at home thus far. They also have Anthony Davis. The last time he played Dallas he scored 31 points to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks.
And this time around?
Davis did it again and the Pels beat the Mavs, 109-106. From TY's knee to Rick blaming the "whistles'' to Dallas' inability to inbound, you can read all about it in Power Points.
Speaking of TY's knee: Well before this ever happened, the Mavs wished to draw Jermaine O'Neal off the couch in Southlake and onto the AAC floor. We continue to think that's close to happening ... and here, we ponder: what would JO bring to the Mavs? We've got a Premium breakdown here. ... Oh, and above, a Sunday evening photo sent to us by a DB.com reader featuring O'Neal (back from his fitness rehab in Germany) hanging around in Dallas with some fans.
Hey, if JO is playing Top Golf, the knee must be right, right? (Also, we've got your video of O'Neal in the gym, which is even better than him being at Top Golf.) Stay tuned on this.
The full day of rest/practice the Mavs receive after returning from New Orleans will hopefully be utilized because they will follow up today with one of the most difficult back-to-backs in the NBA.
They will welcome the most physical teams in the league on Tuesday when Memphis comes to Dallas. The Mavericks proved they can beat the Grizzlies on MLK Day, (out in-depth coverage of that signature win is here) but no matter the outcome of the game, it’s not a cliché that Marc Gasol, Z-Bo and company make you feel it the next day. Beating them is partially a matter of surviving their aggression and physicality.
And, sometimes, cup-checkin' them.
The next night the Mavericks have to travel to Houston. As sweet as it would be to beat the Rockets in their own building, based on the way Dallas has handled Dirk Nowitzki’s minutes this season, I say this game will be a strong candidate for a Dirk Rest Night. The second night of a back-to-back on the road after having battled with Zach Randolph could all add up to Nowitzki in street clothes. Or ... maybe Dirk votes to pour everything into this rivalry game.
We shall see ... but in either event, beating the Rockets will be a tall task.
After playing in Houston on Wednesday night, the Mavericks may fly back to Dallas that night, but they will likely only stay there for a few hours before flying to Miami for Friday night’s game against the Dwyane Wade and the hate-able Heat, who beat Dallas easily 105-96 back in November.
The next night in Orlando they’ll play a much younger Magic team. What Orlando lacks in experienced skill might be made up for, that night, with the circumstances of Dallas' b-2-b roadie.
Two nights later, on Feb. 2, they will come back home for the easiest game of the stretch against Minnesota. I say "easy'' hopefully, based on how Dallas manhandled the Wolves in Minny last week.
It really was fun.
They will then fly out to the West Coast for a Feb. 4-5 back-to-back that kicks off with a matchup against the current favorites to win the NBA championship. (Right?) The Warriors came to the American Airlines Center back in December and jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter, which they never relinquished, in a win over Dallas.
The next night they will travel to Sacramento and play against a Kings team that took Dallas to overtime last week before the Mavs sealed up a win. DeMarcus Cousins tallied 32 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists in that game. ... before TY absorbed a mystery elbow, craftily getting Boogie fouled out and Dallas in the win column.
Two days later, on Feb. 7, the Mavs will return home to play the team with the third best record in the NBA. Portland blew Dallas out back in their November meeting and they have some uncertainty now because of LaMarcus Aldridge's injury, but the Blazers will be a feisty team regardless.
Your Mavs Apple Moving DFW "Move Of The Day''?
It'll be the period from Feb. 11 when the Mavs play Utah (the 12th game in 20 days) ... one of the few games during this stretch in which the Mavericks will be favored. ... and then, mercifully, the All-Star Break.
A move to beat the Jazz. And then to hit the hot tub, or the cold tub, or the beach. Something. Someplace. Some rest and rehab.
Now, when it's time for you move? Call Apple Moving DFW, the very best in the business, when you need a mover. And tell 'em DB.com sent you!
Again, it’s safe to say the All-Star Break will be much needed for Dallas. Unfortunately, the Mavs won’t have any time to get back into the flow of things. They will come back from the break playing the Thunder in OKC on Feb. 19. When Dallas defeated the Thunder back in December, Kevin Durant sat out with an injury. If OKC is at full strength and still fighting to get into the playoff picture, they might be the most dangerous team in the NBA.
And then of course another game against Houston on the second night of a back-to-back. All of Dallas’ games against the Rockets this season are on the second night of back-to-backs in what is a very unusual scheduling quirk.
It has been quite an off-court rivalry between Houston and Dallas this season. Dallas absolutely has the potential to make it deeper into the postseason than Houston, but the hard truth is that the Rockets are not a very favorable matchup for the Mavericks. They have the weapons to expose the Mavericks’ main weaknesses, namely, rebounding and guard penetration.
All of this adds up to the next level after what occurred in the first half, and so many positive trends there. In this Midseason Mavs piece, we suggest that Dallas "possesses all the traits of a pretty good basketball team'' and we find it worthy to note that what has separated them into that elite tier of teams is how damn clutch they are. "Clutch'' is defined as "final five minutes of a game within five points.'' The Mavericks have been disgustingly good in these situations. They've also elevated to top-seven defensive team during Rondo's time here, mirror the 2011 team as passers, capitalize on the other team’s turnovers (the Mavs average 19.9 points off turnovers, most in the league) and, despite not being one of the most skilled shooting teams in the league thus far this season, their field-goal percentage is always hovering near the top because they are lethal in transition and in the clutch.
Check out our advanced-stats analysis - while you scratch your head over how much of this betrayed the Mavs this weekend - here on DB.com.
Many signs point toward attaining a top-four seed in the playoffs being a regular-season goal for this Mavericks team; we know it's something that was certainly whispered about at team headquarters once they assembled for training camp.
Dallas entered this stretch on Friday night as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Remember the date, February 20th. If the Mavs are still a top-four seed on that day then it will mean they survived the most grueling, most hellish stretch of their season.
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