With the All Star break over, the final stretch of the regular season begins. For teams that have a shot at one of the final playoff spots like the Mavericks, every remaining game counts:
vs Denver Nuggets (2/22)
To kick things off post-break, the Mavs hosted the Western Conference’s 2nd-ranked team in the Nuggets. All season, Denver has been one of the surprise teams to have assertive control of a high seed in the playoffs. When they came into town to face Dallas, they looked as sharp as ever.
Channeling his inner “Joker”, Nikola Jokic (19 pts, 13 rebs, 8 asts) continued his storm into the league with a near triple-double, something commonplace for the uniquely-skilled Center. The big men came to play for the Nuggets, as both Paul Millsap (17 pts, 13 rebs) and Mason Plumlee (12 pts, 13 rebs) assisted Jokic in their team’s absolute domination of the paint. Outscoring Dallas 39-23 in the 3rd quarter, offense was potent all night for Denver.
Forced to play small-ball more often than not due to the trading of DeAndre Jordan, the Mavericks have severely lacked a paint presence to be able to give any tall teams trouble in the key. Surprisingly though, Dallas was able to stay in the game for the most part despite missing their penultimate player, Luka Doncic (ankle soreness). Fellow rookie Jalen Brunson (22 pts, 5 asts) was able to show his stuff in his team-high 30 minutes. Brunson has shown to be an awesome pickup for a rookie 2nd rounder, and adds even more depth to Dallas’ backcourt. Now, the team just needs to work on upping that frontcourt, and having Porzingis next season should be a great start.
FINAL: Denver 114 (40-18), Dallas 104 (26-32)
@ Utah Jazz (2/23)
In part 2 of this back-to-back, the Mavericks traveled to Utah to face a Jazz squad getting primed for another dark horse role in the West playoff race. Scoring in droves, Utah’s offense on this night was all over the place, with 5 of their players scoring 15+ points, 3 of which scoring 22+. Led by NBA sophomore Donovan Mitchell (25 pts, 8 rebs, 6 asts) and Ricky Rubio (25 pts, 5 asts), the entire Jazz backcourt had a field-day against the Mavs.
Luka sat out for the Mavs yet again due to the sore ankle, so once again others had to step in to score. The team clearly misses Doncic when out due to his position as the team’s focal point, which makes games against tough playoff teams that much more difficult. Dallas’ two newest additions to their backcourt from New York took the roles of primary scorers. Tim Hardaway (21 pts, 5 rebs) and Trey Burke (20 pts, 7 rebs) made efficient use of their minute, which were spread pretty far among the entire active roster. Dirk was feeling it and had a few vintage, high-arching snipes from long range, scoring a season-high 15 points. With rumors starting to pop up that Nowitzki might not be done after this year, and showing he clearly can still have a good scoring night every now and again, could this farewell tour possibly be postponed?
FINAL: Utah 125 (33-26), Dallas 109 (26-33)
@ Los Angeles Clippers (2/25)
Luka finally returned for the Mavs against another team pushing for the playoffs in the Clippers. He showed the ankle was just fine by posting a triple-double (28 pts, 10 rebs, 10 asts). Hardaway (20 pts, 6 rebs) played well in a starting role, and Dwight Powell (24 pts, 8 rebs) proved he can be a reliable scoring asset for Dallas when he gets starter minutes.
Unfortunately for the Mavericks, their bright spots just weren’t enough to outshine the depth of the Clippers’ roster. With 8 players playing 17+ minutes, the Clippers continue to prove they can play viable, playoff-worthy basketball without a focal point star on the team. They’ll be hoping they can land one or more of the high-value free agents coming up this offseason.
FINAL: Los Angeles (C) 121 (34-28), Dallas 112 (26-34)
After Luka missed some time and a lot of close-to-each-other games against tough opponents who already have their eyes locked on the playoffs, the Mavericks now unfortunately find themselves in a hole near-impossible to get out of for a shot at that coveted 8-seed in the West. However, with promise shown all around the roster, and the anticipation of having Kristaps Porzingis healthy and raring to go, the franchise has a lot to look forward to in a very short time.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
2/27 vs Pacers 7:30 p.m.
3/2 vs Grizzlies 7:30 p.m.
3/4 vs Nets 6:30 p.m.