Assessing Mavs Chances of Moving Up in the West
We've known for a few weeks now that Dallas Mavericks basketball was on its way back, but now, with the NBA releasing its eight-game 'Orlando Bubble' schedule, it's finally starting to feel real again.
The Mavs will start things off against their I-45 Southwest Division rivals, the Houston Rockets on July 31. The Mavs and Rockets played each other two times before the NBA postponed its season. In the first matchup, Luka Doncic put up 41 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Mavs routed the Rockets in Houston. Houston won the second matchup with Doncic sidelined.
This is a particularly juicy way for Dallas to start things off, given that they're just 1.5 games back of Houston in the Western Conference standings. A win for the Mavs in Game One of this restart, and they'll be well on their way to a better playoff seed.
With home-court advantage being tossed out the window, the Mavs have a very manageable schedule before postseason play begins. After the exciting opener against the Rockets, the Mavs play the Suns, Kings, Clippers, Bucks, Jazz, Trail Blazers and then the Suns again to finish the regular season.
Every one of those matchups should be thought of as "winnable" for the Mavs, with the exceptions probably being the games against the Clippers and the Bucks ... or perhaps we should say the Clippers and the Jazz, being that those are the only two opponents on the schedule that the Mavs haven't beaten this season.
It will be very interesting when the Mavs and Bucks play. In their only matchup this season, the Doncic-less Mavs ran the Bucks off their own floor in Milwaukee (well... for at least 90 percent of the game, that is, before the Bucks made a push in the final minutes). Kristaps Porzingis shined with 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and was a plus-20 in 33 minutes.
If the Mavs were able to take down the mighty Bucks and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on the road without Doncic, there's no reason not to believe Dallas can win this one at a neutral site with both superstars being healthy.
Taking all things into consideration, it's realistic for MFFL to hope the Mavs go 6-2 in this eight-game stretch. If that happens, the Mavs could find themselves in the fourth or fifth spot out West when the playoffs begin, especially if two of those wins come against the Rockets and Jazz.
Currently, Dallas is just 1.5 games out of fifth in the West and 2.5 games behind Utah for fourth.
The table is officially set, and the Mavs are ready to get back to work. As we've written before, unprecedented circumstances could lead to unprecedented results, and with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the court, we'll give the Mavs a fighting chance against any opponent in the playoffs. In about four more weeks, we'll finally get to put that theory to the test.