The Mavs have built their 33-29 record and their status in sixth place in the West (one-half game head of Portland) largely on the strength of being "Hot Against The Have-Nots,'' as we illustrate here. That causes stumbles against those sorts of teams to stand out ... as remains the case from Thursday against a bad Sacramento team playing the second night of a B-2-B, with a 22-game losing streak at Dallas -- and yet the Mavericks fell 104-101.
"This is a team that we should beat, that we're playing for something much bigger and more than they are," said Chandler Parsons. "This is the type of loss that kind of bites you in the butt, that you wish you could have back in a couple of weeks."
Parsons may prove prescient here. The Mavs finished 4-2 on their homestand, not bad except for the facts that the "4'' came against teams of Sacto's ilk, the same sort of team the Mavs face today in Denver ... and then that about it for awhile. After this 24-38 Nuggets meeting, the Mavs face a stretch of almost three weeks during which the foes are all legit playoff contenders.
Stumble some more and Dallas itself won't look so legit.
We've got to ... go to Denver, making sure we take care of that one," said Wesley Matthews.
Matthews is trying to round into peak-performance to join Parsons, who has been playing good basketball for almost two months now and over the last four games is averaging 25.3 while shooting 62.3 percent from the field (and 51.9 percent from the arc). Parsons, by the way, is doing all this while speculation about his fiuture swirls. There is really no new story here; as DB.com has pointed out for a while, he's got the opportunity to seek a max deal starting at $21.1 million and Dallas plans on keeping him. So why are there tales of CP bolting for his hometown of Orlando and now tales of CP being receptive to his previous hometeam in Houston?
Because that's how free agency works. Polite answers from the player and 30 teams interested in hearing those answers from Parsons and then one team with the inside track. As is the case with every free agent every summer.
In the meantime, Parsons is locked in, even against Sacto, as he scored 28 points. The frontline has received a buyout boost from David Lee and needs a bounce-back from Dirk Nowitzki, who was 0-of-5 from the arc in the Kings game while committing five turnovers. In this afternoon's game (4 p.m. tip, DFW time), Denver will be led by local product Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard and that might be the biggest challenge Dallas faces. ... assuming we don't see another career-high 47 points from Danilo Gallinari as we did back on April 10 in Dallas' zany 144-143 double-OT win.
Of that meeting, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said, "It's most interesting meaningless game I've ever seen.''
Well, here come the "interesting'' and "meaningful.''
Because there is the quickie Denver trip, then on the second night of a B-2-B, the Mavs host the Clippers on Monday. And then East playoff contender Detroit is here on Wednesday and felow East playoff contender Indiana is here on Saturday.
Want more? The Cavs, Warriors and a home-and-home pair against Portland -- the very club jousting with Dallas for sixth -- take us to near the end of March. Cleveland and NBA-best Golden State before a home-and-home with Portland to complete their difficult stretch. Not until a rematch with Sacramento on March 27 will Dallas play another team currently below .500.
The Mavs need to bite now, while the bitin' is good.