By Bryan Murphy
Things aren’t looking too great for the Dallas Mavericks as of late, to say the least. The longest current losing streak in the NBA belongs to Dallas who has lost its last five games. This abysmal five-game stretch of basketball has plummeted the Mavericks in the Western Conference standings from 6th to 8th and right at .500 with a mediocre 33-33 record.
“We’re a .500 team,” said Mavs guard Wesley Matthews after the loss on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers. “We deserve to be a .500 team and we’re at that crossroads. Where do we want to go?”
Dirk Nowitzki has been one of the few bright spots during this streak, though. The Big German has turned back the clock, averaging 24.6 points per game and has had two 30-point performances. But, Dallas has also been horrendous rebounding the basketball and hasn’t been able to capitalize late in games during this span. Another frustrating aspect of the past week and a half of basketball is that the Mavs have been in position to come away with a win in the fourth quarter in four of the five games but simply just cannot get it done down the stretch and lack roster depth tremendously.
The schedule sure does not get any easier at all this week. To begin the week, the team with the longest losing streak will face the team that has the longest current winning streak in the NBA, the red-hot Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets are led by point guard Kemba Walker. Walker is having the best season of his young career, averaging career highs in points per game (21.4), field goal percentage (43.6), and three-point percentage (38.2). What has been even more impressive about Walker’s play is what he has been doing during the seven-game winning streak. Through the last seven games, the former Connecticut Huskie is averaging 28.6 points per game while shooting nearly a whopping 50 percent from three-point land. Slow him down and chances of snagging an elusive win on the road get a little better.
This two-game road trip just gets tougher as the Mavericks make their only trip to Cleveland this season to visit LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Cleveland comes into this week sporting a winning streak of its own at three. The most previous victory was a dismantling of the Los Angeles Clippers on the road, 114-90. This game is a recipe of disaster for the Mavericks. The Cavs roster is what the Mavs roster isn’t and that’s loaded.
Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving is playing on a superstar level once again; James is simply LeBron James, sharpshooter J.R. Smith is playing well, high-flyer Iman Shumpert is big off of the bench, and you can’t forget big men Timofey Mozgaf, offensive rebounding machine Tristan Thompson and even former all-star Kevin Love, who has been struggling as of late, round out a stout roster.
The good news next for Dallas is that they get to come back home for a couple of games. The bad news is that they’ll be welcoming the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Golden State is having one of the best seasons in NBA team history and is challenging the 1995-1996 Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls for the best record of all time at 72-10.
The Warriors currently sit at 59-6 and own the longest home winning streak in NBA history with 48 home wins in a row. The only way the Mavericks can win this game is if Steph Curry for some reason sits out again like he did on Dec. 30 against Dallas. The Mavs took full advantage that night and pulled off the upset, 114-91. Don’t expect Dallas to get so lucky this time around. Anticipate a similar outcome that happened on Jan. 27 when the Warriors blew Dallas out 127-107.
The week will be capped off in a massive showdown with the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers have swapped places with the Mavs in the West standing over the past two weeks or so and own the coveted 6th seed.
This game is pivotal for many reasons. Assuming back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Golden State, this will have to be a “get back on track game”. Also, this game will be huge in the playoff picture. If the Mavs want any chance of avoiding Golden State or San Antonio in a first round playoff series, they have to win games against the teams that are near them in the standings.
That definitely won’t be easy against a team in Portland that has probably the second best guard duo in the league behind only Curry and Klay Thompson. Blazers guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are playing excellent basketball this season and seem to feed off of each others success. There are no ego problems between these two players as well which makes playing against them that much tougher.
Lillard has also probably been the second best point guard in the NBA since the All-Star break, ironically an all-star game he was not invited to play in. Since the All-Star break, Lillard is averaging over 31 points per game, including three different 40-point games and two 50-point scoring performances.
One thing to note is that Portland has cooled off quite a bit since their six game winning streak in mid-February. The Blazers have not beaten a team with a winning record in over two weeks and they too have a tough stretch of games leading into the showdown in Dallas. Let’s just hope, though, that this losing skid doesn’t continue to grow and ensue panic among Mavs fans everywhere.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
3/14 @Hornets 6:00 pm
3/16 @Cavaliers 6:00 pm
3/18 vs Warriors 7:30 pm
3/20 vs Blazers 3:00 pm