With roughly 20 games left for the teams, we are approaching the home stretch of the 2023-24 NBA regular season. There’s a list of interesting storylines left among a handful of teams – some of which, however, tilt more on the negative side of things, like the one developing about the Dallas Mavericks. 

Most are starting to have a suspicious glance at the Mavs, checking if they are on a path to repeating last year’s disastrous end. 

Let’s get a quick refresher:

The Mavericks sat at fourth place in the Western Conference in early February 2023 with a 31-26 record (more than halfway into the season). Then, despite the addition of multiple-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, they went just 7-18 in their final 25 games to fall into a 38-44 slate, causing them to miss the playoffs, including the play-in tournament.

The now-infamous moment in the collapse was the loss to the Chicago Bulls in their second-to-last game of the regular season, where they sat players while still having a chance to make the play-ins, which most deemed as blatant tanking.

Check out the abysmal ending:

Now let’s get into the current season.

Dallas was at 33-23 less than two weeks ago, riding high from a seven-game winning streak and owning the sixth spot in the West. Stars Luka Doncic (34.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 9.8 APG, 1.4 SPG) and Kyrie Irving (25.7 PPG, 42 3FG%) were each having great seasons, especially the former, who’s in the running for the MVP plum.

Now, a mere 12 days after, things have gone shaky despite the dynamic duo’s consistent production. The Mavs are just 1-5 in their last six games, reminiscent of how last year’s meltdown started.

While the offense has stayed the same, their defense is deteriorating.

First 56 games (33W-23L)Last six games (1W-5L)
Points per game118.7118.7
Points allowed per game117.2129.0
Net rating+1.5-11.3

Statistically, they are far and away the worst defensive team among any team’s last six-game stretch, placing 30th in defensive rating and 29th in points allowed per game.

The last five losses either featured some winnable situations or rough defeats.

  • Feb 26th – IND 133, DAL 111
  • Feb 28th – CLE 121, DAL 119
  • Mar 2nd – BOS 138, DAL 110
  • Mar 4th – PHI 120, DAL 116
  • Mar 5th – IND 137, DAL 120

The previous two were especially terrible as the Philadelphia 76ers were without Joel Embiid, while the Pacers came in as a supposedly slumping team coming off two dreadful losses. 

Against the Sixers, though supposedly enjoying the absence of Embiid, they allowed Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris to each score 20 or more points. Then, vs. Indy, a whopping nine Pacers were able to score in double digits, five of which were from the bench – guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was expected to continue an awful stretch as he was on the heels of two ugly performances, was able to produce like his usual self, casually dropping 19 points and 11 assists on the Mavs defense.

How challenging will the next few weeks be?

The next six are key. They have the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons (road), Chicago Bulls (road), Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder (road), and Denver Nuggets. Aside from the last-placed Pistons, all will have a heightened intensity as all are fighting for a better spot in the playoff ladder.

What’s even tougher is the Mavs don’t exactly hold their destiny now as they also need other play-in teams (SAC, LAL, and GSW) to also lose as much as possible so they can get some leeway.