The Mavericks finished up a five-game road trip 4-1 after handling the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital on Saturday night. With Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber and Josh Richardson all out of the lineup, six Mavs still managed to score in double figures with Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson leading the way with 26 and 19 respectively.
With the win, Dallas is now a season-high six games over .500 at 27-21 and sits comfortably in 7th place in the Western Conference standings. They’re 2 1/2 games in front of the eighth seeded San Antonio Spurs and 2 1/2 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers in sixth place. It would be foolish to just cement them into 7th when the season is all said and done, though.
With still 24 games remaining, Dallas has the third easiest remaining schedule according to Tankathon. Notable teams in the top five of most difficult remaining schedule: the Spurs, Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and injured Los Angeles Lakers. With Dallas now having made its way through some tough injuries, a mini-COVID outbreak on its roster and a difficult stretch of schedule navigate during that time, the Mavericks have gone 18-7 since February 6th. They’re finding their groove at the right time.
However, sometimes the “easiest remaining schedule” calculator can be a bit deceiving. By only factoring in opponents’ winning percentage, it misses out on some other key details that greatly sway any level of “easy” in the typical NBA game. Here are some interesting notes about Dallas’ final 24 regular season games.
15 at home, 9 on the road
While this is undoubtedly a good thing when it comes to travel, rest, and practice opportunities, the Mavericks haven’t exactly been a dominant home team this season with just an 11-10 record at the American Airlines Center compared to 16-11 on the road. While the impact of being the home team has been slightly minimized during this COVID season causing little-to-no fans for plenty of games, the Mavs simply haven’t been that great of a home team at all recently — going just 20-18 in a playoff worthy season in 2019-2020.
Perhaps the gradual increase of fans at the AAC paired with the Mavericks beginning to play their best basketball will turn this home-heavy stretch into a true blessing for Dallas.
Saving the worst for last
The Mavericks have really caught a break with how their schedule has turned out purely when it comes to opponents remaining. They’ve already finished their season series with the likes of the Clippers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers, and they’ll be done with the Jazz after their matchup on Monday night in Dallas. They also haven’t even played any of their games against the two teams at the bottom of the standings in the East in the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Out of 24 remaining games, only 10 are against teams that are currently .500 or better. This is slightly deceiving though as teams like the Grizzlies (whom Dallas still plays three more times) sit right at .500 and the Warriors (one more game) are right below .500 but should be getting Steph Curry back soon.
Of their nine remaining road games, only three are against teams that currently have a .500 or better record (two in Memphis, one in Miami).
One particularly salivating stretch of schedule that Dallas will need to take advantage of comes in late April/early May:
April 26th: at Sacramento (currently 22-28)
April 27th: at Golden State (23-26)
April 29th: at Detroit (14-35)
May 1st: vs Washington (17-31)
May 2nd: vs Sacramento (22-28)
On paper, Dallas SHOULD go 4-1 or even 5-0. Dig a little deeper and you see the one concerning trait of Dallas’ remaining schedule.
You like back-to-backs? We got plenty of ’em!
The Mavs have played eight back-to-back sets in the season’s first two-plus months. Over the final six weeks, they’ll play seven back-to-backs with two coming up in the next eight days. Here are their remaining back-to-backs.
April 7th/April 8th: vs Houston and vs Milwaukee
April 11th/April 12th: vs San Antonio and vs Philadelphia
April 21st/April 22nd: vs Detroit and vs Los Angeles Lakers
April 26th/April 27th: @ Sacramento and @ Golden State
May 1st/May 2nd: vs Washington and vs Sacramento
May 6th/May 7th: vs Brooklyn and vs Cleveland
May 11th/May 12th: @ Memphis and vs New Orleans
Of all these back-to-backs, only two of them feature traveling from one city to another and the rest will just be back-to-backs at home where Dallas will be able to sleep in their own beds following game one.
For what it’s worth, Dallas is 3-5 on the second night of a back-to-back so far this season. Of course, Kristaps Porzingis and/or Luka Doncic were missing from each of those games. Barring something greatly unexpected, one of or both of those guys will be missing during the front or back end of each of the remaining back-to-backs over the final six weeks of the regular season. Doncic played both in New York on Friday night and in Washington D.C. on Saturday night, so perhaps he will be more likely to play every remaining game he possibly could after missing a few games since the All-Star break under iffy circumstances.
While the mountain to climb up the standings is steep for the Mavericks, it’s certainly easier to see the path to make that climb than it ever has been this season. It’s been an up-and-down campaign, but Dallas has fought through some truly challenging stretches and still has themselves comfortably in the playoff picture. If they’re able to continue their current winning ways, they could solidify their status as a legit threat to any Western Conference foe in a first round series.
The home stretch of the regular season is here. Time to make something happen.
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