Anyone who says "the Dallas Mavericks still have lots to play for" is fooling himself.
It’s official now: Dallas, for just the second time in what has been a largely glorious 17-year run — will miss the NBA Playoffs, having been mathematically eliminated on Saturday night when Portland beat Phoenix. That outcome means the Mavs (with 31 wins and seven games to play) cannot catch the Blazers’ win total.
They can, however, “chase’’ the other way, involve themselves in a “Race To The Bottom.’’ … continuing with today’s 2:30 p.m. tip at Milwaukee.
Unfortunately, Minnesota did Dallas no favors on Saturday, losing to the Kings. So the T’Wolves are eighth in the upside-down standings for lottery balls, a game “ahead’’ of Dallas.
The Mavs can talk about wanting to post a respectable record “since’’ a certain date. But that’s slipping, as since Jan. 1, the Mavericks have a 21-19 record. … hardly something a future winning program can hang its hat on, especially as they have lost four in a row going into Sunday's game at Milwaukee.
They can pride themselves on playing through injury, but the Mavericks are already making concessions to that, as Seth Curry (shoulder) won’t play today and as during the upcoming week’s back-to-back at the Kings and Clippers, coach Rick Carlisle has vowed to rest some vets. Carlisle also says he’s putting a minutes limit on everybody down the stretch, a max of 34 per game.
Combine that with recent playing-time increases for the likes of Dwight Powell and Jarrod Uthoff and the Mavs are inching toward conceded the season, toward “tanking,’’ or at least toward “Organic Tanking.’’
The Bucks should be able to help out today. (Our DBcom Mavs-Bucks GameThread is here.)
Giannis Antetokuonmpo, the almost-mac draftee of a couple of years ago, is averaging 23.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2 blocks per game. Watch The Greek Freak today for confirmation that Mavs GM Donnie Nelson knows how to evaluate talent … and simply needs to be allowed to do so.
The Bucks are 40-36, working to hang onto fifth in the East, and will attempt to break a trend that Dallas ought to go ahead and let ‘em break: The Mavs have won seven of the last eight meetings against the Bucks.
Of course, Dirk Nowitzki and his Milestone March always gives MFFL a reason to watch. He’s presently tied with Reggie Miller in all-time games played with 1,389 and will move into ninth place today (under the watchful eye of Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd, who played in 1,391 games in his career. … just two more than Dirk.) But that can be accomplished by a Dirk cameo, should the Mavs choose such an option … and hardly qualifies as “lots to play for.’’
There is “pride,’’ of course, and to this organization, led by Cuban, Donnie, Carlisle and Dirk, it’s a foundation piece. Our argument is that after the aforementioned “largely glorious 17-year run,’’ all that was build won’t crumble in the next two weeks of failure.
If Cuban, Donnie, Carlisle and Dirk are strong enough to build 17 years of winning, they are strong enough to endure 17 days of losing.