Now we get into the crowded Western Conference race. The top seven teams are pretty much in the playoffs. The 7th seeded Dallas Mavericks are 7 games clear of 8th place Memphis so a single win would clinch that spot. The Mavericks sit a game and a half behind the Rockets and Thunder and 2.5 games behind the 4th seeded Jazz. They’ve played three more games than all three of those teams which may come into play because the final standings will be based on win percentage rather than just standard win-loss record.
Half of their eight games are against teams below them in the standings. They play Phoenix twice and the Suns have given the Mavericks trouble the last two seasons. They play the Blazers who very well may be rounding into form by that second to last game and really playing for something at that point while the Mavericks may be locked into that 7th seed by then. Their biggest game is their opener against the Rockets.
If they beat Houston, they climb within a half game of them and the division lead, a loss would drop them 2.5 games back with 7 to play. Not an impossible deficit but they would have to go nearly perfect with the Clippers and Bucks remaining on their schedule.
Catching the Rockets or Thunder would be significant for the Mavericks as they’ve gone 0-5 against the two Los Angeles teams this year but 2-2 against the Jazz and Nuggets. This would be Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis’ first trip to the playoffs as individuals and together. In fact, most of the Mavericks’ roster would be new to the playoffs. But without fans or road games, any nerves would probably go out the window pretty early in game one and it would just come down to execution something the Mavericks have done, at least on the offensive end, better than just about anyone so far this year.
The Mavericks have an offensive rating of 116.7 thus far which leads the NBA and makes up for a slightly below average defensive rating of 110.6. They take the 2nd most three-pointers in the league and make about 37% of them. Just about everyone on the team has the green light with team leader Luka Doncic shooting one of the lower percentages and that’s largely because he’s rarely shooting them wide open like most of his teammates are. Tim Hardaway Jr and Seth Curry are their top two shooters and when they are in the game with Doncic and Porzingis, the Mavs start to pile up points.
As important as Doncic is to this team, it’s Porzingis’ ability to alter and block shots that will likely be the biggest difference in the Mavericks’ success this season and in the long-term. When Porzingis is just somewhat effective on the defensive end, it allows the Mavericks to create huge runs and either rally from a deficit or just extend a lead. Their offense creates a lot of pressure on opposing teams, because if you can’t defend them well enough, you will struggle to keep up with them.
If they can avoid the two LA teams in the first round, the Mavericks have a great chance of advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals. At that point, they’ll have the confidence to give any team they face problems because they’re really playing with house money.
Beyond this season, this roster should remain intact with the money they’re giving Hardaway looking like a bargain with the way he’s complemented Doncic and Porzingis this season. They probably do still need one more player to jump up to a championship level team but as long as Luka is in Dallas, the Mavericks will be a contender.