Mavs 'Hell Month' Review: Devilish Dealings
A little over a month ago the Dallas Mavericks entered what we at DB.com deemed “Hell Month.” It was, in our estimation, the toughest stretch of their schedule. It was a 14-game stretch that was brutal not only for the quality of opponent, but for the amount of games packed into a tight spot. Dallas played a grueling 12 games in 20 days before the All-Star break and then came out of the break with back-to-back games against Oklahoma City and Houston.
So how did they fare in dealing with the devilish slate?
Well, not very well.
Also, not all that bad.
Dallas went .500 during the stretch. They won seven games and lost seven games. There were encouraging wins and discouraging losses. It all came in waves.
Let’s take a look ...
It really did look like Hell Month from the very beginning.
The Mavericks started the stretch losing two close games that could have gone either way. They lost 102-98 to Chicago and then New Orleans beat them down the stretch in a 109-106 game.
Two days later they participated in perhaps the toughest back-to-back in the NBA against the Grizzlies and Rockets. It didn’t go well. Memphis beat them down 109-90 as Zach Randolph went for 22 points and 10 rebounds. The next night a Dwight Howard-less Rockets team defeated them 99-94 despite 33 points from Monta Ellis.
The four-game skid was the longest losing streak of the season for Dallas.
From there, the Mavericks took advantage of a few easier opponents.
They went to Florida and took care of business in back-to-back games against the Heat and Magic. Their 93-72 victory over the Heat was one of the stranger basketball games you’ll ever see, in which they were down 16 points in the second half and finished the game on 60-23 run.
They beat Orlando 108-93, but lost Rajon Rondo to a facial injury in the process. Then they came back home two days later and grabbed a 100-94 victory over Minnesota.
The rest of the Rondo-less schedule was a mixed bag:
*A 128-114 loss at Golden State
*A 101-78 win at Sacramento the next night
*An impressive 110-101 overtime win over Portland
*A disappointing 115-98 loss to the Clippers
*An 87-82 victory over the Jazz to go into the All-Star Break without Tyson Chandler or Rondo.
The return from the All-Star Break meant another vicious back-to-back. This time the opponents were Oklahoma City and Houston.
With Rajon Rondo back from injury, the Mavericks looked like a team trying to shake off eight days of rust. They also looked miles behind the Thunder athletically. Oklahoma City floored the Mavericks from the beginning and cruised to a 104-89 victory. Russell Westbrook had his way with Dallas scoring 34 points and dishing 10 assists. Serge Ibaka had a career-high 22 rebounds. (Please read Mike Marshall's stat-and-snark-heavy Mavs-OKC review here).
The next night, however, Dallas bounced back with an impressive-enough 111-100 victory over the Rockets. The Mavericks managed a much-needed 51 bench points led by Al-Farouq Aminu who had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Did they lose ground?
The Mavericks were 30-13 heading into Hell Month. They came out of it 37-20.
They were a fourth seed back on January 19th. They enter the weekend, as we ready for Sunday's 6:30 p.m. home game against Charlotte, a sixth seed.
You could certainly say that Hell Month took something out of the Mavericks. Their confidence was arguably at its highest point of the season and now they seem to lack any real level of consistency.
Is there hope?
Part of that inconsistency is team-related issues that need to be fixed. But some of it has been the schedule. The last month has been grueling.
There is a bit of relief going forward. Make no mistake, there are still plenty of difficult opponents on the schedule, but the games are more spread out compared to the last month and there are less back-to-backs.
A 7-7 record through that stretch kept them in them in the mix. They are the sixth seed now, but they are probably a four-game winning streak away from becoming the third seed. It’s that close.
Their starting lineup is trying to get healthy (Chandler Parsons is the latest limper and his ankle will keep him out Sunday and two more games, according to a Marc Stein report). They have addressed their biggest weakness by acquiring Amar’e Stoudemire. While there are still buyout ideas being entertained (see our news on Larry Sanders collected here), in all likelihood, they have the essence of the roster that they will bring into the playoffs. Now is the time to for them to find that consistency.
The past month the Mavs have been treading water, trying to survive. The next few months are the time for them to make their move and surge forward.
"We’re trying to put a lot of wins together and trying to get to where we need to be as a team,'' says Monta Ellis.
And one place they are glad to be as a team is ... out of "Hell Month.''
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